In the heat of the summer, I rely on one of my favorite tropical ingredients to make cooling treats. No, I'm not talking about coconut, pineapple or lime, although I like those, too. 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? The formula is simple: 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.
The following recipes produce 8 to 12 ice pops, depending on the volume of your molds. If you are in the market for new molds, look for the kind that are separated from each other and attach to a base that keeps the pops from tipping while freezing.
This way, you can unmold the pops one at a time if you like. Hold ice pops under hot running water for a few seconds before unmolding.
With their exteriors warmed up a bit, they should slide easily from the molds.