crema de vie


Some of you who use sweetened condensed milk on a regular basis for baking are probably quite familiar with its rich, glorious and transformational flavor. Until this past week, I was not fully aware of this, and so I’ve had some fun experimenting with it while working on the recipe for this post. More specifically, I’ve made homemade versions of both a dairy-based and non-dairy based sweetened condensed milk, both of which are incredibly luxurious and addicting. Just like the song, I’ve got visions of sweet things dancing in my head, imagining what can be made and vastly improved by using this amazing nectar. 

Sweetened condensed milk, with a nice swig of rum, is the basis for this popular Cuban aperitif, Crema de Vie, usually made around Christmas and New Year’s, and served chilled after a meal. It’s very similar in style to eggnog. I’ve taken the recipe from my husband’s mother and simplified it a bit, omitting the simple syrup and using the sweetness of the condensed milk and apple cider alone. Typically my husband’s mother uses sidra Asturiana, a hard sparkling cider made in Spain, but I substituted a non-alcoholic sparkling cider because it was easier to find. If you’re able to find the sidra Asturiana locally, use it instead.

Christmas is only a few days away, so take a moment to enjoy a little sip for all the work you’ve done, or gift a small bottle of the Crema de Vie to a friend. And have a Merry Christmas!

Crema De Vie

The day before, if making your own sweetened condensed milk:
(recipe based on “Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk” from the blog Kitchen Stewardship)

For the sweetened condensed milk:
3 cups raw goat milk
1 cup organic sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Put the milk in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan and stir in the sugar. Heat over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to simmer, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture begins to simmer, turn the heat to the very lowest setting. Stir occasionally for the next 3-1/2 to 4 hours, until the milk is reduced to 1-1/2 cups. The color of the milk will darken from white to off-white. Watch carefully and stir more often once you reach the third hour, and measure if necessary using a heat-proof pyrex measuring cup to determine when to stop. Once you’ve reduced the milk to 1-1/2 cups, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until melted and well-blended. You should have about 1-3/4 cups, or 14 ounces, of sweetened condensed milk. To give the condensed milk a smoother texture, when it cools to room temperature you can run it in a high-powered blender for about 30 seconds.


The next day:
For the Crema de Vie:
1-3/4 cups/14 ounces homemade or canned sweetened condensed milk
1-3/4 cups/14 ounces sparkling apple cider or sidra Asturiana
8 large egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons/5 ounces 80 proof white or silver rum

(Note: If using canned sweetened condensed milk, add two teaspoons vanilla extract to the milk and cider mixture before heating).

Separate the yolks from the eggs into a heat-proof container. Set aside. Pour the sweetened condensed milk and the sparkling apple cider into a medium 4-quart saucepan, and mix together until blended. Warm over low heat until steam begins to rise from the mixture. Remove from the heat. Remove about 1/2 cup of the warmed mixture with a smaller heat-proof measuring cup, and stir a little bit at a time into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, until the entire 1/2 cup is mixed in. Slowly pour the egg/milk mixture back into the larger saucepan with the milk/apple juice mixture, whisking constantly. Place the saucepan on the burner again and heat over low heat, stirring until the mixture thickens slightly. Test the thickness by dipping the back of a spoon into the mixture, and drawing a thick line with your finger across the back of the spoon. Edges of the line should remain intact and not run together. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Once mixture has cooled a bit, pour it into a high-powered blender and blend on high for about 30 seconds to remove any grittiness. Start at a slow speed and ramp up gradually to high so you don’t have an eruption from the warm liquid. Transfer to a large heat-proof container, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so to finish cooling down to about room temperature. Once the mixture reaches room temperature, remove it from the refrigerator, whisk in the rum, and pour into a large re-sealable 34-ounce bottle. Save the few extra ounces as a reward for yourself. Return to the refrigerator to chill completely. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Makes about 36 ounces

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