Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Celebrating Gail Borden and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Quick! Check your pantry. Do you have a can of sweetened condensed milk lurking in your cupboard? Yep, it should be right by the evaporated milk you bought to make Pumpkin Pie. Did you find it? Good. Because today, we are talking about Gail Borden and one of his most successful inventions, (next to Elsie the cow that is:) sweetened condensed milk! (actually, Elsie didn't come along until many years later:)

"I tried and failed. I tried again and again and succeeded." ~Gail Borden~
By all accounts, Gail Borden Jr. was an extraordinary human being.
As an American philanthropist, businessman, and inventor, Gail Borden, Jr. envisioned food concentrates as a means of safeguarding the human food supply. He was the first to develop a commercial method of condensing milk, and the dairy company founded by him (renamed Borden, Inc., in 1968) expanded and diversified to become a sizable corporation operating in many areas of business.
Gail Borden, Jr., inventor, publisher, surveyor, and founder of the Borden Company, son of Gail and Philadelphia Borden, was born in Norwich, New York, on November 9, 1801. In 1816 the family moved to New London, Indiana, where Borden obtained his only formal schooling, totaling not more than a year and a half. He is thought to have been captain of the local militia when barely twenty years old. In 1822 he was a principal figure in rescuing a freedman from rustlers. Shortly afterward he moved to Mississippi in search of a milder climate to cure a persistent cough. In Mississippi Borden surveyed and taught school. In 1826 he was official surveyor for Amite County as well as deputy federal surveyor. (source)

It would be a futile attempt on my part to review the many accomplishments of "America's Milkman." I have referred to Dr. Borden often on this blog and at my Tasteful Inventions blog. Today, I would like to concentrate on that creamy, sugary, canned syrup we all indulge and love, sweetened condensed milk.
Returning from a trip to England in 1851, he was greatly distressed to see how hundreds of poor immigrants suffered—and their babies sickened and died—from lack of fresh milk on the long sea voyage. At that time the only way to provide milk at sea was to carry cows on the ship, but even then there was no ice for keeping the milk, no means of protecting it against contamination.

Condensed Milk Timeline:

Up to the early 1880s, condensed milk was the only kind of milk sold in hermetically sealed cans; evaporated milk was manufactured, but it was sold like fresh milk in open containers. Condensed milk was inexpensive to transport and its keeping qualities were highly dependable. I should mention, although this is a brief timeline of the evolution of condensed milk, Gail Borden's experiments; successes and failures were not without financial hardship and personal loss.
  • November 9, 1801: Gail Borden born in Norwich, New York.
  • 1851: Visiting a Shaker community at New Lebanon, N.Y., Borden was inspired by the vacuum pans he had seen used by Shakers to condense fruit juice. He decides that milk could be condensed in the same way without burning it or having it curdle. It then could remain wholesome indefinitely.
  • 1853: Gail Borden applies to patent his revolutionary process for canning milk by concentrating it in a partial vacuum and adding sugar to preserve it.
  • August 19, 1856: Gail Borden (nearly 56 years old:) receives US patent #15,553 for his milk condensing process. For the first time milk can be kept pure and storable without the benefit of refrigeration and also can be safely distributed over great distances...The first condensary is set up at Wolcottville, Conn—now the city of Torrington as Gail Borden & Company. Because of insufficient money to operate the factory, the plant was abandoned.
  • 1857: Gail Borden establishes the New York Condensed Milk Company and begins manufacturing and selling condensed milk under the now famous Eagle Brand.
New Magic in the Kitchen ca 1920s

  • 1858: With financial backing from Jeremiah Milbank the name of the company is changed to the New York Condensed Milk Co., and an office is opened in the basement of 173 Canal Street, New York City.
  • May 22, 1858: The first advertisement for "Borden's Condensed Milk" appears in Leslie's Weekly.
  • June, 1861: Just two months after the outbreak of the Civil War, a larger factory is needed and Borden moves to the village of Wassaic, New York which was located on the railroad and offered better chances for expansion. "The United States Government immediately commandeers the entire output of condensed milk for use in the Army and in hospitals."
  • 1864: Gail Borden's New York Condensed Milk Company constructed the New York Milk Condensery in Brewster, New York. This condensery, a model of cleanliness and efficiency was the largest and most advanced milk factory and was Borden's first commercially successful plant. Over 200 dairy farmers supplied 20,000 gallons of milk daily to the Brewster plant as demand was driven by the Civil War.
  • 1866: The first European condensed milk factory is built by The Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company at Cham, Switzerland under the direction of George H. Page.
  • 1871: The first Canadian condensery was built at Truro, Nova Scotia, in 1871
  • 1874: Borden dies in Borden, Texas on January 11, 1874.
American Kitchen Magazine; 1899

Sweetened Condensed Milk Recipes

As I was scanning through an assortment of Eagle Brand recipe books in my collection, I became intrigued with one particular heading in New Magic in the Kitchen most likely published in the early 1920s. The ladies who compiled the booklet challenged themselves to note the difference in cooking the same recipes. One would construct the recipe using sweetened condensed milk and the other would use the "long" method of preparing the same recipe. The purpose of this experiment was to display the time and the number of ingredients in each recipe. Here are the results for two of the five recipes.

Intrigued by the notion, I chose this Graham Cracker Cake recipe from the booklet and a similar recipe for Old Fashioned Graham Cracker Cake found here.

Here's a recipe for Caramel Pudding from the same booklet and the Smitten Kitchen.

Oh this is fun! Let's change it up a bit though. I found this recipe for Butterscotch Dip in a more recent addition of Eagle Brand Dessert recipes. I also found an intriguing rendition at the Food Network, presented by Paula Deen.

As you can imagine, I could go on and on sharing sweetened condensed milk recipes. Alas, no can do...However, there are spoonfuls of recipes around you. I've left a few starting points below. One last thing, when it comes to sweetened condensed milk, it's very easy to make at home. Here's one recipe to make your own. And another from about.com
How To Make Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute
Here's How:
1. Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water into a blender.
2. Add 1 cup of nonfat dry milk.
3. Add 2/3 cup sugar.
4. Add 3 tablespoons of melted butter.
5. Add a few drops of vanilla.
Cover and blend on high speed for 30 seconds or until smooth.
Remove from the blender.
Use in a recipe immediately or store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Tip: A food processor may be used to blend the ingredients.

1. Condensed Milk and Milk Powder: Prepared for the Use of Milk Condenseries By Otto Frederick Hunziker (1920) @google books
2. Mr. Hires and the Black Cow (previous post)
3. Condensed Milk vs. Evaporated Milk; what's the difference?
4. Can I use fat free sweetened condensed milk in place of full fat?
1. Gloria, hostess of Canela Kitchen, is a huge fan of sweetened condensed milk. A quick search on her blog turned up a delicious assortment of recipes!
2. Milk in a Can Goes Glam (Interesting article from The New York Times)
3. Sweetened Condensed Milk Cocada
4. Condensed Milk Fudge
5. Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake with a decadent sweetened condensed milk filling
6. Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Cafe Sua Da)
7. Impossible Cake (AKA chocoflan) (Pastel Imposible (AKA Chocoflan) Rick Bayless
8. Aunt Ruth's Famous Butterscotch Cheesecake Recipe