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Anna N

Sweetened, Condensed Milk

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I was making a "Key" lime pie today and had to open two cans of condensed milk (both were the same brand). One was purchased yesterday and one a few months past. One appeared normal - creamy white and runny. The other was definitely much, much darker (caramel) coloured and thick so that I had to scoop it out of the can.

1. What would cause this? I cannot be sure which of these cans was just purchased and which had been in my pantry for a time. My pantry is at room temp.

2. Is the darker one still safe? A bit late as I have already tasted the pie and find it to be a funny texture and tastes more of condensed milk than of lime! But I still hope to find a way to rescue it - but I would rather not make my guests ill!

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Is it possible that you made dulce de leche out of the can that was stored in your cupboard and forgot about it?

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Is it possible that you made dulce de leche out of the can that was stored in your cupboard and forgot about it?

Nope - I have never been that brave! Nor have I ever tried dulce de leche.

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The second one does sound a bit unusual.

From a 'making guests ill' perspective, it's unlikely to be anything bacteriological, as the high sugar content makes it unlikely that harmful bacteria would flourish in such an environment.

Two things I can think of :

1) The seal of the can has been compromised and led to oxidation and chemical spoilage, perhaps as a result of exposure to untinned metal.

2) It's a manufacturing fault and left the factory in the same state in which you opened it.

If the texture and colour were uniform throughout, I'd imagine it would be much more likely to be 2).

No guarantees as to your guests' wellbeing, but I would imagine that if you haven't had any consequences after your tasting of the dessert, it's unlikely to be a problem.

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...

No guarantees as to your guests' wellbeing, but I would imagine that if you haven't had any consequences after your tasting of the dessert, it's unlikely to be a problem.

Well I am still alive some hours after testing and so I will serve it tonight. If you don't see me posting tomorrow morning, you will know it was a bad decision. :wacko:

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Anna,

You should check the expiration date on both cans. I won't mention how I know this because it's not like I would ever put a can on a back shelf and forget about it for two years. However, I have it from a reliable source that if that were to happen it's kind of like the *very* long term method for making dulce de leche. If it goes long enough, that is. Nobody died when we ate it. Not that I'm saying this happened mind you. :biggrin:

You are probably quite safe in eating the pie. Next time you purchase condensed milk, you should probably check the date stamped on the can. Some stores are a bit absent minded in rotating their stock. I am sure that is what happened on one of these cans.

Ellen

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Going slightly off-topic, one of my little anal habits is to stamp the can with the purchase date. My husband loves 2-for-1 sales, so we have a lot of the same things in the pantry purchased at different times. Though I rotate the cans, it still helps.

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It's a classic example of Maillard browning. The proteins and sugars contained in milk will brown at temperatures as low room temperature over a period of time. The product is safe as long as the integrity of the can has not been compromised. You might notice a bit of caramel flavor depending on how advanced the browning is. It's not so much a matter of how old it is as compared to how it was stored.

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I have taken advantage of sales on sweetened condensed milk and bought 20 cans when it was 1.00 a can. They were stored them in the garage pantry shelves and in Central CA the summer temperatures can get over 100 degrees. So many times I have inadvertently made Dulce de leche. No one in the family ever became sick from consuming the product.

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What was the brand?

Both Eagle Brand and Carnation produce Dulce De Leche which is sold in Mexican markets (and some others that carry a lot of Hispanic products "Magnolia" is the Eagle Brand product).

It is unusual, but on rare occasions one of the processed cans will find its way onto the wrong labeling line and into a case of regular sweetened condensed milk and this can surprise whoever opens it.

When I was helping in a friend's bakery a few years back we opened a newly delivered case of the stuff (Eagle Brand) and opened a bunch of cans and came across two that were obviously the Magnolia Dulce De Leche. The numbers stamped on the cans were not the same as the plain stuff but they had the regular label.

He contacted Eagle Brand and they send two replacement cans of the regular stuff and explained that occasionally cans do get "shifted" from one line to another. (They probably fall off one conveyor labelling line and when picked up they all look the same and no one bothers to check the batch numbers on the cans so get put in the wrong lineEagle Brand Magnolia.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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That happened to me not long ago. I had a can in the back of my pantry and couldn't remember when I bought it. When I opened it, it was dark brown. I threw it out because I wasn't sure if it was bad or not.

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Wow, not a lot of condensed milk users here. Throwing it away?! Oxidation and chemical spoilage?!

Condensed milk, depending on the conditions under which is was made/stored, can vary from pure white to dark tan.

About every 4th can I buy is tan and I almost never get one that's pure white. I've just come to accept condensed milk to be light beige. The white is more preferable, but the caramel notes from the tan version can be nice, depending on the dessert.

It is what it is. But please, don't throw it away.

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What was the brand? 

Both Eagle Brand and Carnation produce Dulce De Leche which is sold in Mexican markets (and some others that carry a lot of Hispanic products "Magnolia" is the Eagle Brand product).

Both were Eagle brand. I am tending to your explanation! We have eaten the tarts and so far all are still breathing - mind you we had enough alcohol to counteract most "bugs". Thanks for the information.

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Anna,

You should check the expiration date on both cans.  ...

I did look for expiration dates but both were in a code I could not decipher.

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I just wanted to add, that I've experienced what your mentioning...........various shade of color. I've always used them and never had problems.

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I just wanted to add, that I've experienced what your mentioning...........various shade of color. I've always used them and never had problems.

I wouldn't say I use a lot of condensed milk but have been using it for many years and I have never come across this before. Anyway, we all survived the night and I think I buy Andie's explanation - fell off another line and got mislabelled - I will probably never know for sure. Thanks for the reassurance.

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Wow, not a lot of condensed milk users here. Throwing it away?! Oxidation and chemical spoilage?!

Condensed milk, depending on the conditions under which is was made/stored, can vary from pure white to dark tan.

About every 4th can I buy is tan and I almost never get one that's pure white. I've just come to accept condensed milk to be light beige. The white is more preferable, but the caramel notes from the tan version can be nice, depending on the dessert.

It is what it is.  But please, don't throw it away.

I have never, in my life, opened a can of sweetened condensed milk to find it anything other than white and normal. Given years of experience as a pastry chef (not to mention as a sweet-toothed civilian), that's an awful lot of cans, usually of Nestle or Fussel's brand.

Is this more a US thing?


Edited by culinary bear (log)

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We have eaten the tarts and so far all are still breathing - mind you we had enough alcohol to counteract most "bugs".  Thanks for the information.

Just a friendly reminder: Although it sounds like your condensed milk wasn't spoiled, I'm sure you know that the toxins produced by bacteria that cause food to spoil are unaffected by alcohol and/or heat.

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I am glad to have found this thread.

This happened to me late last year. I bought two tins and one was a much darker and thicker product. I thought it was bad and threw it away. Sorry I wasted it but I now I know different.

Thanks.

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Wow, not a lot of condensed milk users here. Throwing it away?! Oxidation and chemical spoilage?!

Condensed milk, depending on the conditions under which is was made/stored, can vary from pure white to dark tan.

About every 4th can I buy is tan and I almost never get one that's pure white. I've just come to accept condensed milk to be light beige. The white is more preferable, but the caramel notes from the tan version can be nice, depending on the dessert.

It is what it is.  But please, don't throw it away.

I have never, in my life, opened a can of sweetened condensed milk to find it anything other than white and normal. Given years of experience as a pastry chef (not to mention as a sweet-toothed civilian), that's an awful lot of cans, usually of Nestle or Fussel's brand.

Is this more a US thing?

I think it could be a US thing due to the fact that Americans don't bake with condensed milk all that much so it has a tendency to sit on the shelves.

This is from Nestle's US website:

Topic/Question: Why is my NESTLÉ CARNATION Sweetened Condensed Milk more dark and thick than I expected?

Answer: As the product ages, it may begin to change color and thicken. Each can is labeled with a “Best Before” date. If your can is within its freshness date, it is safe to use and should not affect your recipe performance.

Eagle brand condensed milk is another national brand:

Q: I opened my can of Eagle Brand®, and the color is darker than usual… is it safe to use?

A: Eagle Brand® is made with rich and creamy all natural ingredients. First, you will want to verify the production date and decide if your can is within its freshness date. As Eagle Brand® ages the product may begin to change color and thicken. If your can is within its freshness date, it is still safe to use and will not affect recipe performance.

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I have never, in my life, opened a can of sweetened condensed milk to find it anything other than white and normal.  Given years of experience as a pastry chef (not to mention as a sweet-toothed civilian), that's an awful lot of cans, usually of Nestle or Fussel's brand.

Is this more a US thing?

I've had cans of Eagle Brand that were thoroughly caramelized, here in Canada. It may have been an assembly-line error, but the cans were left in my bakery by a previous manager and had logged a lot of time on a high shelf near the ovens, so I'm leaning to the slow-caramelization theory.

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I have never, in my life, opened a can of sweetened condensed milk to find it anything other than white and normal.  Given years of experience as a pastry chef (not to mention as a sweet-toothed civilian), that's an awful lot of cans, usually of Nestle or Fussel's brand.

Is this more a US thing?

I've had cans of Eagle Brand that were thoroughly caramelized, here in Canada. It may have been an assembly-line error, but the cans were left in my bakery by a previous manager and had logged a lot of time on a high shelf near the ovens, so I'm leaning to the slow-caramelization theory.

It is slow, but it is not caramelization. It is the Maillard reaction or Maillard browning if you are more comfortable with that term. Sugar begins caramelizing at over 300 degees, much warmer than household temperatures, and is classified as non-enzymatic browning as is the Maillard reaction. Sweetened condensed milk is basically milk that has been preserved with sugar. It has low (if any) water activity which inhibits microbial growth meaning that the likelihood of spoilage is very small. You have milk proteins, plus lactose, plus added surcrose, plus a browning reaction that can happen at room temperature over an extended period of time; in other words, the perfect storm for browning. This same phenomenon can be observed in white chocolate and even dry milk solids after extended storage. Just because it can happen doesn't mean that it always will. I'm sure that the possibility of cans being mislabeled exists and just because that can happen doesn't mean that it always will. The Maillard reaction offers a more plausible explantation.

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I found a can in my storeroom that has been in there a long time, perhaps two years, and when opened it was what I consider a normal color, creamy, off-white.

I live in the soCalif desert and summertime temps can be 115, sometimes higher, and although my house is air-conditioned, the storeroom, between the house and garage, is not.

There is another unopened can from the same batch and I will leave that for at least several months and see if it changes.

When we found the two odd cans in the case at the bakery, we didn't even consider that it might be a packaging error, we thought the stuff was spoiled and contacted the company. They replied with the explanation about the mix-up on the line and identified the stuff by the numbers stamped on the bottom of each can becaue they were very different from the numbers on the regular stuff. This case had been delivered only a couple of days prior to use.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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I've also had this happen to me, and I've ruthlessly used it in desserts for my family and friends, after tasting it and deciding it was not poisonous.

I prefer the "Maillard rection" explanation. I like to think of it as Dulce de Leche sous vide!

Eileen

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I'm so glad I found this topic. I had this experience with a can of Eagle sweetened condensed milk last night. I called my source for all baking related answers (mom) and she said she's had this too, used the can anyway and we've all lived to tell.

But then she asked me a question. Is there any difference between the Eagle Sweetened condensed milk and the Magnolia? Magnolia is usually cheaper. Is Eagle better? So, now I'm coming to my other source for all baking related answers. Tell me -- what have your experiences been with the two? Do you have a preference?

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