They say that tastes and smells are evocative of early memories. That was certainly the case when I was inspired to make a recipe from my childhood.
Snowy, Mid-Missouri winters in the 1970s often stretched from December through March or April. In our “neighborhood”, which consisted of 5 farms spread over nearly 500 acres, families came together and devoted entire days to sledding down the steep hill which connected our homesteads. Such occasions would culminate at a neighbor’s kitchen table with steaming hot chocolate shared in high spirits. Other neighborly happenings were more somber and occurred when someone slid off the ice-rink-like roads into a ditch and needed to be rescued with a tractor or when pipes froze and whoever still had running water would share their good fortune.
I didn’t know then that snow could be an ingredient. At 5 years old, I rarely concerned myself with cooking at all unless Mom engaged me in kitchen tasks, asking that I mix a bowl or stir a simmering pot while she fed our wood-cook stove. One snow-day, home from school as I hovered around her, she showed me how to knead Irish Soda bread and braid Challa strands into their traditional loaf shapes prior to baking. Other times when she enlisted my help, we made egg noodles from scratch to complete her signature chicken soup. With her kind gestures and loving ways, my mother taught me some of the most vital ingredients for the recipe of a contented life—humor, gratitude, and patience.
One wintry day, as fresh snow accumulated on already-fallen mounds and drifts and I made a snowman in the yard, Mom got a gleam in her eye and said that we were going to make something special. Then she did an odd thing, getting two bowls and directing me outside to do as she did, scooping fresh snow into her bowl. “No yellow snow”, she chuckled, as our dog poked around nearby! I happily followed instruction, filling my bowl and trotting back inside behind Mom. I remember the house was warm from wood-heat and smelled of sweet vanilla. Once in the kitchen, Mom showed me the custard that she had lovingly concocted made with sugar, eggs from our hens and milk from our neighbor’s cow. In turn, I proudly held up my bowl of snow. She nodded approvingly and told me to set it outside by the front door, nestled in the snow next to hers. Now was the time for patience, as we waited for the mixture to cool. All the while I salivated in anticipation. To pass the time and expedite the process, she brought the custard pot outside and nested it in the snow. We both delighted in making snow angels to pass the time. Finally, Mom did a surprising thing; she fetched the bowls of snow, returned to the kitchen and invited me to help mix the two ingredients together. I squealed with pleasure, thrilled by the novelty, eager for the treat. And in that first bite of snow custard, I could taste the mellow flavors of country living and the secret ingredient of love.
Mom’s Snow Custard Recipe
- 3 cups Milk
- 2 fresh eggs
- 2/3 cups of sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- 6 cups Fresh Snow
1. Combine milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium sauce pan. Whisk eggs together and then add to the aforementioned mixture over medium heat.
3. Beat mixture while cooking over medium heat. Heat until mixture starts to rise. DO NOT let boil.
4. Scoop fresh snow into a mixing bowl.
5. Once liquid mixture is ENTIRELY cooled (you can leave covered in snow to cool), pour mixture over snow and mix thoroughly.
6. Serve immediately and Enjoy this rare treat!
Photo credit: Copyright Sarah Joplin