We are constantly confusing these two ingredients, especially when we're at the grocery store trying to remember which one our recipe calls for. Besides the fact that the cans look nearly identical, we can't get over the simple logic that "evaporated" and "condensed" sound like two sides of the same coin to us. See? Highly confusing.
Evaporated Milk - As you could have probably guessed, evaporated milk is made by heating milk until a good percentage of its water content has evaporated, about 60% of it. The result is a dense, creamy, ultra-concentrated milk that can be canned and stored for several months. Evaporated milk can be used as is or it can be reconstituted to make regular drinking milk.
Sweetened Condensed Milk - Sweetened condensed milk was actually around long before evaporated milk. This milk product also has most of the water evaporated out, but then sugar is added before canning. The sugar actually acts as an additional preservative, which was a necessary measure for preserving milk before canning procedures were refined.
Sweetened condensed milk has definitely taken on a life of its own. It can be found in kitchens around the world, from England and France to India and Brazil. It’s used extensively in baking and as a sweetener for many tea and coffee drinks. Sweetened condensed milk can also be further reduced to make a quick(er) version of dulce de leche and candies like Brazilian brigadeiros.
Anything else to add? How do you use these milk products in your cooking?