Frozen Foods the Automatic Way
Written by Debbie Sloan
Edited by Mandi Pitt-Reed
The temperatures here in the Memphis area are hovering in the mid-to-upper 90s with the heat index well into the 100s. The heat here is humid and heavy and calls for something cool and refreshing to eat and drink. Generally, iced tea hits the spot as well as lemonade and any other citrus icy concoction. Mom used to make homemade vanilla ice cream that was fluffy, rich, creamy, and unlike any store-bought ice cream. It was similar to gelato, but better—if one can imagine anything better than gelato. Sometimes Daddy worked well into the night and would call Mom on the two-way radio to say he was bringing ice home from the ice machine at work so she could whip up a batch of ice cream. Mom always complied with the request no matter how late Daddy called her. Often he called at 10 pm or even later. I have been unable to replicate Mom’s recipe but am confident I will figure it out sometime in the future. The other day, my husband; David and I were going through some things at his late dad’s office when I came across a tiny little cookbook titled Frozen Foods the Automatic Way. The copyright is 1931, just as modern refrigerators were becoming commonplace. It touts that one can prepare delicate frozen desserts without the use of an ice cream freezer. Most of the recipe titles include the word mousse. Some examples are Orange Mousse No. 1, Orange Mousse No. 2, and Pineapple Mousse. Many others have similar titles using different fruits, like Strawberry Mousse and even one called Prune Mousse. On a side note, I think prunes get a bad rap in the food industry. Prunes are simply dried plums that are sweet and delicious. The prune industry tried to re-brand prunes as dried plums a few years back. I am not sure how well that worked out since I still see them labeled as prunes in the local grocery.
Back to the mousses—these frozen mousses seem like the perfect treat for our current heat-wave here in the mid-south. All of the recipes in the newly discovered recipe book call for evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is simply whole milk with about 60% of the water evaporated. This process makes the milk shelf-stable. It also concentrates the minerals, vitamins, and proteins as well as the cream content. According to Parfitt (1956), Nicholas Appert was the first to perfect the process of evaporating whole milk, sealing it in a container, then cooking it again to preserve it. Appert was answering a call by the French government to come up with preserved, transportable food for their military. The French government offered 12,000 francs in prize money to the successful person. It took Appert fifteen years to perfect his method and take the prize. Evaporated milk is known as unsweetened condensed milk in some countries because others added sugar to the process developing sweetened condensed milk. In 1884, a Swiss gentleman named John Meyenberg patented a slightly different process in the United States than Appert’s. Meyenberg used steam rather than boiling to sterilize the canned boiled milk. Commercial production of evaporated milk began in the late 1880s. Today cans of evaporated milk can be found in almost every household.
The book includes many side notes that speak volumes about the time the book was written. On one page, there is information for those not fortunate enough to own an automatic refrigerator, something most of us take for granted nowadays. The alternate freezing method calls for sealing the mousse mixture in a mold and burying it in a 1:3 ice-salt mixture. It goes on to recommend letting the mold stand in the ice-salt mixture for three to four hours. When it is completely frozen, dip the mold quickly into warm water and shake it out onto a chilled plate to be sliced before serving.
The book also notes that desserts made with only cream cause our bodies to produce too much heat for summer, but that desserts made from evaporated milk are better for us because they contain all of the substances in whole milk that we need year round. The book also notes that all frozen desserts need texture-improving substances so that the water doesn’t freeze in sheets. Evaporated milk is just the ticket to allow the water to freeze in tiny droplets similar to snowflakes. Similar to an ice cream freezer concoction, the mousses need time to freeze so one needs to have a bit of forethought before making these desserts for any formal get-together. The recipe I am going to make is the first one in the book and is Orange Mousse No. 1. Here is the recipe:
Orange Mousse No. 1
3/4 cup Evaporated Milk, prepared for whipping (see below)
½ cup sugar
1 cup orange juice, reamed not strained (I used prepared orange juice)
1 Tbsp. Lemon juice (I did freshly squeeze the lemon juice)
Recipe as written in the book:
Chill milk according to directions on pages ten and twelve. Add sugar to orange juice. Stir thoroughly, place in refrigerator to finish dissolving sugar. Whip milk, add lemon juice and continue whipping until mixture is very stiff. Then add orange mixture slowly to whipped milk, cutting and folding lightly but thoroughly as mixture is added. Turn into cold freezing pan. Freeze to a mush. Stir well, then return to refrigerator (My note: I think they mean “freezer” here) to finish freezing. Time required for freezing 2 to 5 hours.
How to prepare the evaporated milk for whipping:
The milk must be chilled below 50 deg. F and should not be diluted. If the milk is scalded before chilled, it whips more easily and is stiffer.
The directions on pages ten and twelve to scald the milk:
There are two ways to scald evaporated milk. Put an unopened can in a pot and cover completely with cold water, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes (boiling it longer will not increase stiffness when whipped). It is okay to scald several cans at a time. The second way to scald evaporated milk is to pour the milk into a double boiler and scald it over hot water. This prevents it from scorching. It is okay to leave any film that forms with this method in the milk as it will reincorporate during whipping.
I used the first way, but that took quite a bit of time for the water to come up to temperature. Also, if you use this method, leave the can of milk in the hot water to cool off before removing it from the pan. There is nothing scarier than a can of boiling milk. It took about two hours to cool enough to remove it from the water. Next, leave it on the counter to cool completely. Once cooled completely, put into the refrigerator to cool down to below 50 deg F. I was not prepared for this process to take so long. Make sure you think several days ahead if you want to make this recipe for a get-together. I think the second method might be the way to go.
Make sure all bowls and utensils are cold (I left mine in the fridge while I scalded and cooled the evaporated milk). Interestingly, evaporated milk will not turn to butter no matter how long you whip it and can be re-whipped if needed. Although evaporated milk has twice the cream of whole milk, it doesn’t have enough butter fat to separate out of the solution to become butter.
Here’s what I did:
The finished product was different than I imagined. Since it looked so much like ice cream, I thought it would have a creamy texture. It wasn’t creamy, but had a light -almost airy- quality that wasn’t filling and left a nice refreshing citrus taste on my tongue. It is a perfect dessert or late night treat for hot summer nights. I will say that the taste of evaporated milk can be an acquired one. As a kid, I poured it over my bowl of canned peaches. It mixed with the sweet peach juices and was delicious. It has been so many years since I actually tasted evaporated milk that I had forgotten that it has a unique taste - one that I like, but that many may find too different from cream to appreciate its uniqueness. My husband, David, falls into the latter category, as many others likely do. The first time serving this orange mousse to friends and family, I would have an alternate dessert prepared. It may not be necessary to pull out the alternate dessert, but this one has a unique and, I think, wonderful taste.
For more information:
Evaporated Milk Association Chicago (1931), Frozen Foods the Automatic Way. Chicago, IL. R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co.
Parfitt, E. H. (1956). The development of the evaporated milk industry in the United States. Journal of Dairy Science, available at: https://archive.lib.msu.edu/DMC/sliker/msuspcsbs_evap_evaporated16/msuspcsbs_evap_evaporated16.pdf