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!