My small community in Mississippi would host an event every summer. We called it the ‘Grave Yard Workings.’
In the last 100 years or so a day was set aside to come together to attend to the family plots. Everyone would bring several dishes and there would be dinner on the grounds under a shady open pavilion. Folks would visit, tell stories, and catch up on the community happenings. It was always the Thursday before the fourth Sunday in July.
I was newly married when I attended the last one ever scheduled in summer. Someone got the bright idea that the heat was too much, Thursdays were work days, and to have it the first Saturday in October would definitely be cooler weather.
It was that last Thursday before the 4th Sunday in July that my sister Marcia learned a valuable lesson. My family was all sitting fairly close together eating. Marcia had sampled some dessert and felt compelled to lean forward and say quietly, “Did y’all have any of that banana pudding? It was terrible!”
There was a short pause before my sister-in-law Jane said drily, “I MADE that pudding!”
A long awkward pause followed. Marsha apologized, and laughed at herself. The rest of us laughed at her discomfort. (That’s the way my family rolls.)
This story comes up occasionally when my family starts reminiscing. For the record Jane is a wonderful cook and HAS forgiven this faux pas. She has invited Marcia and her husband over for barbeque and banana pudding, and laughs when she does it.
According to Marcia, the custard was a little runny (she had just made it that morning & it hadn’t cooled yet), and the bananas a little green. Therein lay the problem with many banana desserts. A little green and they are tasteless, a couple of days later, they are overripe. Timing the ripeness is tricky, too.
I recently bought some very green bananas and it took 2 full weeks for them to be edible. I’m sharing today my recipe for Banana Pudding…and if you don’t like it, I hope I don’t hear it said out loud.
3 c. milk (not skim)
1/4 c. cornstarch
3/4 c. sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
4 T. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. heavy cream, whipped (optional)
1 T. all purpose flour
Separate eggs and save (or freeze) the whites for another use.
In a medium sized saucepan, stir together 2-1/2 cups of the milk, sugar, & salt. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup milk.
Whisk some of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture until smooth. This will temper the eggs so they will not “scramble” when you add them to the rest of the hot mixture.
Whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk and return to the stove. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in the butter and vanilla.
Place plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until cool. Fold in the whipped cream into the cooled mixture. Use this cream to fill eclairs, cream puffs, or
as the ‘pudding’ layer for banana pudding, or to fill tart shells.
For banana pudding, place a layer of vanilla wafers in a dish. Add a layer of pudding. Placed sliced bananas on top of the pudding layer. Place a layer of pudding on top of the bananas. Repeat layers ending with pudding. Cover with plastic wrap.
Serve with whipped cream on top.
Note: This recipe can be used so many ways. One of my favorites is to pipe a small amount into a tart shell, press in one slice of a perfectly ripe banana and cover it with the cream. The banana flavor will infuse into the cream. Garnish with a smidgen of whipped cream and a banana “chip” for presentation.