Friday, December 18, 2009

Boiled Custard

One of the reasons I blog is to save recipes. Often it’s recipes from a publication, such as Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, Gourmet; or from another blog source, such as TheKitchn, Serious Eats, or a blogger like Smitten Kitchen. Not nearly as often as I’d like, it could be from a family member. This recipe is very special to me. I received this recipe handwritten. It came in the mail, not an EMAIL, but in a real envelope with a stamp. And it included a note on stationary that said “From the desk of…”

Growing up, I always looked forward to my Grandma’s boiled custard on Christmas Eve. It was an after-dinner ritual to get out the chocolate pie, the sugar cookies, and best of all, the boiled custard. It was always accompanied by these little plastic Christmas cups. If you’ve never had boiled custard, I’m not quite sure how to describe it. I’ve been told it’s like eggnog without the spices and alcohol. One thing is for sure… it’s really rich! I would pour a tiny bit, and sip it slowly. Then I would turn the cup completely upside down and try to get gravity on my side to help get the last remaining bit out. I would let that sweetness settle, then without fail, 20 minutes later I’d do it all again. There’s no telling how much custard I ended up drinking, because lots of little portions add up!

I’m so thankful my Grandma wrote down the recipe and mailed it to me, because now this is a tradition I can carry on. This is truly a recipe I plan on saving forever.


Boiled Custard

adapted from my grandmother's recipe


1/2 gallon whole milk
2 cups sugar
5 eggs (my mother instructed me to remove the chalaza from the eggs)
2 tsp vanilla


In a double boiler warm milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Separately, in medium bowl beat eggs. Add sugar to eggs and beat until fluffy.
When milk is hot and steamy (approx 115 degrees on a candy thermometer), slowly add a little to the eggs. Stir well, and continue to slowly add enough milk until eggs are warm. Add back to the milk mixture. Stir constantly while cooking, until mixture coats the back of a spoon (it should be approx 180 degrees, this took around 25-30 minutes for me).

Remove from heat add vanilla, and stir occasionally as it cools. (I just went back in the kitchen ever 5-10 minutes to stir) Store in the milk container (this is how my grandma always store it!). If mixture is lumpy, strain it before putting it in container.

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17 Responses to “Boiled Custard”

  1. 1
    Julie H. — December 18, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

    We have this on Christmas Eve at my grandmother's, too! Our boiled custard is accompanied by (and often poured onto) my grandmother's awesome coconut cake.

  2. 2
    One Particular Kitchen — December 18, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

    SO southern. Yummy!!

  3. 3
    Kacey — December 18, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

    YUM!! I can't wait!

  4. 4
    lostpastremembered — December 18, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

    What a wonderful story about the recipe being important enough to snail mail it. I remember something similar with buttermilk… which I just posted–the custard base makes it so rich and good. Great post!

  5. 5
    themilkmanswife — December 18, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

    Wondering if I should be embarrassed that my Yankee is showing? LOL. I've never seen anything like this! How wonderful to get a handwritten recipe in your mailbox. Looks so rich and delicious!

  6. 6
    A_and_N — December 18, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

    Such a lovely lovely story and such a simple recipe. And the pics are so beautiful!

  7. 7
    Jessica {The Novice Chef} — December 18, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

    Such a classic! I used to drink soo much of this that I literally could not move.
    Beautiful picture, Erin!

  8. 8
    Grace — December 20, 2009 @ 2:12 am

    this is so similar to my own grandma's recipe, reserved only for special occasions. god bless the south and all its decadence. πŸ™‚

  9. 9
    Ingrid — January 6, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    How sweet. I love eggnog and its texture so I think I'd like this. Thanks for sharing.

  10. 10
    Beckie — March 21, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

    Erin, thank you so much for posting this. Ever since I moved north of the Ohio River, I’ve been unable to find boiled custard during the holidays, which is a holiday foodway tradition in my family. I’ll try this next time I want some and find it unavailable in stores. (I like to add Crown Royal to my custard, because it is smooth, but just the plain custard is good too.)

    • Erin replied: — March 21st, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

      “Foodway”, I love it! Reminds me of the good ol days in Folk Studies. πŸ˜‰

  11. 11
    Claire — December 4, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

    I have actually made boiled custard a few times, usually when I could not get home to my tiny Kentucky town for Christmas. Usually when you visited relatives over the holidays, out would come a coconut cake, ambrosia salad, and boiled custard. This stuff is like crack!!! Funniest thing, all the different custards had their own character. My grandmother’s sister made the best though. It was a feature of our Christmas gathering on my dad’s side.

    Funny story: my great grandmother & great aunt on Daddy’s side were strict tee-totallers, in that grand Southern Baptist tradition. When the custard and cake came out, a cream pitcher with a coffee spoon next to it was on the tray. This pitcher contained the ‘flavoring’ which was spooned in a small amount into the custard (always served in Granny’s punch cups) Great Grandmother & aunt always had to have flavoring in their cup of custard. The ‘flavoring’ was Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey!! Still laughing about it and they have been dead for 30 years.

    Y’all enjoy your custard!! This makes me want to make some for Christmas dinner with husband’s family.

    • Erin Wilburn replied: — January 5th, 2016 @ 1:09 pm

      What sweet memories! Thank you for sharing! πŸ™‚ I’d need that “flavoring” if I was around my family for sure, LOL!

  12. 12
    Michelle — October 30, 2016 @ 4:06 pm

    I’m so excited to see your recipe. My grandmother use to make this for us every year. I have the ingredients but not directions on how to make it and my memories from childhood are fuzzy at best. The only difference is she used one more egg! I’m so excited to surprise my family this Christmas with Custard!!!

    • Erin Wilburn replied: — November 14th, 2016 @ 10:03 am

      Aww I’m so glad I could help! This is going to be my first Christmas without my Grandma, so this recipe is extra special to me. Happy Holidays to your family! πŸ™‚

  13. 13
    Karen — December 21, 2016 @ 5:47 pm

    This is the closest recipe to my grandmother’s (my father’s mother) recipe that I have found. I also remember the ambrosia salad and boiled custard being special Christmas treats at her house. I have tried other recipes but will making this one for my dad for Christmas. You wouldn’t happen to have a recipe for the ambrosia salad would you?

    Merry Christmas!

    • Erin Wilburn replied: — December 22nd, 2016 @ 11:14 am

      Merry Christmas to you as well! I do not have an ambrosia salad recipe, but my cousin apparently has my grandmother’s Methodist Church Cookbook that has this custard recipe in it. (And she scratched out the title and wrote Grandma’s Custard!) I’d bet it also has an ambrosia salad recipe in it. If I ever see it, I’ll look. Otherwise, you can try looking in any vintage church cookbooks if you come across one at a yard sale/estate sale/Goodwill.

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