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Sep 14, 2011 08:01 AM

Dulce de Leche from Whole Milk (And other ideas for excess milk?)

Hey Chowhounders -

I have an excess amount of milk at the moment, and was thinking about making some Dulce de Leche from scratch, but I had some questions, and I was hoping some of you might have some ideas, because unfortunately the majority of web articles on the subject have to do with the kind made from boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk (and I just got plumb tired of wading through them! >.<)

So the basic process seems simple enough. Heat milk & sugar together, simmer, add baking soda, stir constantly and cook until reduced. Which takes hours from what I understand.

My first question is; has anyone tried doing this in a Sous Vide, Crockpot, Bain Marie or even in the oven? It seems to me that a steady, consistent temperature that any of those options would provide would be much preferable to the vagaries of the stove top.

My Second question is; If you do use one of the above methods, is it required to stir constantly, or does the gentler heating method protect and insulate it enough that it wouldn't be as necessary. In other words, does the stirring serve another purpose, such as preventing clumping from forming, as opposed to merely being to prevent scorching.

My third question is, is it possible to Can Dulce de Leche in a shelf-stable format? I have both a pressure canner and a waterbath canner - and I know Dairy is a big no-no in both, but I'm wondering if Dulce De Leche is still a danger if it's been reduced down so far, since both the acidity level of it and the sugar levels would be pretty high.

Also, if anyone has any other ideas for things to make with excess milk, I'd love to hear them.


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  1. I wish I could help on questions 1-3 but I've only ever made it from canned sweetened condensed.

    But if you have a lot of milk around and you've never made ricotta cheese it is worth trying with some.

    Essentially - heat milk and some salt to about 180 - add an acid (I add lemon juice) - let sit for about 20-30 minutes - skim off curds and drain in a fine strainer (overnight or a few hours depending on how wet you want it). lots of online resources to get specific amounts of each but that is the gist. It is very good.

    1. #1 - I do cook sous vide regularly, but the only time I made dulce de leche from whole milk, I used the stovetop. And truth is it worked just fine. I imagine a crockpot would work similarly, but you actually have less control that way than you do with a half decent burner. I would think that a bain marie would be over kill as would SV, but I don't doubt that it would work.

      #2 Stir often. But constant stirring isn't necessary.

      #3 I can't think of any really good reason why canning DDL with a pressure canner wouldn't work, but I can't say I know for certain. The temperature may change the consistency of the DDL, but I'm speculating.

      #4 - Another suggestion: try making some farmer cheese. Use it like you would ricotta. It's easy, and relatively quick. If you're careful, you can keep farmer cheese for a reasonably long while before it goes bad.
      I've used white vinegar rather than the lemon juice that recipe calls for - you don't really taste the acid component in the finished cheese anyway.

      If you're feeling even more ambitious, making mozzarella is a bit more challenging, but still very much within the reach of a first time cheesemaker.

      7 Replies
      1. re: cowboyardee

        looks like ricotta and farmers cheese are the same thing - who knew . . . .

        1. re: thimes

          AFAIK, that's not quite true technically. Traditional ricotta is made from leftover whey, fermented to create more curds. Farmer cheese is made from curds from fresh milk, heated and acidified.

          The effect is strikingly similar though, all things considered.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            ah true - I was thinking of "home-made" ricotta recipes, which are identical to farmer cheese.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              cowboyardee--then how do ricotta and farmer cheese differ from Indian paneer? Methods described above are exactly how I make paneer.

              1. re: pine time

                I know it's a fresh Indian cheese, and I've had desserts that make use of it. But honestly, I'm not familiar enough with paneer to tell you a whole lot about it offhand.

                From looking it up, it seems that paneer and homemade farmer cheese like the stuff I described are one and the same. Perhaps different amounts of salt of acid is more typically used with each, but the basic process is no different.

                ETA: BTW, queso fresco is not much different than the above cheeses either - basically it uses a bit more salt and is pressed for a short while.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Thanks for your research--saved me a bunch of time! Curious, I'll try my homemade paneer as a sub for either farmer cheese or queso fresco in next week's menu.

          2. I was going to suggest homemade ricotta or yogurt - both delicious, easy, and will last a good long while in the fridge. Plus you get whey to use in breadmaking!

            1. I've made it following this method:
              I only ever buy low fat milk, but it worked fine.

              1: Can't comment, only ever done it on the stove.
              2: I didn't stir as often once, and it was a lot grainier. So do stir often, even if not constantly. And I lay my stirring spoon with the metal handle across the top of the pot when I'm not keeping an eye on it for convenience more than anything else, but it ensured that the whole mass didn't boil over when I last did it.
              2. I can't advise on canning. I kept it in a glass jar in the fridge, and it lasted a decent amount of time. Not that we can resist it for long!

              I also tend to make milktart when I have a lot of leftover milk. I'm unable to provide the recipe I use as I promised the friend who gave it to me that I never would give it to anyone, but there are tons of recipes online.

              1. Thanks for the help, everyone - and the side discussion about cheese was interesting. :-) I'll try some of the cheeses suggested the next time I have excess milk. I ended up making the dulce de leche on the stovetop (and it came out epic); figuring it was better to try making it the sort of official way to get a feel for it before trying to tinker. If I decide to try playing with different methods later I'll post an update. :-)