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Sweet Memory

IMG_7443My sister has been asking me to post about canned dulce de leche since I started the site in 2008.  Still away on my summer hiatus she saw her opportunity…

When my mother told me to grab a spoon I was confused.  I looked around the kitchen and only saw her opening a can of something without a label.  “Traeme una cuchara,” she insisted.  I walked over to the drawer and brought her back two spoons.  She quickly took them from my hand and scooped something brown and gooey out of the mystery can. ‘Try it!’ She said confidently and then she started enjoying her own spoonful.  I carefully took a lick and proceeded to light up the only way a fat kid could.  I couldn’t believe my mom had made something so delicious.  “How did you make this?” I was 8 years old and amazed.  “Carefully!”, she answered looking over at the pressure cooker.

She had boiled the sealed can in the most feared and commonly used cooking pot in all Cuban kitchens.  I went for another spoonful and still could not believe my mom had made something so perfect.  Proud of her culinary achievement she elaborated “It’s leche condensada, boiled.”  I thought my mom was a genius, and in that moment she basked in my appreciation.

Years later, my uncle who lived in Chile would bring my grandparents mini buckets of dulce de leche, and I learned it was a pretty common ingredient all over Latin America.  Soon gourmet food shops shelves were packed with fancy jars of the sweet stuff and dulce de leche made its way into everything from M&M’s to grocery store ice cream.  But I rarely eat it.  It no longer seems special.  Maybe it became too much of a good thing too fast.  Maybe I just got bored with  it.  Then when my sister was away working on her book, I had to think of something simple that I could make that would make my sister crazy at how easy I could make it and that’s when I remembered my mom’s little gem in a plain silver can.

As the pressure cooker cooled, the anticipation was almost too much to bare.  Would it taste the same?  Would this be yet another lovely childhood memory that would be erased by an adult disappointment?  The can opener chewed through the metal top I could see the color was the same.  I grabbed the nearest spoon and it cut through the now solid mass and I knew it had the same texture.  Then I took my first taste of it and as it dissolved ever so slowly in my mouth my heart jumped.  I was 8 years old again, standing in my little kitchen in North Miami with my mom. The little silver can still lived up to its memory. It was a great surprise all over again. The best things always are.

Dulce de Leche

You have three choices of how long you want to cook it.  For creamy, malleable dulce de leche, cook for 20 Minutes.  It’ll be light brown and still very sweet. Great for decorating or spreading on a galleticas de maria.  For a thicker consistency and richer flavor, cook for 30 minutes.  It’ll give you a dense caramel that holds together without losing silkiness.

40 Minutes Gives you a thick pudding like consistency and a nice tart kick to the dulce de leche.  It’s dark brown and rich.

Take the label off the can and place the can in a pressure cooker.  Fill the pressure cooker with water so that the standing can is fully submerged in water with an extra inch of water over the top of it.

Seal the pressure cooker and place it on a burner at medium-high heat.  When the tiki-tiki starts to dance, lower the heat to medium.  When you have reached your desired time LET IT COOL for two to three hours before opening the pressure cooker.  DID YOU HEAR ME-TWO TO THREE HOURS.

Once the pressure cooker has completely cooled-open it and use tongs to pull out the can.  Open it up with a can opener, grab your nearest spoon and ENJOY!

22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Isabel Sciaky (nee Martinez) #

    Thanks for the memories. I plan to make this when my grandchildren visit.

    16 July 2013
  2. Tom Warnock #

    I boil on the stovetop for 4 hours – this is much more expedient!

    16 July 2013
  3. Thanks for this sweet memory! I’m originally from Brazil and at my mom’s house we usually had this delicious dulce de leche (o mejor: doce de leite). The hard is to decide which cooking time makes the best one. 🙂

    16 July 2013
  4. I actually have a can of caramel in my pantry right now. I’ve never heard of boiling it in a pressure cooker. But am tempted to try it, by the way you describe it!

    16 July 2013
  5. Dany #

    Oh yes, memories! We used to go to la escuela al campo in Cuba and our parents would tuck little lechitas in our woode suitcases. The girls would sit in our bunks at night and share the cans and the galleticas. Yummm

    16 July 2013
  6. One of my child hood favorites too. In Peru we call it Manjar Blanco and use it as the filling for Alfajores cookies, what ever was left over in the can we got to enjoy with a spoon. Very yummy!

    16 July 2013
  7. This sounds great. I use a pressure cooker all the time, but I never heard of boiling a can in one. Does it (the can) ever explode? Ken

    16 July 2013
    • taniacaveneciatorres #

      At my house we fell asleep when boiling a couple of cans in a regular pot. The water boiled out and we woke up to what sounded like an explosion to find sticky caramel splatter all over the walls and ceiling in the kitchen.That’s what we get for trying to make Alfajores late at night !

      16 July 2013
    • yes Ken–be careful–but if you follow the instructions you should be fine 😉

      17 July 2013
  8. dashingcamilla #

    Reblogged this on BlenditWhiskit and commented:
    I love this!!! Always wanted to trait at home. Here is my chance!

    16 July 2013
  9. I had no idea this is how dulce de leche was made, and I grew up eating it hahaha, I’m from venezuela. Your post is so great to read. I laughed at the tiki-tiki, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. I do have a question, why do you let the pressure cooker cool off for such a long time? what happens if you dont? Im guessing you release the pressure prior to letting it rest, right? anyways, beautiful post. thank you.

    17 July 2013
    • HI! So glad you liked the post. You MUST let the pressure cooker cool off because if not it will explode and you will hurt yourself. Trust me it’s worth the wait!

      17 July 2013
      • I certainly wouldn’t want that to happen! but would it explode even if you let all the pressure out which takes only a few minutes?

        17 July 2013
        • Don’t risk it! We’re terrifed of that thing over here!

          17 July 2013
          • hahahah! 🙂 I will be careful. I have used my pressure cooker for quite sometime and I am aware of its potential destructive power. thanks Carmen!

            17 July 2013
  10. Teri #

    hi sofia-
    i’ve been delinquent again not keeping abreast of my favorite girl’s blog. That other brown shade is necessary. Shouldn’t you exterminate the heat at the more visually desirable shade does the taste truly alter significantly. I’ve killed a few cans of the stuff in my youth downed it like a pisco at a bar. i will put a few in the pressure cooker tonight. always indebted to your generosity. until next time.

    19 July 2013
  11. This is so amazing! Thank you for sharing this sweet memory, dulce de leche is one of my favorites and with this, I can actually make it at home. Wish me luck though. HA HA.

    31 July 2013
  12. brown and gooey sounds good to me!

    23 August 2013
  13. sounds great! and err..bold! we use them all the time here in India and yet am shit scared of exploding pressure cookers!

    30 August 2013
  14. I think my first taste of dulce de leche was on the beach in Venezuela. A woman was selling Obleas, dulce de leche spread sweetly between two crisp wafers, with a little extra spread on top. Such sweet memories.

    7 September 2013

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