Dulce de leche. Do those words make you drool yet? Thick, brown, sticky, caramelised condensed milk is all that it is and it’s awfully easy to make. I finally got around to making some when I saw tins of condensed milk at my local budget supermarket (Netto, if you must know). I bought three, as I estimated that was what my largest pot could hold, brought them home and then nervously watched them all night. And that’s without even boiling them yet!

You see, I had read a few horror stories online about how unopened tins exploded while being boiled, spattering hot brown goo all over kitchen and ceiling. Of course, I started to wonder how exactly did that goo escape? Through a small puncture or were there sharp metal shards all over the place?! Upon careful rereading, the exploding only happened when the boiling water evaporated enough to expose the tins to air, whereby the risk of their exploding increases exponentially. Other techniques for making dulce de leche involve pouring the condensed milk into a pan and then baking it slowly in the oven. Nah, I was going to risk it.

The next day, while watching the men’s Wimbledon finals (which incidentally, lasted longer than the boiling!), I placed the three tins on their sides into my stockpot and covered them with lots of cold water; they were covered by at least an inch or two. If your tins have paper labels, remove them; mine had the labels printed directly onto the tin, something I’d not come across before. The pot was set to boil for three and a half hours. Every half hour or so, I would top up the pot with boiling water direct from my electric kettle. Do make sure the tins are always covered! I checked on mine nervously every five minutes at the beginning but then realised that half hour checks were going to be ok.

After they’ve finished their 3.5 hour stint in water, turn off the heat and let the tins cool in the water. Don’t be hasty and open the tins while they’re hot as they’re still likely to spray molten goo all over you and your kitchen. When we finally opened a tin, this was what greeted us:

Dulce de Leche

Oh yeah. Thick, sticky, caramelly goodness. It’s very thick and we tasted first on teaspoons. It’s sweet and slightly milky and gosh, it’s hard to describe it but you ought to try making it too since it’s so easy! I like my caramel with a bit of salt and so we next had some on crackers; salt and caramel are just perfect bedfellows.

The best part of boiling directly in the tin is that you can take those unopened tins and put them straight back into your storecupboard. I’ve read that the sugars might crystallise a bit but it’s supposedly a good thing as you get a bit of crunch.

Now I still have 2.5 tins of dulce de leche left… what shall I do with them?!

Oh, and if you’re reading this in time, tomorrow (Saturday, 12 July 2008) is the Korean Food Festival at the Fountain Pub in New Malden. More info over at London Korean Links.