Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boiled Custard Recipe

No Thanksgiving or Christmas is complete at our house without boiled custard. I just made two batches which yielded just over a quart and a half after I enjoyed the cook's tasting portion along the way. It took less than an hour, and if family members don't get too much while it is still warm, there should be enough left to serve chilled with dessert later today.

This is a Southern thing but mostly from the border states. My family is from Kentucky, so we have had boiled custard for generations. Think eggnog without the nog. This delectable treat is nothing more than milk, eggs and sugar with vanilla added for flavor. Like all wonderful foods, handling is more important than the recipe. This is how I make boiled custard.

The ingredients are simple...

4 Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 Quart Milk
Vanilla to taste

...but that's not the recipe. The recipe is how to put them together.

1. Heat the milk in a double boiler, stirring enough that it won't leave cooked milk at the bottom as it heats. I have found that a small boiler making one quart at a time works better than doing a large batch. I use a pocket thermometer to check the temperature.

2. While the milk is getting hot, break the eggs into another container and mix in the sugar. A small hand whip works well for this. No need to mess up an electric mixer. When the milk shows about 120 degrees, put some into the egg-sugar mixture, mix it in to make it all pour better, then pour it all into the hot milk, stirring all the time.

3. Continue to stir and monitor the custard as it heats to 180 degrees. As it gets hot, the eggs will be cooking and it will want to stick to the bottom of the boiler, so keep stirring. A wooden spoon is good, but I just use the same whip that I used to mix the sugar and eggs.

4. Pour the hot custard through a sieve into some other container. I use a two-quart plastic kitchen measure with handle and pouring spout. It makes it easier to pour into jars to cool.

5. Vanilla always goes into anything at the end. If you put it in as it is cooking the flavor will not be as good. (This is also true of herbs and most spices. The delicate aromas and flavors are never improved by too much boiling, baking or poaching.) I use about a teaspoon and the aroma makes me immediately pour off a little into a juice glass to make certain I didn't make any mistakes.

This sweet, simple treat will serve wonderfully with almost any dessert. Pound Cake or sweet potato pie comes to mind. Later in the day, I have been known to enrich boiled custard with something alcoholic. Bourbon is traditional, but liqueurs of all kinds are a possibility. The mind reels. Enjoy.

Footnote: This recipe has been online for two years and to my surprise continues to be found by Google searches. As this 2009 Christmas season proceeds this post is receiving two or three dozen hits a day. The comments have been positive, so it must be working. Thanks for reading and have a festive and memorable Christmas celebration.


Anonymous said...

This looks delightful! And the recipe is just the needed break from the other, heavier posts on your front page today. Darnitall, why did I click over to read your blog right before I was headed to bed? Now I'll be up mentally digesting for a bit longer.

Anonymous said...

I've made this recipe twice in the past day. Great!

Anonymous said...

Hootsbuddy, this looks like the recipe my grandmother [dob 1905, a native of Campbellsville, KY from a family of great country cooks] made when I was a kid in the 60s. I'm going to whip some up this weekend! Thanks for posting it!

vietnamcatfish said...

Happy New Year, Hoots. Kitty was just now looking at a boiled custard recipie. A bell went off. "Hoots recently posted a b.c."
So we are gonna try it, and I'll let you know how it comes out. Shades of Morrison's, eh? And btw, who's in the kitchen with Morrison's? They had some catchy advertising, while ours at the PIC always sucked. I know-with all modesty-I could have come up with a dazzling campaign. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be. v.c.

P.S. I looked up the recipie on google. You have been relegated to page three, but out of 427,000 entries, pretty damn impressive.

Anonymous said...

I had my granmothers ('Mama Gentle')recipe which is basically like yours, but not the cooking instructions. Hers was an Alabama recipe. Since we are going to L.A. for Christmas to see my parents for Christmas in Mobile, I really want to make some as we have not made it in years. Glad I ran across your page.

Thanks, Randy - Indianapolis

Hoots said...

Thanks, Randy from Indianapolis. Wishing you a great holiday!
(And for ya'll who don't know, "L.A." means Lower Alabama in the South.)

Anonymous said...

I found your recipe this year. I try to make custard year after year from an Old Virginia cookbook that my mother used, and it never seems to come out as I remember. But, your recipe worked great . . . the temperature you have in your directions, must be the key. Thanks so much. I do have one question, after the custard is made what do you recommend is the best thing to store it in?

Hoots said...

Quart jars with tops works fine. We usually recycle juice jars, washing them well and rinsing with a little bleach to clear any lingering tastes, especially in the lids. (I used a half-gallon pitcher at Christmas, but it looked terrible half gone...you know, ugly, like buttermilk.)

I like to serve custard with little paper cups, letting guests serve themselves. I know of one hostess who had several desserts and her guests poured blankets of custard on everything she served, like a sauce.

You're right about temp. I've tried to hurry and not cook all the way to 180°. Comes out thin if you don't. Also, pouring it through a seive catches those little egg things and makes it smooth.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother's boiled custard recipe was lost due to a fire. None of my Southern Cooking cookbooks had a boiled custard recipe in it--can't figure that out--so I did a search and your site popped up. This has made our holidays feel like old times. It brought back great memories of my Nanny's southern style cooking.
I will be checking out your site on a regular basis.
Karla in Indiana

Anonymous said...

I just finished making some using your recipe and it turned out great. This is the first time ive had hot boiled custard and i love it. I'm curious to see how it tastes chilled and compare the store brands that my family usually resorts to.

Anonymous said...

This sounds really good. I'm from the north so I never even heard of "boiled custard". I will be giving this recipe a try during the next few weeks. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

Anonymous said...

I too am from Alabama the NE part and my momma made Boiled Custard was a Holiday delight. There was a white ceramic pitcher that momma would put it in. She also made a black walnut cake with white icing that is like carmel icing but white and walnut was on top. I cant find that recipe. so if anyone can help me I be greatly appreciated.