Sunday, June 30, 2013

Caramelco

The whole reason why I ended up with a recipe for Caramelco started with this great news in Forbes Magazine: Eindhoven is the top most inventive city of the world! We already knew this of course, as Eindhoven was the starting point in 1891 for Philips, a company that has pioneered many technological inventions and industrial changes throughout history, and still is, to this day.

Curious as to whether this city in North Brabant had a particular claim on any type of food, I started researching its culinary past. I found mentions of lektoeten (stroopsoldaatjes) and poeliepek (dropwater) which seem to be more nationally known. But one product that was famous in the 1960's and 70s was a product made in the nearby vicinity of Eindhoven, in a small community called Bergeijk.

Here, from 1913 until 1980, the milk processing operation Saint Bernardus (later acquired by Campina) produced, among other things, koffiemelk (condensed coffee creamer) . Story goes that one of the sweetened condensed milk cans got stuck in the autoclave, and after being heated for a prolonged amount of time the contents of the can turned into a sweet, caramelized spread. The factory was quick to reproduce the error and marketed the brown goop under the name Caramelco, which quickly turned into a popular sandwich topping.

And that's really not all that surprising either. Given the fact that we have a huge sweet tooth and love to decorate our open-faced sandwiches with all kinds of sweets possible (stomped mice, anyone?), the product gained a huge following until the factory was acquired by Campina and production of Caramelco ceased. Which leads me to think that the perceived market spread wasn't so huge after all, but what do I know? They still sell  dubbelzoute drop and let's face it, not that many (besides me) can be enamored by the taste of doubly-salted-ammonia-flavored black rubber, right? Right.

Nowadays, Caramelco still remains in the flavor-memory of many that grew up with this broodbeleg. With the globalization of our cuisines and culinary discoveries, it appears that Caramelco most certainly exists in other cultures, where it is known as manjar or dulce de leche. There is therefore no more need to yearn for the past! Even better, Caramelco is very easy to make. It can be used as a sweet spread on bread, but also consider using it as a barrier between your apple pie filling and your dough, or as a filler for cookies. And when in doubt, just eat a spoonful....it's good :-)

Caramelco
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
Water

Add the can of condensed milk to a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil and simmer for two hours. Be sure to keep the can under water at all times. After two hours, turn off the stove and let the can cool. When cool to the touch, open and taste.



9 comments:

  1. This is actually known world wide as dulce de leche. And I am sure as hell it wasn't invented in Eindhoven :))

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulce_de_leche

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  2. Hi Elena, nobody is implying that it was invented in Eindhoven. Dulce de leche, manjar, cajeta, burfi, fudge....most cultures that have access to sweetened condensed milk, or dairy and sugars, will probably have some kind of caramelized sweet. It will be hard to determine who or when it was discovered first, I'm just glad somebody did! :-)

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  3. dulce de leche is Original , accidantly, invented in the year of 1928
    in Canuleas, Buenos aires. You can find it on the internet. So, it is not even an Italian product at all. But i realy don't care, just love caramelco. My name is Ellen, i'm from Holland and grew up with caramelco. it was realy delicious. Thanx for the recipe, i'm sure gonna try this.

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  4. Er is ook Bebogeen (De Ruyter). Het is niet hetzelfde als Caramelco maar lijkt er wel heel erg op.

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  5. We've been doing that for ages in Portugal! We use the cooked milk to make a caramel mousse we call "Camel's Drool". I know, the name is disgusting, but it tastes divine! LOL!

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  6. I never heard of caramelco in Holland whilst I was living there... but the things Dutch people put on bread never ceases to amaze me! We have caramelised condensed milk in Australia, you can make your own or buy it ready made (it's called 'Top and Fill' by Nestle). There was always some danger in making your own as it can explode and either hurt you or make a huge mess. We use it only for caramel tart (or, if you are English, add banana and call it Banoffee tart). Teresa.

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  7. We make that thing in Russia too :-) Here it's called "boiled condensed milk" (варёная сгущёнка - nothing romantic). In my husband's native country (Brazil) it's known as "milky sweet" (doce de leite). I think the list of the countries that like caramelco or whatever you call it is infinite and it's great! Thank you for posting this article.

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  8. I grew up in Eindhoven and Caramelco, we named it Jackie, was one my favorites. Stomped mice - gestampte muisjes was anice (anijs) seeds covered with hard sugar layer, blue or pink, It was put on Dutch rusk, beschuit, when a baby was born, or just for breakfast..

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