On my trip back home to Louisiana this Christmas I found out Momma’s grandmother taught her more in the kitchen than how to make pralines. Grandma Bush’s egg nog is a boiled custard that can be served warm or cold, with or without the traditional bourbon or rum. It’s lighter and fresher than store-bought egg nog and unlike pralines, it’s not tricky to make.
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkle of ground or grated nutmeg
Bourbon or rum to taste (optional)
Separate the eggs and beat the yolks in a large measuring cup or bowl. Heat milk in a double boiler over medium-high heat until simmering. Blend 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup sugar and sprinkle slowly into the milk. Add hot milk into the beaten egg yolks gradually, stirring as you go. Return the egg and milk mixture back to the double boiler.
Simmer stirring regularly until thickened. When it coats a spoon so that your finger can drag a channel it’s ready. Add a teaspoon of vanilla, bourbon or rum for flavor and remove from heat. Serve in tea cups with a dash of nutmeg. Bourbon or rum may be stirred in to make an alcoholic egg nog. You can also beat the egg whites to soft peaks and spoon on top (not shown).
Praline candy is a favorite in the deep South, but no one makes them like my mother, who learned from her grandmother in rural South Louisiana. The ingredients are simple: sugar, pecans, butter, milk, vanilla, but the trick is the timing. That’s where I needed Momma.
Here’s Momma’s family recipe, divided in half to fit my 9 inch iron skillet. The smaller recipe also cooks in half the time and is easier to spoon out before the candy starts to harden in the pan. You can see Momma in action in the video at the end.
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup granulated sugar (white, brown or raw)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 oz butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
In a heavy 9 inch skillet, heat 1 cup pecans, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to medium high heat. Stir until syrup reaches a soft ball stage or “leaves the pot” as my mom says, about 5 minutes after it starts to boil.
Remove from heat, add 1 oz butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Stir until the mixture cools and “sets up” or stiffens somewhat, about 1 minute. The spoon will feel heavier as you stir.
Spoon onto wax paper layered over newspaper and let the pralines cool until hard, about 10 minutes. If they don’t harden, then you didn’t cook it long enough. Scoop back into the pan, cook it a couple of minutes more and then try spooning it out again. If it’s crumbly, then you cooked it too long. Consider using it as an ice cream topping.
If you have trouble with the timing, then you’re not alone. It took me three tries to get it right the first time and I still sometimes mess it up sometimes. Note that you don’t need to clean the pan between batches. The leftover praline crumbs will melt into the next batch.
Watch our video to learn the finer points, including what “leaving the pan” looks like.