We often think of fruits and vegetables having seasons, but other foods like eggs and milk have seasons too! Chickens (and other birds) naturally lay fewer eggs in the winter. Once the days start to lengthen, they start laying more eggs in preparation for hatching out a batch of chicks... and farmers sometimes end up with a surplus!
As for milk that's now available year-round in stores, it was traditionally more abundant in the spring since that's when the majority of cows / goats / sheep would have their young.
The flavours and qualities of ingredients like eggs and milk change through the seasons, depending on the stage of the bird / animal in their seasonal cycles, what they're eating, and the length of the days. In the spring, when there's an abundance of rich eggs and milk, custards are a great way to put them to use.
This custard is cooked in a saucepan, and is easy to prepare. Custards can also be baked in the oven (usually with whole eggs, and minus the starch in this recipe). Baked custards can be enjoyed at any time of the year, but we tend to make them in the fall as the weather is cooling and we're looking for more reasons to warm the kitchen via the oven.
2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk + 1 cup cream)
3 - 4 egg yolks (reserve the whites for another use)
1 - 2 Tbsp maple syrup or sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 Tbsp arrowroot starch (or other starch, such as cornstarch)
- Warm the milk over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan.
- Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from the whites, and whisk the yolks in a bowl with the maple syrup, sea salt and arrowroot starch.
- When the milk is gently steaming (don't let it boil!), slowly drizzle the milk (a Tablespoon at a time) into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. This is to warm up the yolks slowly, so that they don't overcook and curdle. Whisk at least 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the yolks.
- Then, slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the hot milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir the custard thoroughly every half minute. Within a couple / few minutes, the custard will begin to thicken. Keep stirring it, and keep a spoon handy to dip into it occasionally... once the custard coats a spoon, it's done!
- Remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool slightly before enjoying it. Warm custard can be served over fruit, biscuits, cakes, etc.
- If you'll be serving the custard cold, pour it into a bowl or jug to chill it. If left as-is, a thin skin will form over the top of the custard. This is very edible, and some people enjoy it. If you don't want a skin to form, set a plate directly on the surface of the custard, or cover it with a piece of plastic wrap that's smoothed directly over the custard.