Sometimes it is a challenge to make a recipe in an old cookbook. The cookbook may make assumptions about the knowledge level of the cooks who will use the cookbook that totally miss the mark when it comes to modern cooks; or one recipe may refer to another recipe which might then refer to still another.
For example, I recently found a hundred-year-old recipe for Canned Fruit Custard that at first appeared very simple – Make a thin (soft) custard and pour it over drained canned fruit. But there was just one problem; the cookbook did not contain a recipe for thin custard. Apparently cooks were just supposed to know how to make thin custard.
Unfortunately I am not as knowledgeable as cooks a hundred year ago, and didn’t know how to make a thin (soft) custard, so I searched through other old cookbooks for a recipe. I finally found a soft custard recipe in a 1920 home economics textbook.
All was good, but I then was surprised to discover that I needed to find still another recipe. The Soft Custard recipe said to “mix the materials in the same way as for steamed or baked custard.”
Whew, this was getting complicated. After I found all three recipes, I took a stab at synthesizing all the directions, I finally made Canned Fruit Custard using canned sweet dark cherries. The dessert was lovely, with the cherries coated with a creamy, slightly sweet custard sauce, but the whole process has left me feeling drained.
So that others don’t need to go through the process of synthesizing the recipes, here is the Canned Fruit Custard recipe updated for modern cooks.
Canned Fruit Custard
2 pints canned fruit (15-16 ounce cans) – I used canned dark sweet cherries.
2 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
To make the custard, first scald the milk. To do this, put the milk in a heavy sauce pan (use a double boiler if available); then heat using medium heat. Stir frequently until the milk just barely begins to bubble, then remove from the heat.
In a bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks slightly, then add sugar and salt. Beat to combine. Then place a small amount (approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons) of hot milk into bowl with the egg mixture, stir quickly. Add this mixture to the hot milk and stir. (This helps prevent the egg from coagulating when the egg is introduced to the hot liquid.) Return to stove and cook, using medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken or coat a spoon. Quickly stir in the beaten egg whites. Remove from heat. Strain and then stir in the vanilla. Chill at least 3 hours.
Drain canned fruit. Put the fruit in dessert dishes, and spoon the soft custard over the fruit.