In the heat of the summer, I rely on one of my favorite tropical ingredients to make cooling treats.
I’m not talking about coconut, pineapple or lime. To make Popsicle-like frozen treats that are creamy and refreshing, I stock up on sweetened condensed milk.
Canned milk is one of those dusty products on the supermarket shelf that most of us bypass on the way to the refrigerator cases in the back of the store.
But before refrigeration, it provided a pure, shelf-stable and economical source of calories and nutrition for people all over the world.
Scientific and technological advances in the 20th century made fresh milk safe and reliable. But in the tropics, the popularity of canned milk persists.
It is a workhorse in the kitchen, functioning as a thickener when combined with acidic ingredient such as lemon juice, as well as adding a creamy flavor and sweetness to a variety of recipes.
In Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, sweetened condensed milk (along with evaporated milk and heavy cream) is an essential ingredient in tres leches cake.
In Brazil, it is combined with cocoa powder to make the fudge-like brigadeiro. Indian cooks make a milk peda candy using sweetened condensed milk, ghee and spices. And halo-halo is a Filipino specialty made with shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk and fruit.
Why not use it to make all-American ice pops? Whisk together a can of sweetened condensed milk and 21⁄2 cups of liquid (pureed fruit, fruit juice, cream, coffee). Pour into molds and freeze until firm.
Espresso Ice Pops
1 1⁄2 cups very strong brewed coffee or espresso, cooled 1 can sweetened condensed milk 1 cup heavy cream
Whisk together coffee, sweetened condensed milk and cream in a large glass measuring cup. Pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for at least 4 hours and up to a week.
Watermelon-Lime Ice Pops
4 cups watermelon chunks 1⁄2 cup lime juice (2 to 4 limes) 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk Puree the watermelon in a food processor until smooth. Press through a fine strainer. You should have about 2 cups. Whisk together the watermelon, lime juice and sweetened condensed milk. Pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for at least 4 hours and up to a week.
Berry-Yogurt Ice Pops
1 cup Greek yogurt 1⁄4 cup lime juice (1 to 2 limes) 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 1 cup raspberries, blackberries or blueberries
Whisk together the yogurt, lime juice and sweetened condensed milk. Stir in the berries, mashing some but not all against the side of the bowl. Pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for at least 4 hours and up to a week.