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Baking in Israel? Beware of FAKE condensed milk

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If you didn’t know any better – like I didn’t when we first came here – you’d probably assume, with good reason, that both of these tins contained condensed milk:

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But that’s where you’d be wrong.  Sure, at least at first glance, the Hebrew text is exactly the same: חלב מרוכז וממותק / chalav merukaz umemutak / concentrated sweetened milk.  But the English is different, and therein lies the key difference between the two – the one on the right is FAKE.

Here are the ingredients of the real thing (on the left):

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Milk (55%), sugar (45%).  That’s it.  Pure and simple.

Now, here are the ingredients of the one on the right:

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Ingredients: whey, buttermilk, milk powder, sugar, 8% vegetable fat, stabilizers, emulsifiers, flavour.  Yuck.  Fat?  Flavouring?  All I want is milk!

Back when I didn’t realize there was a difference between the two of these, I tried to make my classic post-Yom Kippur lime pie using the WRONG condensed milk.  It totally, totally failed.  It was runny and horrible; simply refused to set.

Here’s the one I made this year, using the real thing:

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All the difference in the world! 

Fortunately, once you have the REAL condensed milk, this amazing three-ingredient pie (recipe link) goes together in seconds.  You can use a pre-made crust or melt some butter and cookie crumbs to create your own (they're hard to find here in Israel, and homemade is yummier anyway!).  All you need is limes, eggs, and real condensed-milk (if limes are out of season, I use frozen lime juice, but amazingly, we have had an incredible bounty of limes this year – for the very first time since we moved here; it’s nice to make this with whole limes because then you can also add the zest).

Having experienced the heartbreak of planning a recipe using hard-to-find ingredients (like lime juice!) and having everything fall apart because of this one “small” difference, I really wanted to share this in the hope that I can help avert a culinary disaster for someone else.

Are there other ingredients you’ve tried since moving to Israel that are simply not the real thing???  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Shanah tovah!!!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

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