Cajeta is the well-known Mexican goat’s milk caramel, excellent as a treat on its own, paired as a sauce with ice cream or baked goods, or as a flavouring for desserts and beverages. Milk, as well as sugar, the basic ingredients of cajeta, were introduced in Mexico during colonial times, when the Spaniards brought livestock from Europe, and sugar cane from South Asia. In particular, goats became well adjusted to the mountainous regions of the Mexican landscape, including Celaya, the hometown of cajeta in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. The basic technique to make caramel involves a controlled browning of sugar with a dairy product, to produce a sauce; there are many kinds of caramel, such as simple caramel (granulated sugar and a bit of butter), toffee (using brown sugar), and dulce de leche (cow’s milk and sugar).
The basic ingredients and techniques to prepare homemade dulce de leche and cajeta are very similar, and many consider the sauces interchangeably in recipes, but when compared to each other, cajeta jumps to the front as the choice for richer colour, thicker consistency and, definitely, a more complex flavour. This comes from the composition of goat’s milk, which is naturally homogenized, making it more stable when compared to cow’s milk; in this comparison, goat’s milk also has less lactose (also for more stability and, as a bonus, easier to digest), and a higher content of amino acids (precursors of deep flavour), in particular cysteine, which is “associated to high thermal stability and our perception of umami” according to Serious Eats. Finally, baking soda is used to initially increase pH levels, promoting enzymatic browning of lactose and lysine, much in an opposite way as when lime juice, an acidic substance, is sprinkled on avocado flesh to reduce pH and retard browning, also enzymatic.
I have mentioned cajeta in some of my previous posts, and have always used commercial bottled products, but during the COVID19 pandemic, finding specialty products, or even heading to the store, might be a challenge; the good news is that, while we endure social distancing and lockdowns, making cajeta at home is not hard at all.
Goat’s Milk Caramel – Cajeta
4 cups goat’s milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a pan over medium/high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring to avoid burning at the bottom (photo below, left); lower heat to medium, and continue cooking and reducing the mix, stirring occasionally with a wooden spatula (notice the slight change in colour and volume, photo below, right):
After about half an hour, the mix should look noticeably darker, and thicker (photo below, left). Do not touch or try to taste the mix, it will be extremely hot. Stir more frequently from this point on, until the bottom of the pan remains visible for a few seconds after scraping with the spatula (photo below, right):
Cooking times will be typically between 45 and 60 minutes. Transfer cajeta to clean heatproof jars with lids:
This recipe yields one cup and a little bit more (to use right away over pancakes, or in a cup of hot coffee!)
In my next post: An Easter story and sweet recipe with cajeta.
I am bringing my recipe to Over the Moon #220, graciously hosted by Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, and Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats. Special thanks to Bev for featuring my Homemade Buns: Bolillos and Teleras at this party.
I am bringing my recipe to Thursday Favourite Things #435 with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode. Special thanks to Bev for featuring my Cod Stew at her party.