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When I was a little girl, I was completely enamored of my grandmother, Mamo, as we called her. I would snuggle up to her as she told me the story of how my grandfather trapped the mouse in the cupboard, we would sit on the floor as she taught me to play gin rummy and I would hop from foot to foot in anticipation as she pulled a freshly made egg custard pie out of the fridge for me.  Now, don’t get me wrong. My grandmother was not an awesome cook. I didn’t grow up learning the secrets of homemade pasta or fried chicken at her side. Nope, my grandmother was the kind who went to Arby’s during the $1 roast beef sandwich sale, bought about 30 sandwiches and then put them all in the freezer at home so that she could thaw and eat them at will.

She was born on New Year’s Eve in 1924. The way she told it, her mother was trying to hold on until January 1 to give birth because the first baby born in the new year received all kinds of diapers and other gifts from the hospital, but Mamo was stubborn and was born shortly before midnight. She grew up in Memphis, TN with her two younger brothers and, from what I’ve heard, no one messed with her little brothers at school. She met my grandfather, an air force pilot, at a swimming pool one hot summer day. He bought her and my great uncle Henry an ice cream cone and, shortly thereafter, Mamo followed him out to California where they were married on his Air Force Base.  She loved my grandfather and, after he passed, kept a novelty napkin he had edited for her pinned up on the cupboard: “Some days I wake up grumpy. Other days I let him her sleep.”

She was fierce, tough, smart, creative, judgmental and set in her ways. She read me storybooks, called me “sugar,” snored like a freight train, utterly disapproved of my overalls, kept my brother’s phone number in her bible, chastised him for eating barbeque for breakfast and lit up whenever he entered the room. She loved Christmas, werther’s original, puzzles, dishes with birds on them, bridge and her family.

She passed away on Sunday.

She’d had a stroke the day before and I was on the road halfway between Atlanta and Memphis when I got the call. Within the hour, my brother, the keeper of Mamo’s recipe box, and I agreed that we would be making an egg custard pie this week. So last night we deciphered my grandmother’s writing and made her pie together. I’m sure that the rest of the week will be spent getting ready for services, cleaning out her room and being generally somber. But for me, the night I spent with my brother making an egg custard pie was the real memorial; the time when we shared a cherished memory and created something we both loved about our grandmother. So without further ado, here is Mamo’s Egg Custard Pie.

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Ingredients:

1 9″ Pie Crust*
2 2/3 C Whole Milk, scalding hot
3 Eggs, large
2 Egg Yolks, large
2/3 C Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, ground
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

eggcustardpie-22*A few notes about pie crust: my grandmother used store bought frozen pie crust. I can’t really bring myself to do that, so I made my own pie crust. If you are using a homemade crust, par bake it at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes before adding the filling. If you want, towards the end of the par baking time, brush the crust with an egg wash to help seal off the crust and prevent it from becoming soggy. I also ended up wrapping some aluminum foil around the pie edges when baking with the custard to prevent the nice crusty ends from burning.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Pour the milk into a small pot and “scald the milk.” In translation: heat the milk over med-low heat until the milk just begins to let off steam.   You want everything else to be ready when the milk hits the right temperature, so a low temperature (a) prevents burning and (b) gives you time to prepare everything else.

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Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until mixed and then beat in the sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the egg mixture until the eggs are a pale, fluffy yellow.

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When the milk begins to let off steam, begin to whisk it in to the egg mixture VERY SLOWLY. If you dump the milk in all at once or in large increments, the eggs will cook and basically become sweet, lumpy, scrambled eggs. Not good. When all the milk has been whisked in, the mixture should be thin and a little foamy. Whisk in the vanilla.

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Pour the milky egg mixture into the pie crust and place the pie in the oven. I would recommend using a pie shield or wrapping foil over the edges of the pie crust to prevent burning. You can always remove the shields towards the end of baking to get some color on that crust.  Bake the pie at 450º F for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350ºF. Start checking after about ten minutes at 350. Jiggle the pie ever so slightly. When the pie is cooked, it will still wiggle, but it will be more of a jello jiggler wiggle than a watery ripple. Also, a knife inserted into the custard will make a clean cut and come out clean.

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When the pie has finished cooking, remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool. We let the pie cool for at least an hour and then covered it and put it in the fridge overnight to let it truly set up. You may find that some liquid condenses on the top of the custard after cooling in the refrigerator. It won’t hurt the custard, but gently soaking it up with a paper towel is probably a good idea so it doesn’t get into the crust and make it soggy.

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When the pie is nice and chilled, slice and serve up to hungry people. It will be appreciated, trust me.

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Mamo's Egg Custard Pie
 
Recipe By:
Ingredients
  • 1 9" Pie Crust*
  • 2⅔ C Whole Milk, scalding hot
  • 3 Eggs, large
  • 2 Egg Yolks, large
  • ⅔ C Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg, ground
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • *A few notes about pie crust: my grandmother used store bought frozen pie crust. I can't really bring myself to do that, so I made my own pie crust. If you are using a homemade crust, par bake it at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes before adding the filling. If you want, towards the end of the par baking time, brush the crust with an egg wash to help seal off the crust and prevent it from becoming soggy. I also ended up wrapping some aluminum foil around the pie edges when baking with the custard to prevent the nice crusty ends from burning.
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Pour the milk into a small pot and "scald the milk." In translation: heat the milk over med-low heat until the milk just begins to let off steam. You want everything else to be ready when the milk hits the right temperature, so a low temperature (a) prevents burning and (b) gives you time to prepare everything else.
  2. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until mixed and then beat in the sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the egg mixture until the eggs are a pale, fluffy yellow.
  3. When the milk begins to let off steam, begin to whisk it in to the egg mixture VERY SLOWLY. If you dump the milk in all at once or in large increments, the eggs will cook and basically become sweet, lumpy, scrambled eggs. Not good. When all the milk has been whisked in, the mixture should be thin and a little foamy. Whisk in the vanilla.
  4. Pour the milky egg mixture into the pie crust and place the pie in the oven. I would recommend using a pie shield or wrapping foil over the edges of the pie crust to prevent burning. You can always remove the shields towards the end of baking to get some color on that crust. Bake the pie at 450º F for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350ºF. Start checking after about ten minutes at 350. Jiggle the pie ever so slightly. When the pie is cooked, it will still wiggle, but it will be more of a jello jiggler wiggle than a watery ripple. Also, a knife inserted into the custard will make a clean cut and come out clean.
  5. When the pie has finished cooking, remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool. We let the pie cool for at least an hour and then covered it and put it in the fridge overnight to let it truly set up. You may find that some liquid condenses on the top of the custard after cooling in the refrigerator. It won't hurt the custard, but gently soaking it up with a paper towel is probably a good idea so it doesn't get into the crust and make it soggy.
  6. When the pie is nice and chilled, slice and serve up to hungry people.
 

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