SWEETENED condensed milk is everywhere. There’s probably a can or two lurking in your cabinets. It is the key to Key lime pie; it brings the sweet to Vietnamese coffee; it went to Rio for Carnaval last month in the shape of brigadeiros, bite-size balls of milk fudge that are a Brazilian national treat.
“It is hard to explain the relationship people have with it in Latin America,” said Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, a cooking teacher in Connecticut who grew up in Rio de Janeiro. “Leite moça came when life was hard and there were not many treats,” she said, using the generic Brazilian term that means “milk of the lady,” a reference to the Swiss milkmaid on cans of Nestlé condensed milk, introduced to Brazil in 1921.