Baked Milk

“Weak persons” can drink baked milk, according to a recipe in an 1877 cookbook under “Food for the Sick.”

Nurses probably gave this beverage to wounded soldiers during Civil War. As a historical novelist, I love to add authentic details like this when a story requires it.

Since this was totally new to me, the brief recipe instructions left me wondering. I did an Internet search. According to Wikipedia, room temperature storage for baked milk is safe up to 40 hours.

The 1877 recipe called for baking 2 quart jars of milk for 8 to 10 hours. I used 2 pint jars. Early cooks tied writing paper over the mouth of the jars.

I experimented. One Mason pint jar opening was covered with copier paper fastened by a rubber band. I closed the other with a Mason jar lid.

To allow room for the milk to boil, I added only 1 ½ cups of milk to each jar. These were placed inside a dish with about 2 inches of cold water.

I placed this inside the oven and then turned it on, setting the temperature to 350 degrees.

The liquid slowly reduced. A layer of brown grew around the rim. After 4 hours, a burning smell alerted me. They were removed from the oven.

Milk in the lidded jar had burned and tasted burned. I removed a layer of brown crust in the papered jar—missing from the lidded jar—and tasted the now beige liquid. Not bad, but it wasn’t “thick as cream” as the recipe suggested.

I tried again. I used the same amount of milk—12 ounces—and used another paper covering. This time I tied it on with string. (Not surprisingly, the rubber band melted on the first one. It was quicker to put on, but not the best idea.)

I cooked it for 8 hours in a 350-degree oven. It was baked inside a dish half-filled with water. As the water level receded, it was slowly refilled with water almost boiling hot.

Turn off oven after 8 hours. Allow the jar to cool.

The milk reduced to about half in that time, with the same brown rings and layer as previously. The tan liquid wasn’t as thick as expected, but tasted surprisingly good. I’m not a fan of white milk, but I liked it prepared this way.

It’s been sitting on my kitchen counter for 40 hours and still looks good. I refrigerated the beverage and liked it even better.

Milk was baked for weak persons. Convalescing patients. I’m not a health professional, but that suggests that baked milk is easier to digest.

I’d love to hear from you if you try this dish. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Baked Milk,” Wikipedia, 2017/05/09

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.




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