Drink your milk! That's a command that most children hear often as they're growing up. Why? Milk contains calcium and other nutrients your body needs to grow healthy and build strong bones.

Do you drink milk each day for lunch? Many school cafeterias serve several types of milk, including chocolate milk and maybe even strawberry milk. Many kids also have milk for breakfast if they eat cereal.

Today's Wonder of the Day is about a special type of milk called evaporated milk. Have you ever had evaporated milk? Chances are you probably have. Even though few people drink evaporated milk, it's used often in many different types of recipes.

The future scientists among you may be WONDERing how there can even be such a thing as evaporated milk. After all, evaporation is the process of a liquid turning into a gas. Is evaporated milk just a gas?

Not at all! Evaporated milk — sometimes called dehydrated milk — is just regular fresh milk that has about 60% of the water removed from it. After the water is removed, the liquid that remains is cooled, sterilized at high heat (around 240° F), and then canned. Vitamin D is also usually added to boost the nutritional value of evaporated milk.

The heating process gives evaporated milk a darker color and a slightly sweeter, caramel-like taste. Evaporated milk also has a higher concentration of nutrients and energy. This means that one cup of evaporated milk will have more nutrients and provide more energy than one cup of fresh milk.

Evaporated milk is sold in cans and does not need to be refrigerated because of the sterilization and canning process. This made evaporated milk very popular long ago before refrigeration became widely available.

Evaporated milk was also popular because it could be shipped long distances to areas that could not safely produce or store milk. Evaporated milk has a shelf life of over a year, if it does not contain added fat and sugar. Evaporated milk usually comes in whole, low-fat, and fat-free varieties.

Today, evaporated milk is used most often as an ingredient in various recipes. It is particularly useful for baking desserts, since it adds rich flavor. Some people also use evaporated milk as a substitute for cream in coffee drinks.

If you look for evaporated milk in your local grocery store, you'll usually find a similar product nearby: sweetened condensed milk. Are these two forms of milk the same? Can they be used interchangeably in recipes?

Evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk are similar, yet different. Sweetened condensed milk starts out as regular whole milk. It is mixed with about 40-45% sugar and then heated until about 60% of the water evaporates. The end result is an extra-sweet liquid that's a popular ingredient in dessert recipes.

Cooks know that you can't use evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk interchangeably in recipes. Because of the difference in sugar content between the two, mixing them up in a recipe will result in a dish that's either too bland or way too sweet.

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is a piece of cake that you’ll really get a kick out of!