Stirred Custard

Jane Blair MacMorran

-From Lucy Culton Bryant Naff, my grandmother, and Nancy Blair Naff Stevenson, my mother

The memories and emotions associated with this family recipe are quite intense and, thankfully, happy. My grandmother was born into an aristocratic family in Bradley County, Tennessee, in 1884. Her early education took place at her home with her treasured Irish nanny. My grandmother came to live with my family after her husband died, and she continued to live with us for the rest of her life. Both she and my mother prepared stirred custard for all the special holidays of the year. My mother always told her brother that he was happier to see the custard arrive than he was to see her. The custard was also given as a gift to friends who were bereaved or ill.

This recipe takes time. It is a labor of love and cannot be rushed with any expectation of success. Stirring time is about 45 to 50 minutes! A double boiler is required. The water in the double boiler should be just below the boiling point.

I used to marvel that my mother had the patience to prepare this. Now, as an adult, I can imagine it might have provided a calm break from her job, two daughters, and a busy life. A book, television, or some form of entertainment is recommended. For a very decadent dessert, I have used this custard in my favorite Scottish trifle recipe. My mother and grandmother often served it alongside a white cake with whipped cream coconut icing.


2 ½ cups milk, scalded
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons almond extract


Heat water in a double boiler. Scald milk in a small pan. Combine eggs, sugar, and flour in top of double boiler. Slowly stir milk into mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickly coats a silver spoon. Remove from heat immediately. Cool slightly. Stir in salt and almond extract. Chill rapidly. (If necessary, pour custard through a strainer.) Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. Makes 4 servings.