The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Do You Remember - Canned Milk

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1988

Issue: May, 1988

Do you remember canned milk? It was probably a product of the World War II era, or before, when fresh milk was hard to come by and rations were being sent overseas. Canned milk didn't need to be refrigerated until after it was opened.

There never seemed to be a time in my childhood that there wasn't a small can of Carnation milk sitting on the refrigerator shelf. Those cans didn't have a raised lip on them that would accommodate a can opener, so they always had two holes punched on opposite sides of the top. It was always a terror to me to watch those holes being punched with a kitchen knife. I remember watching the knife poised atop the can, my father or mother's hand holding the handle and the hitting the top of the knife with their other hand to force the knife point through the metal lid. I held my breath. The knife never slipped, but I knew there was a danger of it.

It seems like no matter how well you wiped the drips off after each use, milk would still dry around the holes and have to be scraped off. Around my house canned milk was even used as a glue when a saucer or ceramic what-not got broken.

I can think back and remember Daddy putting it in his coffee. (I think that's where the majority of it went.) And I can remember pouring it over a fresh fruit cobbler, hot out of the oven. I'm not sure, but I think it was also the ingredient that made Mother's gravy so good. For some reason it was always left in the can and never given the honor of being poured into a cream pitcher.

I can still remember the red and white paper label with the words, "Carnation - The milk from contented cows."