I'm posting something a bit unusual for me, as I'm not a huge fan of things particularly sweet. However, after trying this recipe, I'm loving this confiture de lait recipe, also known as Milk Jam or Dulce de Leche. Let me also share an easy trick I learned how to store vanilla beans (or pods) to keep them sticky and plump.
I have a confession to make. I'm glad it hasn't really snowed in Paris this winter but I caught myself displaying a surprise tinge of jealousy the other day, admiring our Provençal friends' snowy winter wonderland photos. They'd taken them just before they left Avignon on the TGV (speed train) to visit us snow-deprived souls "dans le nord".
The paradox is that when it's cold in the south, it can be lovely in Paris, and vice-versa. In winter, Provence can have the added wind-chill factor with the southern Mistral winds but in summer, they are blessed with the most sun-kissed, flavoursome fruit and vegetables.
We have our favourite farmers' markets all around Paris but there's something much more laid back about the south. My favourite Provençal market is in Apt. My parents-in-law live nearby in the hilltop village of Saignon, so this is our local market pilgrimage during summer visits. Apt is also where we stock up on candied fruit. Renowned as the world capital for fruits confits, buying direct from the factory by kilo is far cheaper and better quality than we can find at our Parisian supermarkets.
Apt's market is huge. Here's just a fraction of it in the square of the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), as it snakes out into the main cobbled street, the shady side streets, and a few more animated squares. In the summer, it's crammed with more Dutch, Belgian and British tourists than locals, and musicians from around the globe come to busk in the atmosphere.
Stocking up on our favourite lavender honey, this time around we also met Monsieur Jean-Pierre Setti, selling the most plump, natural sticky Bourbon vanilla pods/beans from Madagascar.
Can you smell their perfume? Counting up each exotic stick of fragrant magic, he gave some simple advice how to preserve vanilla pods/beans: put them in a long, sealable jar with just ½ cm of rum, close the lid, et voilà!
The girls were fascinated at the next stand by these vibrant Crête de Coq flowers, as they resemble a rooster's head.
How Best to Store Vanilla Beans/Pods
So after Monsieur Setti's top vanilla tips, I set about his trick of storing them in rum. Back home, I found a few long jars that used to hold shop-bought fruit coulis and sterilised them.
For details on how to sterilise jars, see my recipe for fig jam.
In each long jar, pour in a tablespoon of rum and place the vanilla beans in it. That's all it takes! Just smell that jar after a week. I'd developed a new daily ritual of opening the jar to sniff the aroma jumping out of it. Better to sniff vanilla, right?
I took a look at Mr Setti's recipe flyer that he'd thrown in with our goodies. One of the recipes was for confiture de lait (literally, "milk jam" - or more widely known as dulce de leche). Like salted caramel sauce, it's more of a perfect winter treat.
Easy Confiture de Lait Recipe
There are many express recipes on the internet for Confiture de Lait using a can of sweetened condensed milk and cooking it with some water in a pressure cooker. It's quicker way to make it.
However, this recipe is easy but takes a lot longer: over 2-3 hours. It's basically slowly and gently cooking milk, sugar and a sticky vanilla bean/pod on a low heat and stirring it every now and again to ensure the mixture is smooth.
Call me old-fashioned but I love this as a winter recipe. There's something so satisfying about stirring it now and again while it's gently heating. What's more, the house smells so fabulously sweet on a dull and nippy Sunday afternoon. It's a simple, soothing way to cheer up the senses!
How Long Can you Keep Confiture de Lait?
As it's a caramel, Confiture de Lait (milk jam) will last a couple of months kept in the fridge, although I found it best kept within a month.
Reheat it for a few seconds in the microwave and dribble it on crêpes, waffles and about anything that you fancy.
What's Good with Confiture de Lait?
I made just a few macarons with Confiture de lait as a filling. I personally find them far too sweet in a macaron, however, and much prefer "plain" vanilla macarons (recipe in Mad About Macarons) but I'll leave that for you to try.
This is best slightly warmed and spread on thin French crêpes. My kids spread so much of this on crêpes that the stock didn't last long! Otherwise also good served as a little on Scotch pancakes, banana bread and fluffy brioche.
Confiture de Lait (Milk Jam) with Vanilla
- 1 litre (1¾ pints) whole milk (full-fat)
- 450 g (1 lb) sugar
- 1 vanilla pod/bean
- Put the milk and the sugar in a thick-based large pan. Cut the vanilla pod or bean right down the middle from top to bottom and add it to the milk.
- Heat until boiling then reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer away for 2h30 to 3 hours. Every so often, stir well with a long wooden spoon. It’s normal that nothing much happens in the first couple of hours, then you’ll see that it does thicken quite quickly towards the end.
- Take out the vanilla pod and as soon as the jam becomes caramel-like and coats the back of a spoon nicely, take off the heat and pour into a couple of clean jam jars.
I attempted to make this, but it was gritty and crystalized by the time it cooled. I suspect that I cooked it maybe too hot and fast? I also cooked it in a lecruset enamel pot... would really appreciate some feedback and advice of tools?
Thanks so much for your feedback - I'd forgotten about this old recipe so have added some links in the text. For the recipe, there's nothing wrong with the enamel pot (as long as it hasn't lost its non-stick properties) or a saucepan will do. The important advice I can give, like I say, is to ensure it is cooked on low and to stir it now and again so that the mixture is smooth. I suspect you left it to cook and on a medium heat?
Hope this helps.
I'm going to go sniff my vanilla beans even if they are not steeping in rum... Yum.
Ah, I understand your joy of standing at the stove and stirring the confiture de lait, really cooking anything the old fashioned way. Your confiture is gorgeous and absolutely tempting (I've never made it). And I too must try adding rum to the vanilla pods!
Thanks, Jamie. Sounds right up your street now, Mme Hotel owner and queen of jam-making. Love the sound of all your pots of sweet gold!
Oops---I see this is an old post! Glad to see your new blog look!!!
Ooops x 2!! I didn't realise this had gone live. It shouldn't be since it's not ready yet...
I'd definitely love to whip up this confiture de lait the old fashioned way! And those stacks of vanilla beans must smell heavenly!!!
Great tip for the vanilla pods - must try that, especially as I have some of these jars kicking around since love using Balfour fruit sauces. Enjoyed the visit to the market in Apt Jill.
Lovely post! I have fond memories of the market in Apt! Next time I'll have to search out the vanilla man 🙂 Do you know Elizabeth Bard? She and her husband have an artsinal ice cream shop in Cereste, not far from Apt. Could be a refreshing stop for you guys on your next visit! xo
Thanks so much, Ann. I am so glad you have pointed me to Elizabeth - I must look her out and her ice cream boutique in the area in summer is always welcome!
We got 6+ inches of snow overnight! You are welcome to it all 🙂 Wow, I'd love to inhale the aroma from those plump vanilla beans. And to take a spoon to your caramel sauce! No wonder it doesn't last---it looks marvelous!
Wow - that's a lot of snow, Liz. Stay warm in the kitchen!
Your milk jam looks very interesting and very inviting to taste. I also love the market in Apt. Thanks for the tip of storing vanilla pods in tall jars. I'm really looking forward to trying recipes from Book No 2 soon - well done you.
I love this tip, June - ever since I've started doing this even (dare I say it) the most mundane vanilla pods from the supermarket taste a little better!
Doesn't that look gorgeous!
I'm crazy for vanilla beans but should add some rum to mine!
Here's some winter for you Jill.
Thanks for the snow - now feeling snowed under! 🙂