I was at the National Dairy Council’s annual conference yesterday, and as would be expected, milk was very much to the fore of proceedings. Great jugs of milk sitting in bowls of ice, Minister Coveney posing for photographs with a glass of milk in hand and NDC leaflets everywhere, extolling the quality and various uses for Irish milk. Scattered around the room were copies of the Farmer’s Journal, full of NDC ‘Dairy Week’ ads and fodder crisis updates. I took a look at Imen McDonnell’s column during the coffee break and, for the week that was in it, perhaps, it featured Creme Fraiche Lemon Sea Salt Ice Cream, which sounded pretty gorgeous. It reminded me to look up her ‘milk jam‘ blog post from November last year, another recipe which shows how much can be done with one of the most humble and unassuming of the day-to-day ingredients – milk.
Milk jam or confiture de lait is similar but not exactly the same as dulce de leche, that rich, sticky, caramel of Argentina, made popular in the late 90s by Häagen Dazs. Milk jam is made by slowly simmering milk and sugar together for a couple of hours while dulce de leche is usually made by boiling a pierced can of condensed milk for even longer. The higher percentage of sugar and the pressurised environment makes the latter far more like toffee, or like a very rich, deep-coloured caramel. Milk jam is unctuous and delicate like butterscotch. It does take quite a while to make, and you can’t leave it to its own devices for too long. But it is the definition of luxury in a jar, it’s absolutely delicious on fresh bread and making it is oddly relaxing – I finished reading my book, skimmed through The Gloss and had a cup of coffee as it slowly thickened and became faintly golden throughout the afternoon.
1litre of whole milk
300g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
Add the milk into a deep pot and stir in the sugar, salt, baking soda and vanilla extract.
Bring the milk mixture to a boil without stirring at a medium heat. Once the milk starts to boil slightly, turn the heat down very low. Once it has come to the boil, turn the heat down so that it’s barely simmering and skim any foam off. Continue to simmer uncovered for around 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring regularly.
Cook it slowly over a low heat. If the heat is too high, the milk will boil and form a skin that won’t disappear no matter how much you whisk it, according to McDonnell. I perhaps was a little cautious with mine – anywhere just below a simmer is probably okay.
Check the consistency after around two hours. I cooked mine for a bit over two and a half hours. You could add some flavours while you’re cooking (lavender, coconut, Bourbon…) or you could stir some flakes of crunchy salt in at the end.