As years fade into one another, I see my mom in a different light. She's no longer this super human who cures all boo-boos, can wipe my tears and calm my fears in one swift hug and has stunning aim with her chancleta, no matter the distance. She's a woman who's aging, who's body is starting to fail her, but still has exquisite aim with her chancleta. The realization that my time with her won't last forever becomes clearer to me with each passing day. With that sad realization comes the fact that I want to desperately, somehow, hold on to the things that made me cherish my childhood. One of those things is my mom's cooking, but like many Hispanic mom's there's no set recipe. It's a little of this, un poco de esto, bastante de aquello. There's no science to my mother's delicious culinary madness. However, little by little I am getting the recipes or as close as I can get to a set recipe. I'll be posting them here, but to be perfectly honest, I am posting them here more for me than for you.
I was able to get her mojo recipe a while back and after forgetting to put away a new gallon of milk, I got my mom's recipe for Dulce De Leche Cortada. In essence, it's sweetened cheese curds and it's glorious. I confess that when I was little I would sneak out of my bed in the middle of the night and take the milk out of the fridge on purpose. In the morning, the milk would be spoiled and in an effort not to waste the milk my mom would make this dessert. I've never told my mom about this, it's never been discussed and to this day I still don't know if she realizes I was the one behind the spoiled milk almost 2-3 times a month. I assume that she must know and perhaps never confronted me because it would put a damper on our bonding time. Making the dulce de leche was always fun because neither my mom nor I could resist taste-testing while it cooked. We would catch each other digging into the giant pot and giggle, always reminding one another we had to be sure to leave at least a little bit for my dad.
Alright, enough emo semantics, lets get on with the recipe. You'll need:
- 1 gallon of whole milk that has been left out overnight
- The zest of one lemon
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 large cinnamon stick (or 2 medium sized sticks)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups of sugar
Get a large pot and pour into it the sour milk, the zest, lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Set on medium heat until it begins to simmer. You should start to see the milk begin to separate from the whey in just a few minutes of cooking, this means things are going well!
Pour in the salt, vanilla extract and sugar then gently stir to make sure it is all incorporated. Leave on medium heat for 40 minutes and then bring down to low heat. Stir occasionally and gently in order to not destroy the curds. This will continue to cook for about 1 ½ - 2 hours, until the curds become golden in color and about half the whey has evaporated leaving a sweet syrup. Some people like the dulce de leche to be a rich amber color, if that's the case let it cook for a bit longer til you reach the desired color.
This can burn rather easily, so the pot requires consistent checking to ensure the bottom doesn't burn. Once done, place the entire contents of the pot in a seal tight container and refrigerate. It will be good in the refrigerator for about a week.