Cajeta, better known as “Dulce de Leche” in South America and Spain, is a rich caramel sauce and a staple in every Latin American home. It is the Nutella of Europe and the peanut butter of the United States. We eat it for breakfast with a piece of toast and coffee, we use it as fillings in cookies and cakes, or, it is simply eaten by the spoonful.
It’s incredible how food or smells can bring back certain memories you would otherwise not recall. Like my mom’s arroz con leche or avena. The smell of the simmering sweet milk and cinnamon takes me back to our small home in Mexico. I can see my mom standing over the stove stirring while I attentively watched every step impatiently waiting for my warm bowl. Or Pozole, which instantly takes me to my grandmother’s ranch where she would ritually kill and feather a chicken while I hid in horror and proceeded to pretend my delicious chicken soup was vegetarian. The cajeta, however, reminds me of my grandpa. Every time he came to visit us in Guadalajara he brought my mom and I a jar of homemade cajeta. And as long as we had that jar, our mornings always started just a little bit sweeter.
I know they now sell “dulce de leche” in grocery stores, but it doesn’t come close to the real thing. Although making it is time consuming, it is sooo worth it. So grab a good book, make yourself a cup of coffee, and be prepared to stir (off and on) the entire afternoon.
I you don’t have the time, however, here is a little trick – and no, it does not consist of boiling a can of condensed for 4 hours risking an explosion with cajeta all over you ceiling and walls (yes, I have seen it happen). What you do is place the contents of a can of condensed milk into a baking dish and place it into a nice water bath. Bake in the oven at 425 for about an hour until it is a nice caramel color. You’re welcome.
- 4 c. Goats Milk
- 4 c. Whole Milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 2 small cans media crema (table cream), or 1 c. heavy cream
- 3 c. Sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/3 c. bourbon
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- Place milk, cream and sugar on med heat in BIG saucepan (to prevent it from spilling over). Stir occasionally.
- When it starts to boil, add baking soda and salt, stir.
- Turn the heat down to low and stir every 30 mins or so.
- Cook until you get a deep caramel color. (Mine took about 4 hours on super low. If you cook on med heat it should take about 1.5-2 hours).
- When the color is where you want it, add the bourbon and vanilla.
- Let cook for an extra 15 minutes. Take off heat.
- The cajeta will thicken as it cools. Transfer the Cajeta into a jar let cool completely. Place in refrigerator.