Family Christmas Traditions: A Recipe for Boiled Custard

You gotta “chirr” it!

This isn’t art-related, but since it is December, I thought I’d share this family tradition we have. When I was growing up, my dad would make boiled custard using a recipe passed down from my great-grandmother. (I’m not sure why my dad made it since it came from my mom’s side of the family.) He still makes it even now. I think he finds the slow stirring process relaxing.

Here’s the recipe:

Mama Sadie’s Boiled Custard

Sadie Billingsley     

1 quart milk

1 scant cup sugar

3 whole eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Beat eggs really well

Add sugar

While beating eggs, begin warming milk in double boiler

When eggs and sugar are well-beaten, slowly add part of warm milk to egg mixture. Then add eggs/milk to larger pot of warm milk.

Stir continuously until it coats spoon (at least 30 minutes)

Add vanilla


The secret of having smooth custard is in the thorough beating of eggs and sugar.

To cook 1/2 gallon, put 1/2 inch water in big skillet. Put custard mixture in Dutch oven or other large pan set down in the water (this makes a large “double-boiler”). Keep water just below boiling point.

(Mama Sadie always made custard at Christmas, sometimes 2 or 3 batches. She always put some in refrigerator trays to almost freeze, then she would stir it until it was smooth again.  Following one of these occasions, Duke uttered the phrase, familiar to us all: “Mama Sadie, you should have chirred it some more!”)

We make this on a cold evening, then set the sauce pan out on the back porch to cool over night.

So that’s my family’s boiled custard recipe!

What holiday traditions or foods does your family like to do?