Christmas Drinking Custard
Like a heady vanilla eggnog (but no raw eggs), drinking custard is a delicious and easy southern Christmas tradition that is perfect with or without alcohol.
I’ve been watching the photographs for years. Thick liquid custard, dressed up and poured into a mug. Can you look and not be tempted? This special drink is known by many names: boiled custard, drinking custard, crème anglaise–and bears a strong resemblance to egg nog. But in lieu of eggnog’s nutmeg and cinnamon, you get a heady dose of fragrant vanilla–and the eggs aren’t raw!
Sign me up!
Although most likely of European origin, drinking custard is probably best known in the southern U.S. Here it is a special drink served at Christmas or a soothing and nourishing beverage for someone who is feeling under the weather.
The recipe is based on one from A Southern Grace, my first introduction to this beverage and the healthiest version I found (e.g. uses whole milk vs part cream). I added one extra egg yolk to make it divide evenly (on the odd chance I someday want a smaller batch), used vanilla beans instead of extract and simplified the preparation (In full America’s Test Kitchen mode, I did try the original instructions which came out exactly the same as my easier version.)
And it isn’t at all difficult to make! Just blend, cook, strain and cool.
And the family was just as excited as I was. My oldest daughter came home for a party this weekend, and in her best starving young person impression, rummaged through the refrigerator. “How can you not have egg nog?” she said, incensed.
“Wait until you see what we have instead,” I replied. After she and my youngest got their first taste of drinking custard, I realized I would probably never make a half batch.
There is actually a special reason I started making boiled custard this year. You see, we are participating in a rarely mentioned holiday ritual: winter break impacted wisdom teeth removal. Times two kids. One before Christmas, one after. Yup, there’s going to be a lot of creamed soup going around. But also some sweet drinking custard. A spoonful of sugar, you know!
Of course, just like with eggnog, you can add something a little more potent. So, if the cooking and nursing start to get hard, Mom is going to get her own special Christmas drinking custard.
Fire up the stove!
- 1/2 gallon (8 cups) whole milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 8 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 2 vanilla beans
- In a heavy saucepan, whisk together milk, egg yolks and sugar. Split vanilla beans, if using, then scrape out seeds. Add seeds and vanilla pod to the saucepan. (If using vanilla extract this will be added later.)
- Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until custard coats the back of a spoon--about 185 F. If using vanilla extract, add it now.
- Strain to remove vanilla bits and any thickened egg, then refrigerate until cool.
- Serve with or without a shot of alcohol.
- Scandinavian Salmon Burgers
- Sugared Cranberries
How much dose thisake
This makes 8 servings of a little over a cup (8 ounces) each.
I have a daughter who can only get her medication down by drinking Southern Comfort’s Vanilla Spice Eggnog. We can only find it around Christmas time. I’m going to make some of this to see if she can keep her medication down with this…because the rest of the year is a trial with her meds.
I hope this works for you. If you need to adjust the thickness you can add or subtract eggs. You could actually stir in some spices too if that helps. Best of luck.
It is a violation of Southern sensibility to consume this drink without bourbon (preferably a jiggerful of sourmash). Such warms the heart on holidays.
Okay, I’m in!
I just made this. It was irresistible so I had to taste it while still warm and it’s delicious! Thank you for sharing this recipe. Custard style eggnog can be hard to find at the grocery. I will always make it from scratch from now on!
I think this is so much better than storebought too Debbie. Thanks for sharing!
My Grandmother would make an angel food cake which uses egg whites only then she would use the yolks to make custard. Two of my favorite childhood memories.
What a nice reminiscence! I love childhood food memories! Not sure if I mention it in this post, but I freeze the egg whites when I make this–and sometimes make angel food cake when I have enough!
I hope we can drink it cold? I try to serve for my warm beverage, a mulled wine with a lightly Spiced apple juice w/those cinnamon candies you decorate cakes with turns the juice a bit pink/red) for the kids. I call it Rudy’s Rosy Nosey. Cold Egg Nog served with or without rum or cognac gets boring.
I’d like to try the custard this year…if I can refrigerate it.
Yes, this is a cold beverage–and it works with or without added alcohol. I think it would be great alongside your mulled wine! If you make it I’d love to hear what you think!
I grew up in the country in south Georgia. Everyone made Boiled Custard and during the holidays we also had Eggnog. Children and our Baptist friends did not have theirs spiked. Later my dad was transferred to a town about 60 miles away. M friend of my moms was our local Custard aficionado. Hers was the best ever. Sadly I never asked for her recipe. If anyone was sick or recovering from anything from surgery to a broken heart you could count on her to bring you a quart of cold Boiled Custard. Ahhh, such sweet memories.
What a kind friend and great memories. I love when a food can bring back the past. Good luck finding a boiled custard like you remember. If you try mine I’d love to know how it compares if you get the chance
I moved to Tennessee from Florida this past November and found this (Holiday Custard), as you said, in Walmart. Curiosity made me buy it, and now I’m hooked! I love eggnog, but think I love this even more!!
I sometimes have stomach problems, and eggy foods/drinks soothe it almost immediately. I’ll be making this throughout the year! Thank you for publishing the recipe!!
Isn’t it wonderful! I usually just have it around the holidays, but maybe I need to rethink that!
My granny made this every year for Christmas, delicious. Now my aunt and family count on me making it including using Splenda for the diabetics in our family. This is very time consuming but worth it.
I am so glad this worked for you Deborah! I tried it myself with an erythritol/monkfruit sweetener when I did the keto diet and thought it was delicious that way too!
I came to this site because my daughter just had her impacted wisdom teeth removed! Not a very fun way for her to spend Christmas break. My mother made her a boiled custard almost just like this one (my grandmother’s recipe) but it didn’t set. After a night in the fridge, it’s still completely liquid. I hoping to find a way to salvage it. Maybe bread pudding?
The custard is supposed to stay liquid so that you can drink it, just thicker than the milk alone. If it is still completely thin like milk, you may not have gotten it hot enough to set the egg. You could still drink it thinner, though the FDA would say if it didn’t get hot enough it is more likely to be unsafe (though I think the odds are small–how many times have we all eaten raw cookie dough with egg). You could also try heating it again until it’s thicker–beat in an additional couple egg yolks, or even a whole egg first, if you’d like. If you have an instant read thermometer that is helpful since you can test that it gets to 180-185. I always get nervous it’s going to boil on me and curdle the eggs and that’s when I know it’s hot enough.
If you would prefer more of a baked custard, I do have a recipe for creme caramel which would be a wonderful wisdom teeth recovery treat as well at https://artofnaturalliving.com/2018/03/22/you-can-make-creme-caramel-a-giveaway/
Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your daughter!
You did not list how long the boiling time is. Seems like it is taking forever to thicken.
I am thinking about 15 minutes Danny. I’ll try making it again to double check and update the recipe. I know it seems not to thicken much at first, then it changes pretty quickly. Also it will thicken a bit more as it cools. If you have an instant read or candy thermometer that is helpful too. I hope this helps and thanks for the update suggestion.
I believe my grandma made this when we were very young. And she sprinkled raisins into the cup as well. My cousin remembers grandma whipping the egg whites up and dropping a dollop or two onto the top with a sprinkle of cinnamon as well.
What fun memories Kathy! I am making a holiday batch this morning!
Just before I also remember, the color was yellow. And also it was tinted not tended. Sorry…
Another note, I failed to mention, she made meringue cookies out of the egg whites and they were served with the custard … hence no waste.
I believe the only ingredients in them were stiffly beaten egg whites, sugar, and vanilla. They were baked and when they came out of the oven she sprinkled various colors on them. Some were red, some were green, some were blue, and some were. I also remember that sometimes she tended the egg whites with a couple drops of food coloring added into the vanilla.
65 years ago my grandmother used to make this. It was made several times between Halloween and Christmas. It was a favorite among all of my cousins and siblings. It was a great tradition she had at her house and I have many many fond memories of that. I have been looking for this recipe for many years, and this is the recipe she used to use. Thank you so much for sharing and allowing me to find this. Be blessed.
I love hearing stories like this Vickie! Thanks for sharing!
I always remember my mother making boiled custard when I was a young kid. Now as I am a mother and had my kids try store bought boiled custard knowing it’s not the same as homemade and the holidays have came to a end one of my twin boys is in love with boiled custard so I am going to try this recipe out and see what he thinks. Thank you so very much for the recipe. I will try to let you know how it turns out after surprising him.
I’d love to hear what you think Sharon! I think it’s so much fun introducing a new generation to things we remember!
This recipe has been handed down from my great-grandma and I am now a great-grandma. My kids – all now grown – generally like this better than eggnog (I don’t like nutmeg). Grandma always used a double boiler (a large pan over water in a canning kettle). I have tasted eggnog just once and didn’t enjoy it, but I certainly have always loved drinking custard. This year I will be using a combination of almond and coconut milks and now I won’t have to worry about my reactions to chemically treated dairy products. We have never added alcohol as we are not drinkers. Thank you for memory lane.
Glad you enjoyed the article Barbara May! Once in awhile I will find a commercial eggnog that doesn’t have nutmeg, but not often. My kids laugh at me for not liking nutmeg, and now I can tell them I’m not alone! Thanks for commenting!
If you grew up in Jackson TN, you would have had this every Christmas (Walmart now carries it as early as Halloween. If you were diagnosed with type 2 this year, you would be going through your first Christmas without boiled custard. Does anyone have a good recipe using almond milk and swerve?
My condolences Fred. Traditions help make holidays special! I would suggest that you try my recipe substituting almond milk for the dairy milk. The swerve website says you can use it in cooking just like sugar, so that should be easy–or it might also work to add it to taste at the end, while the custard is still hot enough for it to dissolve. If it seems to need some extra thickening you can use an additional egg yolk (or a whole egg in place of one of the egg yolks). Good luck–I believe this is possible with some experimentation! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas.
I grew up in Union City TN & had boiled custard every Christmas. Most places only have eggnog which is not the same. Floridians & other places I’ve lived have never heard of it either.
I have had eggnog for ages, Carla, but now I prefer the boiled custard. It isn’t very common in Wisconsin, so I’m glad I was following a southern blogger!
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Could you make this with egg substitute to help on the cholesterol?
Sorry to be replying so late–just saw this. But yes, you should be able to use an egg substitute. That should thicken it similarly to an egg, though it would be a little less rich.
This sounds like my kind of drink. I love all things custardy! I hope your kids’ wisdom teeth procedures go smoothly. They usually breeze right through it.
Thanks Thao! The first one had her pre-appointment yesterday and the oral surgeon was very reassuring. That was good for her to hear after all the scary stories her friends were telling!
this sounds so yummy!
And it tastes as good as it looks!
this is our holiday treat every year! SO rich and delicious. the touch of vanilla beans makes it extra special and lovely, and your glasses are cool!
The glasses were a second hand store find–wasn’t that lucky! Thank you so much for introducing me to this!
This looks good! I always find Eggnog too ‘nutmegy’ – I’m glad to learn there is an alternative, similar style drink.
I hope both your daughters have speedy recoveries from their wisdom teeth removal!
Your kids would probably like this too Lynn–I may even try reducing the sugar a smidge to make it a little healthier! And thanks for the good wishes on the recovery!
If I’d had some of this when I was recuperating from my own wisdom teeth surgery, I might have been a little less unhappy! Sounds like it was a big hit in your house.
Yes, I remember gumming Chinese takeout after mine. I am now on a quest to use up egg whites!
Use the Egg whites to mix in with fried rice, or you can make an eggwhite omelet. There is also a different type of egg nog made with eggwhite and sugar and brandy or rum. Not as good, but when you are stuck with family and need to get drunk to get through the holidays, it’ll do.
Some good ideas for the egg whites, Solomon! Thanks for commenting and enjoy your holidays!