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September 14, 2009 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Ca phe sua da crisis! Please help me figure out the best way to have condensed milk on hand.

I love Vietnamese iced coffee, but am having some issues with the condensed milk: I can't use up anywhere near a whole can before it apparently expires. Upon opening, I store it in a closed glass syrup dispenser in the fridge - but some online sources say I should toss it after anywhere from a few days to a week. I'd like to keep it longer, and not have to constantly buy new cans for a cup of coffee in the morning, but am unsure how safe this is.

How can I tell when it is expired? (Does it change color, smell weird? Does it do nothing and I should play it safe rather than sorry?)

And: Any ideas for a solution to my problem? I could buy smaller cans online, but I'd prefer to buy the bigger, less expensive ones I can get in person. Is freezing worthwhile? Are there any delicious recipes I could make to use it up a little faster?
posted by Solon and Thanks to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My girlfriend, who is from southern China, tells me that they sell condensed milk in toothpaste-like tubes there, and it keeps much longer than in a can. I have looked online briefly to see if I could find any available in my area, but couldn't find anything cost-effective. Still, you might have better luck.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 3:34 PM on September 14, 2009

Best answer: I've purchased sweetened condensed milk in an Asian market that's in a plastic squeeze bottle. It's stayed good for at least a year now.
posted by mollymayhem at 3:38 PM on September 14, 2009

Freeze it in ice cube trays. After the cubes freeze, put them into a baggie and use when needed.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:39 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've seen sweetened condensed milk in a squeeze bottle in the "Hispanic" foods aisle of my local Safeway.
posted by padraigin at 3:39 PM on September 14, 2009

You can probably successfully freeze sweetened, condensed milk. Its high sugar content may prevent it from becoming solid, but that same sugar, plus the cold temperature, should still inhibit bacteria/mold growth.

In the absence of any signs of spoilage, I'd personally consider using frozen sweetened condensed milk for up to three months, and perhaps longer. Freezing may change its texture somewhat, or maybe not. But for dissolving in hot coffee, I would expect it to perform fine. You have nothing to lose experimenting.
posted by ViolaGrinder at 3:42 PM on September 14, 2009

Best answer: My parents have just kept it in the can by slightly puncturing the can open to pour straight out from there. (Vent on the opposite side accordingly) They cover with aluminum foil and put it back in the fridge for who knows how long. They keep using it til it runs out. I actually didn't know there was an expiration date after opening... no one in my family has fallen ill from their coffee yet.
posted by watch out for turtles at 3:50 PM on September 14, 2009

Apparently you can mix up a substitute for sweetened condensed milk - this makes a can's worth but you could cut it in half. Dry milk keeps quite a while in a moisture-proof container.

(Still probably easier to just keep a few extra cans of SCM in the pantry.)
posted by lakeroon at 4:25 PM on September 14, 2009

Best answer: You'll know when it goes off by the floating greenish blob in the middle.

Swiss condensed milk comes in a tube, but I've never seen that outside Europe.

Apologies for the self-link, but Scots Tablet is the other best thing to do with condensed milk. It's good on toast, too.
posted by scruss at 4:31 PM on September 14, 2009

I've always kept the condensed milk in the can with some plastic wrap on top, it lasts for a few weeks without overly drying out. I haven't heard of it going bad in a week or so, but usually you'll see some kind of fuzzy mold growing on it, again it takes several weeks in the fridge.

Poke two holes on the top, opposite of each other, use a spoon to pry one of the holes so its larger. When you're ready to use it, just invert it on top of the cup and let it slowly drip down. If you're making Vietnamese coffee correctly (with one of these), you can wait a little bit more.

Perhaps you can make your coffee extra strong so you'll need to use up more condensed milk per cup.
posted by aGee at 5:10 PM on September 14, 2009

How about using camping squeeze tubes?
posted by ottereroticist at 5:19 PM on September 14, 2009

Best answer: It can keep in the can for a good, long time. I have opened it both with 2 holes in the top and removing the top completely. It keeps for weeks. Just cover with plastic wrap on the top with a rubber band then a tinfoil/aluminum foil cover over that.

I have NEVER seen good condensed milk go bad and I was raised on the stuff but it was the good stuff not some cheap, weird, unknown product. The closest thing that tells me that I need to use the stuff up is when it starts solidifying into hard sugar nuggets. Green? Eeewww!

Only buy good condensed milk not the weird stuff with hydrogenated oil. All you should see is milk and sugar; anything else is suspect.

What to do with too much condensed milk:

* make your cat a slave to your will -- cats will do anything for a dab on your finger;
* best soft dough I ever made for bierock/runzas used condensed milk and comes from America's Lost Recipes book;
* make a lot of iced coffee base and make the mix before hand to pour over your ice.
* Fudge

Overall, condensed milk is part of the survival pantry and hell, let me say that dulce de leche (long cooked condensed milk) is fabulous with Vietnamese coffee hell, it is pretty damn tasty with Cafe Du Monde regular coffee too.
posted by jadepearl at 5:30 PM on September 14, 2009

My grandpa used something like this to open and cover his evaporated milk. He got used to drinking his coffee with it in WWII and had it every night. Evaporated milk lasts longer than condensed, but this might work for you.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:03 PM on September 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the excellent answers, everyone. I didn't think it would really go bad, either, and was surprised to see a few places on the internet (nowhere official) claim otherwise. I'm glad to see my initial suspicions backed up.

I decided to try the icecube thing for kicks, and will follow up about that. Next time I buy some I'll look around for any squeeze-tube types.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:07 PM on September 14, 2009

I meant to add that he didn't use the punch lid to open the milk can, because the holes were smaller than he liked. He used it for cover in the fridge, though.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:08 PM on September 14, 2009

for the record, I have had good results with making my own specifically for my cold brewed coffee and poisonously good fudge, and the recipe has much leeway for amounts of sugar (1/3 to 3/4 cup) and water (1/3 to 1/2 cup) and butter (1 to 4 tbsps) with 1 cup dry milk. urban survival can be tasty!
posted by Redhush at 7:46 PM on September 14, 2009

I pour it into a zip-loc baggie and just squeeze all the air out of it before sealing and toss it in the fridge. It's sort of a DIY squeeze tube. It gets a little sticky, but if any milk gets on the outside you can just rinse it off. I've never had it go bad.
posted by apricot at 7:57 PM on September 14, 2009

I thought that stuff lasted forever; I usually open a can in the start of each semester and pour it into a plastic container that goes into the fridge. Throw out what doesn't get eaten at the end of the semester. I've never seen mold on it, although i have seen it get crystals round the edges. I usually stick to Carnation.
posted by mlo at 8:46 AM on September 15, 2009

Response by poster: So, the condensed milk (Longevity brand, for future reference) cubes thickened but never really froze into a usable form. I'm just not going to worry about it expiring anymore.

Every answer was helpful, I just selected a few that summed up the general opinions.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:30 PM on September 15, 2009

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