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Evaporated milk, also known as dehydrated milk, is a shelf-stable canned milk product with about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk. It differs from sweetened condensed milk, which contains added sugar. Sweetened condensed milk requires less processing since the added sugar inhibits bacterial growth.
The product takes up half the space of its nutritional equivalent in fresh milk. When the liquid product is mixed with a proportionate amount of water, evaporated milk becomes the rough equivalent of fresh milk. This makes evaporated milk attractive for shipping purposes as it can have a shelf life of months or even years, depending upon the fat and sugar content. This made evaporated milk very popular before refrigeration as a safe and reliable substitute for perishable fresh milk, which could be shipped easily to locations lacking the means of safe milk production or storage. Households in the western world use it most often today for desserts and baking due to its unique flavor. It is also used as a substitute for pouring cream, as an accompaniment to desserts, or (undiluted) as a rich substitute for milk. Mashed potatoes can be made by adding evaporated milk to (typically peeled) boiled potatoes, and whipping them into a creamy food.
The process involves the evaporation of about half the water from the milk, after which the product is homogenized, canned, and sterilized.
In the 1920s and 1930s, evaporated milk began to be widely commercially available at low prices. The Christian Diehl Brewery, for instance, entered the business in 1922, producing Jerzee brand evaporated milk as a response to the Volstead Act. Several clinical studies from that time period suggested that babies fed evaporated milk formula thrive as well as breastfed babies. Modern guidelines from the World Health Organization consider breastfeeding, in most cases, to be healthier for the infant because of the colostrum in early milk production as well as the specific nutritional content of human breast milk.
Evaporated milk is fresh, homogenized milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed. After the water has been removed, the product is chilled, stabilized, packaged and sterilized. It is commercially sterilized at 240-245 °F (115-118 °C) for 15 minutes. A slightly caramelized flavor results from the high heat process, and it is slightly darker in color than fresh milk. The evaporation process also concentrates the nutrients and the food energy. Thus, for the same weight, undiluted evaporated milk contains more food energy than fresh milk.
According to the United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Chapter 1, Part 131, Sub part B, Section 130 "Evaporated milk", (April 2006)
(a) Description. Evaporated milk is the liquid food obtained by partial removal of water only from milk. It contains not less than 6.5 percent by weight of milk fat, not less than 16.5 percent by weight of milk solids not fat, and not less than 23 percent by weight of total milk solids. Evaporated milk contains added vitamin D as prescribed by paragraph (b) of this section. It is homogenized. It is sealed in a container and so processed by heat, either before or after sealing, as to prevent spoilage. ...
Sections (b) - (f) of the above code regulate vitamin addition, optional ingredients, methods of analysis, nomenclature, and label declaration.
The shelf life of canned evaporated milk will vary according to both its added content and its proportion of fat. For the regular unsweetened product a life of fifteen months can be expected before any noticeable destabilization occurs.
Evaporated milk is sold by several manufacturers:
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