When four Butler “boys” who had been adults for some time stopped just short of fisticuffs over the last bit of boiled custard, I knew I needed to learn to make it. My newly acquired mother-in-law evidently made the world’s best version of this North Mississippi answer to eggnog every Christmas. She served it in small glasses that had been premiums in boxes of oatmeal. They were “boiled custard glasses” used only for the annual Christmas treat.
When I asked for the recipe, she removed a large pot from the drawer and said, “You start with this pot and put in six eggs.” That was the last exact number that she told me. All other measures were “about this much.” She concluded with, “and you fill it to this point on the pot with milk.” It took me a while to figure out how much was “about this much” sugar and vanilla.
Eventually, I worked it out, and I had my own favorite pot. For proof, the next generation of Butler brothers came close to fisticuffs as they went into accounting procedures for who had how many glasses on which day. When the day came that Mrs. Butler had to give up housekeeping, her children divided her treasures. We got the boiled custard glasses, of sentimental value only, but still treasure to us. Now I could serve in proper style.
Of course, that generation of Butlers grew up and went on to establish homes where they wanted to serve boiled custard at Christmas. When asked for the recipe, without thinking, I reached into the cabinet and removed a large pot. “You start with this pot and put in six eggs.” Realizing that I was repeating a pattern, I took the time to measure and now have a typed copy on a card for anyone who needs the recipe. While it has numbers and measurements for those who require them, my copy has a penciled note “milk to fill the popcorn pan.”
“Popcorn pan?” you ask – that’s another story for another day.