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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Icon: Sweet Memories

MT
Soviet sweetened condensed milk ruled when the word "caloric" was a word of praise. Cooking a can of condensed milk in water for two hours yielded a thick brown cream. In times when women boiled laundry on the stove, a can or two of sgushchyonka would simply be tossed into the tall bucket, with their signature blue-and-white labels torn off. For children, dipping into a can of cooked condensed milk was as wickedly indulgent as pretending to be sick on a school day.

Like many iconic Soviet products, sgushchyonka made its appearance in rougher times. Along with U.S. canned meat, it was rationed out to World War II soldiers. Some people cooked it, some ate it as is, and some brought it along for the kids during visits to civilian areas. It was also used in the hospitals of Leningrad after the blockade. Sgushchyonka provided the nutrients of milk and 380 calories per 100 grams in a can that could be stored for years. Its creamy sweetness had a hint of excess despite the Spartan design of the package.

After the war, it was decided to distribute the popular product more widely. During peaceful times, sgushchyonka yielded an impressive range of recipes, from soft dulce-de-leche type chews to cakes and even the Russian homespun version of Bailey's -- sweet condensed milk mixed with vodka and instant coffee.

Today it's produced by dozens of different dairy companies, many of whom choose to use the original simple graphic on their labels. When New York's Museum of Modern Art released its album in Russian last year, it was enclosed in an oversized sgushchyonka can in a spoof on Andy Warhol.