Making Cajeta

It’s no secret that we’re drowning in goat’s milk here on the farm– three quarts a day is enough to satisfy even the most avid of enthusiastic-milk-drinkers-cum-amateur-cheesemakers. So when Amy suggested we make cajeta, I was plenty excited to try it. As a kid, I’d always wanted to make that Dulce de Leche where you boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for hours– turn a boring can of canned-something into candy? Yes, please!– but heard it was dangerous or something– what if the can exploded?– so never did.

Turns out, as far as basic preparation (“the bones of the recipe”), Cajeta = Dulce de Leche = Confiture de Lait = trans. MILK JAM. This delights me to no end.

It’s simple to make (“Get some milk. Put some sugar in it. Boil it.”), and wildly delicious.

Let me explain.

We took 6 quarts of goat’s milk (but you can use cow’s milk), mixed in 6 cups of sugar (this makes a tooth-achingly sweet caramel. Next time, we’re dialing way back.), and threw in a vanilla bean pod.

You bring this to a boil, and stir occasionally to make sure that the sugar dissolves and that the milk isn’t scorching. You can see in the picture above that the stove is on high– if you do this, keep an eye on it.

Meanwhile, dissolve a little bit of baking soda (less than a teaspoon) in a half-cup of water. Once the milk boils, add the dissolved baking soda– the milk will bubble up more crazily than before, because the baking soda’s releasing CO2. As I understand it, this keeps the cajeta sort of foamy, so that it cools into a silky cream, instead of gritty, precipitated-out sugar crystals.

Anyway, turn the heat down a little and keep boiling & stirring & boiling & stirring until your cajeta turns darker and darker tan. It should be reduced by a little more than half, and be pretty thick. This took us about an hour and a half– it could take you longer. Once it’s reached soft ball stage, take off of heat and let cool.

How to tell if it’s reached soft ball stage? Take out a little spoonful and throw it in some ice water. Did it waterily dissipate? Or did it turn into a firmed-up piece of soft caramel that you think you’d like to eat? If the latter, you’re gold. Another way to tell is to see if the sauce “ribbons”– if it drips directly off a slightly-tilted spatula, or if it runs along the surface of the spatula and then all drips off in one corner.

If you scroll down to the last picture, you can see that we opted to err on the side of a thicker caramel, mainly because you can always thin it out by heating it up. But, experiment. Make it how you like it.

Once the sauce cools, you can pour it into clean jars (note the 1 pristine jar that we’re giving to Amy, and the 1 grotty jar we’ve already gotten in to).

From 6 quarts of milk and 6 cups of sugar, we got 2 very heavy quarts of ultra-ultra-concentrated, thick, silky caramel. This goodness of this stuff is so highly concentrated that it was (according to Wikipedia) an important element in the Mexican War of Independence– which fact also delights me to no end. You get a lot of energy in a small, easily-transported, non-spoiling (all that sugar– it’s the same idea as jam) jar– you can win a war with this stuff! It’s awesome!

Thus far, we’re having it with our coffee– and eating it right off the spoon– but we’re also branching out into the rather Inception-like possibilities of putting it on goat-yogurt, or goat-ice-cream, and making goat-milkshakes (this is called, “Caprine Confection Inception”).

If you have any other caramel ideas, I’d love to hear them! I’ve had a particular yen for these ever since she blogged about them (also for this, but that’s weirder), and the best part is, we’ve got a closet full of lavender that’s been drying since June.

All I’m saying is, things are pretty darn wonderful around here. Thank goodness for goats!

20 Comments

  1. Yeah I got an idea for ya…. send me a jar of that! How’s that for an idea?

    Glad you guys are enjoying the goaties:)

  2. Apples, I’m sure you have or will have plenty of apples, if it won’t solidly coat the apple, then cut slices and dip.
    Also in a pinch you can use pears, just a bit more unripe than you would normally eat raw, or slices like the apples. I don’t know why I’m sure you have pears, lol.
    There are probably more fresh fruit you can use, as you say, experiment. I bet some of the dried fruit you made would be good also.

  3. w@w!
    i’m off sugar but i just bet that tastes absolutely amazing! (eat in moderation! which i’m sure is somewhat difficult!)

    yummmmmy.
    sending lots of sweet love from rainy southern california… xoxoxoxooxox….
    rona

  4. When you make cheese, what are you doing with all that whey? Do the pigs eat it? I’ve been told by food historian friend’s that the successful dairy farmers cheese makers also had to keep pigs, to make ends meet, and they took care of all that whey!

    I made farmers cheese a couple of times (did you know that if you use ultra pasteurised milk it takes 3x as much lemon juice to curdle? But eventually, it works fine!), my family adores it, but it feels so wasteful!

  5. THIS IS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER READ.

  6. Well, crap!! Milk liqueur it is, then! I perused that recipe, and it sounds fanastic. Wish I had a goat or two in the backyard right about now . . . but there’s a dairy not all that far away! I think I have it covered!! Thanks, Susie. You’re always bounding in great clever ideas!! xoxo

  7. With chunks of great dark chocolate. And fancy salt crystals like fleur de sel.

  8. Have you ever heard of alfajores? It’s a South American dessert made a little bit different in each country. Essentially it is cajeta sandwiched between two cookies and covered in powdered sugar. It is so good when you make it with your own cajeta, and I would definitely recommend it.

  9. @Colleen– We started feeding whey to the pigs, but they took to it a little TOO much, and, well, gained quite a bit of weight! I’m sure it’s an excellent way to get them up to weight. We’ve found a whole class of cheeses you can make with whey– mostly ricotta and ricotta-esque cheeses– but there’s also a Norwegian cheese called brunost (I think someone commented right when we got the goats & recommended it to us?) that’s made by cooking the whey way way down into a dense, tannish, block. You apparently can also use it as soup stock, or in breads, or make whey protein powder– seriously! But we certainly do end up with a lot of it!

    and, @Einahpets65– Yes! Zac & his family spent some time in Uruguay, and he says the Uruguayans eat them CONSTANTLY, as, like, on-the-go snacks. Is that true? Anyway, they’re definitely on the list of what-to-cook next. Thank you!

  10. When I was in college I decided to make carmel corn and while making the carmel I was fasincated with how the carmel bubbled after putting the baking soda in — so much so I wasn’t paying attention that it had bubbled up to the top of the pan and overflowed. I was taking pictures because the texture of it was going to be used in a graphics project I was working on at school. I was so grateful my mother’s stove had sealed burners and it was relatively easy to clean up.

  11. “Did it waterily dissipate?” is my favorite sentence. Such deliciousness from some good animals! I’m glad there will be babies around when we next visit. And that you & Z are making so many discoveries ~

  12. OMG, you have to make stroopwafels! They are the best cookies I have ever tasted. here is some info about them: http://www.squidoo.com/stroopwafels.

  13. My bff is from Costa Rica and I have to second making alfajores with the cajeta. They melt in your mouth and are truly heaven sent. If I remember, I’ll make some for shearing if you supply the cajeta ;)

  14. We have always boiled the cans of sweetened condensed milk and have never had a explosion. Just make sure your can is submerged.
    But yours sounds so much better!

  15. That sounds delicious!

    I have been making kefir and kefir cheese lately which results in extra whey. I have yet to try it, but I have heard that you can soak your grains in whey before making them. Supposedly it makes them easier to digest. I’ve also heard whey can be used in place of water in bread recipes and it yields a sourdough-like tang to the bread. If you start experimenting with uses for whey, I’d be interested to hear what you do. I’ve mostly been dumping mine into the compost pile, but it feels kind of wasteful.

  16. @Mariah– We just learned that baking soda & hot sugar trick recently, making Honeycomb candy. It was AMAZING to watch– it bubbled up like crazy. But I bet it would make a heck of a mess to clean up!

    @Angela– Oh man, Stroopwafels! I used to have a roommate who had a Dutch sweetheart, and he sent her (and so, by proxy, greedy old me) boxes & boxes of them. But I’ve never had homemade– we’ll make them for sure, then!

    @Tanya– Done & DONE! Excited already!

  17. have you ever had banoffee pie? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banoffee_pie) its really tasty and reminds me of a lovely trip to ireland with my daughter and our bead making friends…

  18. It was really good last evening when we got in!

  19. Caroline, thanks for this recipe. I did make it with while cows milk and used 4 cups of sugar. It is wonderful! Question though, how do you store it and how long does it keep? I have it in pint jelly jars currently in my fridge.

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