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 :-)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
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.