I grew up on this custard. My grandmother would serve it often: on its own or with pound cake and sometimes she’d bake it in small, glass custard cups until set, then top it with a sprinkling of nutmeg and a dollop of meringue that she’d broil until just set. My best memories of Grandmother’s Custard, though, are when she’d make a big batch and bring it over when I was sick. The whole jar was mine to spoon (or drink!) and the cool, sweet taste of her love soothed many a sore throat and hot, feverish body.
I don’t prepare custard as often as my grandmother did (though I may start, now that I have a bona fide CUSTARD CROCK), but I have made this recipe often enough to have put my own spin on it. First off, I’ve given a sugar range for times when I want something that’s a tad less sweet, and added a pinch of salt because I believe just a hint of salt brings out the best in sweet recipes. Second, I’ve adapted it to the French crème anglaise method of cooking custard (Grandmother just cooked everything together in a double boiler) which is faster and more reliable. And finally, I’ve made it my go-to vanilla ice cream recipe. The texture’s perfect…all you have to do is pour the cooled custard into an ice cream maker, and churn. (Note: When making ice cream, use the full amount of sugar.)
¾ cup (150 g.) to 1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 quart (1 liter) milk, preferably whole
2 tsp.(10 ml.) vanilla extract or ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped from inside
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
Have ready a fine-meshed strainer and a large bowl.
Bring the milk and the scraped vanilla bean and seeds, if using, to a rolling boil in a large saucepan. Whisk the milk into the egg mixture little by little until all the milk is incorporated. Return the custard to the saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spatula or wooden spoon or an instant read thermometer reaches 180˚ – 185˚F (80-85˚C). (Note, if you’re worried at all about the custard curdling, cook it in a double boiler over simmering but not boiling water instead.)
Once the custard has thickened, strain it immediately into the clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using, and cool.