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Taste test: sweetened condensed milk

My husband's grandmother loved to cook. My children and I cherish her old recipes, especially the ones for the holidays. Several of the recipes, including our favorite for chocolate fudge, call for "one can of evaporated milk." They don't say what size can — the options must have been limited in the 1920s — so we always have to guess. Evaporated milk is also known as condensed milk, which is the result of milk being heated until about 60 percent of the water is removed. Sweetened condensed milk is made using the same process, but has added sugar. The type of condensed milk and the amount can make a big difference in recipes. The sweetened kind is delicious in recipes from cookie bars to pies and even as a coffee creamer. Unlike his grandma's local market, our grocery stores offer numerous sizes and brands of condensed milk, both sweetened and unsweetened. Our judges wanted to know how the sweeter varieties compared to each other.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent


(out of 100)
California Farms Organic 80Borden's Magnolia 75Market Pantry 68

Caramel color that is produced in the milk heating process gave this brand a rich appearance that immediately appealed to judges. "This would be perfect for flan," said one taster who prepares the custard tarts every holiday season. Another said he liked the right amount of sweetness, saying it would be great in key lime pie. All of the panelists agreed this brand would be a good additive to any recipe in need of a subtle caramel flavor.This traditional brand also had a caramel aroma, plus a sweet, caramel taste. "In a perfect world, I would have two teaspoons of this special mixture in a day and a third one in a cup of white coffee," said one panelist. "It has great richness and no bad aftertaste," said another. One judge said this would work well in her homemade icing for cakes or cookies. Panelists detected a pleasing hint of vanilla in this brand. "It's creamy, rich and sweet with really nice flavor overtones," said one judge. "What I really enjoy about this is the hard sauce flavor that developed as it was cooked," said another taster. "I love the color and the (viscosity)."

they buy?
All four judges said yes.All four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$3.99 for a 14-ounce can from the Fresh Market.$1.75 for a 14-ounce can from Winn-Dixie.$1.89 for a 14-ounce can from Target.

Also Sampled: Publix ($1.99 for a 14-ounce can, 63 points); Carnation ($2.89 for a 14-ounce can from Winn-Dixie, 62 points); La Lechera (2.19 for a 14-ounce can from Winn-Dixie, 60 points); Trader Joe's Organic ($2.79 for a 14-ounce can, 51 points); Eagle Brand ($2.39 for a 14-ounce can from Publix, 65 points); and Winn-Dixie ($1.89 for a 14-ounce can, 65 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Kay Hodnett, personal chef; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving sizeTwo tablespoonsTwo tablespoonsTwo tablespoons
Fat/Fiber3g / 0g3g / 0g3g / 0g
Sugars/Sodium22g / 40mg22g / 35mg22g / 45mg
Carbs/Protein22g / 3g22g / 3g22g / 3g

Taste test: sweetened condensed milk 10/31/16 [Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2016 12:02pm]
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