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Monday, January 31, 2011

MOM'S SWEET STIRRED CUSTARD

She's not going to be happy I took this picture!
She asked if I was...and I "innocently"
said "oh, no ma'am!"  I'm so bad!
I was in Austin this week-end and drove out to Marble Falls to take my Mom out to lunch on Sunday.  We had a nice time going to the Blue Bonnet Cafe where we ended our delicious lunch with pieces of luscious lemon meringue pie (the meringue was piled high...about 5 or 6 inches...awesome) and coconut cream pie as well.  Our conversation meandered over to recipes, as they often do when I visit with my Mom and by the time we returned to her apartment she wanted to show me a recipe she had gotten from a friend with a missing measurement...which segued our conversation to recipe testing...old family recipes... and problems with her printer.

We moved to her room and I fixed the printer problem and showed her how to print from my blog.  I then asked if she had read the banana pudding blog I had just done where she replied "of course, I read all of your blogs!" <grin>  I said "then you remember I said I liked your banana pudding best but I didn't know how to make the pudding".  I then said if she had the time, would she tell me step by step how to do that and I'd type it up right then.  She looked happy that I'd asked.  I opened a document and said "okay go"...and she said "sugar"...I said "how much?"  "oh, about 2 cups", and I typed all the things she said...asking questions along the way.  I soon realized that "doing" and her "guessing" on a recipe were two vastly different dynamics.  I said "hey, do you have these ingredients?  Could we go make it and I can see exactly what you do?"  She said "sure"...so off we toddled to the kitchen.

Now, I am a slow, methodical cook...and she is a fast fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cook.  She hasn't made this dish in years...and never with the set of cookware she currently has.  As we talked, I learned she used a cast iron skillet back in the day.  She is now using a $19.99 for set of 3 skillets from Wal-mart with poor heat distribution.  She just doesn't cook that much any more and had just replaced some old skillets that were "all burned up" <huh?>  I didn't want know how that had happened.  I worry about her enough as it is!  Regardless, she said it seemed to take a lot longer to get to each stage than she was used to...but that's okay.  We got 'er done.

So, we started the process from scratch, she and I both took notes, and took turns stirring (the number one key to her custard or pudding recipe...stir, stir, stir and never walk away).  Each step involved lots of discussion about why and how much.  The difference in ingredients she previously used compared to what she uses now - milk, skim vs whole, cornstarch is called Argo Cornstarch, regardless of the brand, etc.  My Mom has a story about everything!

My husband snoozed on the couch, the teen was playing poker on Grammie's computer, and I enjoyed a couple of hours 1:1 with my Mom.  At 81 years of age, I never know when these special times will suddenly be gone.  I'm really glad I made the drive out to Marble Falls to spend a nice afternoon cooking with Mom.  No drama, no rushing, no irritability... it was a rare and special time now that I live so far away.  I'm also really grateful to my hubby who didn't even hesitate when I suggested we go out to see my Mom...he said "sure, we should do that".  Good man!  Even more grateful to my sisters who share the bulk of helping Mom remain independent and cared for.  They are really great sisters to have!

When all was said and done, the custard was so good it made my eyes roll back in my head.  It screamed "happy childhood memory" in my brain.  Mom put this custard on fruit salad at every holiday...she layered it with bananas and Nilla Wafers for her Banana Pudding... it is incredibly sweet and delicious....and NOW I have the recipe and the hands-on training from "the pro".  Since she swears she reads all my blogs, I'll just say "thanks Mom, it was a great time".

Here's the recipe...and I'll say what I've said before...if your parents are still living, and you want to know how they made something special from your childhood...don't wait another day to call or write them, or go visit... and let them share the true "family jewels" with you.  You will truly be sorry if you don't take that time.  It's a real gift.

MOM'S SWEET STIRRED CUSTARD
by Mary Helen Culp


Ingredients:

2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten with a fork
2 cups whole milk (not skim or low fat)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (she had double strength - so maybe 3 teaspoons of regular strength?)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/8 cup cold milk - whisked or stirred with a fork until no lumps

Method:

In a large bottomed pan (skillet or sauce pan) add sugar and eggs.  Turn heat on medium low and start stirring until well incorporated. 

When mixture starts to heat up, add milk, increase heat to medium, and stir constantly until low boil begins and custard begins to thicken. 

Lower heat and add cornstarch slurry to pan and stir, stir, stir until you could draw a line down the back of the spoon and the custard doesn't drip through the line (use another instrument to do that unless you have asbestos fingers...I don't and I stuck my finger through the custard on the back of the spoon and CRAP it burned!). 

Remove from heat immediately, add vanilla and stir thoroughly to incorporate. 

The finished product - it was damn darn good!
Allow to cool before using.

Mom and I tasted a spoonful and looked at each other and smiled.  Perfection.

The only thing I would probably do that she doesn't do is strain the custard to remove any pieces of cooked egg (the white piece that is attached to the egg yolk gets hard in a stirred custard).  I pulled out a couple of pieces visible to the naked eye - I told Mom it was the umbilical cord (which it isn't I don't believe) and she squealed like a little girl and said "don't tell me that, I don't want to know those things...I'll never be able to eat eggs if I know stuff like that."  She cracks me up.  She grew up on a farm, owned and managed  numerous grocery stores, a meat market, and a seafood market...was a house mother to both Frat Rats and Sorority girls at The University of Texas...and reared 5 girls fairly efficiently...and she's squeamish about the innards of an egg? <grin>  Go figure!

Well, make it if you like - it is an exceptionally sweet mixture (and there are many recipes for this type of custard with little sugar, egg yolks only, etc.) or continue using the boxed pudding for your needs.  Now that I know how simple Mom's is, I will definitely be taking this walk down memory lane a little more often.

UPDATE:  Thanksgiving 2011
Took this photo of a fruit salad similar to my Mom's - using this type of custard.  OMG it was delicious!


Bon Appetit, Y'all!
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