Cajeta is the first thing I ever made with my goat milk. To be fair, the list of things I’ve made so far with it is short — ice cream, butter, cajeta, and as of yesterday, yogurt — but cajeta is the. bomb. And it’s a great recipe to start with because it’s not as intimidating as say, cheese…which I have still not been brave enough to try (but will soon…I promise).
I love caramel. If you ask me to choose between chocolate or vanilla, I will answer “caramel.” It’s the perfect blend of salty and sweet, rich, creamy, and dreamy. Caramel is good. Homemade caramel sauce made from fresh goat milk and infused with cinnamon sticks? Heaven in a jar.
Cajeta is a traditional Mexican food and is sometimes referred to as dulce de leche. However, traditional cajeta is always made with goat milk, while dulce de leche can be made with other milks or a mix of cow and goat milk.
Cajeta makes a wonderful ice cream topping, or it can be used to glaze cakes or dip fruit. It’s fantastic in a caramel apple pie or apple crumble. I’ve also wondered how awesome of a coffee creamer it would make if left thinner . . . but I don’t drink much coffee!
Now, let’s get to the important part.
Here’s the Recipe:
(makes about 1 pint)
1 quart fresh goat milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Dash of salt
1-2 cinnamon sticks (optional, but highly recommended)
Stir together your milk and sugar, then add vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon sticks. Heat on medium heat stirring constantly. Milk is very heat-sensitive and will scorch quickly if left unattended. As soon as your milk reaches a boil, remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will start to foam. Then return it to the burner and bring back to a simmer.
At this point, a lot of waiting is involved. You need to continue stirring it every few minutes, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides (as best you can — some will inevitably make a sticky mess on the sides of the pan). This stage is basically just babysitting it to be sure it doesn’t burn, stop simmering, or get to too high of a boil. Adjust the heat as necessary. It can take anywhere from 1-2 hours to reach the next stage.
Because it takes so long to cook down, I like to start my cajeta just before beginning another project that will keep me busy in the kitchen. This last time, I got my cajeta going and then started a couple of batches of yogurt. You could also use this time to bake a cake, cook a meal, etc. Just be sure it’s something that you can leave for a moment every 10 minutes or so just to stir the cajeta.
Eventually you will notice the mixture start to darken. This is your cue to take out the cinnamon sticks before things get too sticky. It’s also time to start watching it more closely. It will start to foam again as it nears readiness, which is another sign you’re getting close. It can cook down fairly quickly at this point.
The cajeta is ready to be poured into the jar when it’s a nice caramel color and at least thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. Thickness is really a personal preference, but you probably don’t want it thinner than that or it will essentially be sweetened condensed milk, not caramel. The cajeta will be much thinner while hot than it will be after it cools in the fridge, so check the consistency by dribbling a bit on a chilled plate and letting it cool.
Once it reaches the consistency you want, use a funnel to pour it into a jar and stick it in the fridge to cool.
And don’t forget to lick the spoon!