I was recently asked how to make South African-style caramel. Condensed milk caramelized in the can is one of the most delicious flavors one can imagine. I was twelve years old and in boarding school in Bloemfontein when I first tasted this treat.
One Sunday night after lights out, when all the girls were in their beds and the matron had made her rounds, there was a scuffling from the cubicle next door, followed by a whisper from above. A can was passed to me across the partition of my cubicle in the dark, with instructions to “taste it”. In the darkness, I swirled some of the thick, gooey contents onto my finger and popped it into my mouth. I had no idea what it was, but decided then and there that it must have originated in heaven!
Fortunately, caramelized condensed milk is very easy to make. Follow the directions carefully!
- 2-4 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
- Cover the base of a large, heavy-based saucepan with a rack, some layers of paper toweling, newspaper or a large, folded dishcloth. This prevents contact between the base of the saucepan, which is in direct contact with the heat source, and the sealed cans of condensed milk.
- Remove the labels from 2–4 cans of condensed milk and place them in the saucepan. It’s worth preparing several cans of caramel at a time, as the sealed contents have a virtually unlimited shelf life.
- Cover the cans with water and bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, lower the temperature, cover the saucepan with a lid and boil for 3 hours. Check that the water does not go off the boil and that the cans are covered with water at all times — replenish with boiling water if necessary.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully pour off most of the water. Carefully remove the hot cans from the saucepan (using tongs or a waterproof oven mitt) and place on a wooden board to cool.
– as a topping for ice cream
– as a filling for pavlova shells, large or small, along with fresh fruit, ice cream, cream and chocolate shavings.
– in caramel-mint fridge tart (page 150 of South African Cooking in the USA)
– or simply enjoy it by the spoonful!