Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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.
2009 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.
2013 Footnote:  I first posted this Thanksgiving, 2007, while taking a break from cooking. Google searches for "boiled custard recipe" continue to return the link, typically at or near the top of the first screen. Hootsbuddy's New Place replaces the original blog which I lost soon after the other footnote was written. Comments there have been positive.  

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