WHAT IS EVAPORATED MILK?
Evaporated milk, also known as dehydrated milk, is a shelf-stable canned milk product. Approximately 60% of the water is removed from fresh milk.
Prior to the 19th century and refrigeration, milk was highly perishable. In the summer heat, it spoiled in a matter of hours. In addition, there were sanitation problems: Milk straight from the cow was contaminated harmful with bacteria.
Gail Borden conceived of a shelf stable canned milk product in 1852. His first condensed milk product, launched in 1854, lasted three days without souring. Borden was granted a patent for sweetened condensed milk in 1854. Commercial production began in 1857.
In Borden’s early product, sugar was added to inhibit bacterial growth. Competitors perfected the technique of sterilizing the product to vastly improve shelf life. Today, evaporated milk has no added sugar; a separate product, sweetened condensed milk, is evaporated milk that contains sugar. [Source]
While not a hit right out of the gate, evaporated milk soon became popular as a safe and reliable substitute for fresh milk. It could be shipped easily to locations lacking the safe dairy production and/or refrigerated storage.
The Florida Keys were an example of a hot and remote area that had no dairying. Evaporated milk made it possible for residents to finally enjoy milk in coffee and in cooking. Key Lime Pie, initially made with evaporated milk and now with sweetened condensed milk, is a legacy of Mr. Borden’s vision.
The shelf life of canned evaporated milk will vary from months to years, depending on the sugar content and its proportion of fat. Carnation Brand makes evaporated milk from whole milk, nonfat milk and 2% milk.