Shivratri is soon approaching and I know this recipe couldn't come at a better time for many of you. Peera/pera is a variation of an Indian milk sweet known as Peda. I say variation, because the version I've seen made in Guyanese homes is different than a traditional Peda recipe. The version I grew up eating consists of evaporated milk and sugar that has been reduced down to a taffy like texture then rolled into balls. It is slightly hard and chewy and once you get it into your mouth and start swirling it around, the milky-sugary flavor and texture just falls apart and takes you over, well it takes me over at least. These little delicacies were typically served in a paper bag alongside other sweets like parsad and mithai after the commencement of a religious ceremony.
The one benefit to all this is using evaporated milk. Evaporated milk has already been concentrated so that means less boiling as compared to starting the process with whole milk. I know back in my grandmother's time, they made peera from cows milk and had to boil it and boil it for hours to reduce. If making peera with concentrated milk is exhausting, can you imagine whole milk? Well neither can I, but my good friend and journalist, Cynthia Nelson can tell you all about it in her detailed post on peera and her adventure with making it from scratch using whole milk, if you're interested (and you should be) take a read here.
You'll need ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg and cinnamon, 1 ¼ cup white granulated sugar, and one 12oz tin of evaporated milk.
Pour milk, sugar, and spices into a cast iron or stainless steel pot. Give it a stir and heat on medium-low heat for about an hour and fifteen minutes. In the meantime grab a plate or tray to place peera in after it's done, a glass of ice water, and a small spoon, set aside for later.
Let mixture boil for an hour on medium-low heat. Stir every now and then, always making sure to scrape spices down from edges of pot. When the color starts to become golden and the texture becomes like pancake syrup, turn heat to low.
Around an hour and a half mixture should be thick like molasses, keep turning mixture to keep from scorching. Scrape sides down frequently so sugar does not build up. When mixture begins to look thick like cake batter, do not leave the stove, keep turning. The edges of the pot will begin to look dry and white. Remove mixture from heat, tilt the pot and beat mixture until the texture becomes like frosting or taffy.
Rub some ice cold water between both palms, roll about a teaspoon of peera mixture to form a ball, place in plate or tray, and press down slightly with your finger to make an indent. The cold water will help to keep your palms from scorching, keep the peera mixture from sticking to your skin, and will also help to make the peera smooth. Let peera dry for an hour or so, then enjoy!
- 1 12oz tin evaporated milk
- 1 tin white sugar (using the same evaporated milk tin as a measuring unit- this is actually 1 ¾ cup sugar)`
- See recipe below
- 1 12oz can evaporated milk
- 1 ¼ cup white granulated sugar
- ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- Set aside a glass of ice water, a small spoon, and a plate or tray to place peera in.
- Pour milk, sugar, and spices into a cast iron pot. Heat on medium-low for about one hour and fifteen minutes uncovered. Let mixture boil, turning occasionally and scraping the sides down each time.
- Mixture should start to look slightly thick, like pancake syrup and have a caramel color. Turn heat to low and turn every 2-3 minutes. Mixture is at most risk for scorching at this point so keep heat on low.
- Around an hour and a half mixture should be thick like molasses, keep turning mixture to keep from scorching. Scrape sides down frequently so sugar does not build up.
- When mixture begins to look thick like cake batter, do not walk away from the stove, keep turning. The edges of the pot will begin to look dry and white. Remove mixture from heat, tilt the pot and beat mixture until the texture becomes like frosting or taffy. It is now ready to be rolled into balls.
- Rub cold water between both palms, use spoon to remove about a teaspoon of peera in between your palms to form a ball, place in plate or tray, and press down slightly with your finger to make an indent.
- Allow peera to harden then enjoy.
I recommend not using a non-stick or enamel coated pot. You will be turning the peera mixture frequently and wouldn't want to risk scratching the bottom of one of these types of vessels or getting the scratched pieces into the peera mixture. A cast iron or stainless steel pot works best for this recipe.
Use a metal or wooden spoon, a plastic spoon may break while beating the mixture.
After an hour of boiling, be absolutely sure to keep heat on low, otherwise the mixture will scorch on the bottom and as you turn it, you'll see the scorched pieces turn up in the milk.
Roll peera while mixture is still hot, it will help to keep the peera smooth and free of cracks. The darker peera in my photos had a few cracks since I had to stop to take photos, so as you can see, even a minute cannot be spared. When the sugar begins to dry, it makes it harder to roll the peera, so work quickly. Don't worry about burning your hands, the cold water will not only help with keeping the peera smooth, it will keep your palms from being scorched.
If you are not sure when to take mixture off the stove, you can drop a little bit of the mixture into a glass of warm water, if it keeps its shape and does not dissolve, it is ready to be removed from the stove and beaten.