Filed under: Food I Make, Food Made by Other Food Folks, Random Foodie Thoughts | Tags: boiled custard, Christmas, drinks, food, grandma's food, progressive dinners, recipes, southern food
This Christmas, I wanted to make a traditional boiled custard for our family’s progressive dinner. Our theme for the meal was Soul Food, and I had read about boiled custard in several articles and cookbooks about Soul Food. It was destiny. Of course, I -like Clark Griswald-set the bar impossibly high for myself around the holidays. I wanted to make it just like my husband’s grandmother makes it-but not the chicken and dumplins grandmother. This is the other one, who may or may not make good dumplins.
All I know is that once a year, she makes the best boiled custard.
I knew from hearing other cooks talk that to make a good boiled custard took time and patience. I also read that boiled custard, or drinking cream, is served only around Christmas in the South, but it is served year round around the world.
Shame we only drink it at Christmas. It is delicious, but now I understand why we only drink it once a year-it is dang hard to make. I ended up making two difficult batches of it.
The first try at boiled custard was Paula Deen’s recipe. It was on her website, but it wasn’t Paula’s recipe. Nevermind, I thought. A recipe is a recipe, right?
Of course not. The non-Paula recipe turned into a pot of hot milk with a little egg in it when I followed the directions. Something about Paula’s recipes are always like that for me. Anyway, I decided that the mixture wasn’t getting hot enough, so I transplanted it into a pot for higher, more direct heat.
I ended up with hot, creamy scrambled eggs that smelled slightly like nutmeg. Bleh.
That was when Mr. Opinionated did me yet another huge favor and broke down once again to call a grandmother for a recipe.
Bless his heart.
The recipe goes like this:
Pour 3/4 of a gallon of milk in a double boiler. I didn’t have a double boiler or anything large enough to hold a gallon of anything, so I improvised with a large sauce pan and a very large bowl. A redneck double boiler, if you will. Warm the milk.
In a large bowl, mix 4 whole eggs, 3 cups of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of flour. Use some of the warm milk to temp the eggs and then mix the whole thing together in the double boiler.
Stir until your arm falls off. The recipe Grandma sent said 45 minutes on low. I did that while reading a magazine and checking out Facebook. 45 minutes later, it was still just warm flavored milk. Then, I cleaned my living room floors. Still hot, thin milk. Then, I set out the dishes and glasses for our dinner. Warm milk. The process of stirring for so dang long brought to mind a quote from a dear friend of mine: “You know, they sell boiled custard at the grocery store.”
Frustrated and tired as all get out, I covered the large bowl of my redneck double boiler with aluminum foil and took a shower.
I declared it good enough after about two hours. No doubt the lack of a real double boiler and the size of my bowl fit for cooking a toddler played a part in this jaunt taking so long.
But, it was worth it.
My boiled custard had the same taste as the granny’s did. Success. My was a little thinner and not as lumpy, but I later found out that not having lumps was a good thing anyway. If I had known that to begin with, I would’ve saved my arm strength stirring.
So, why is it that we don’t drink this more often? Maybe this winter when the days are short and the snow is piled high, I will break out this recipe again and stir until my arm turns purple. I think it would be worth it.
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