We came from German stock, from Britain and France. My family has been in America for a long, long time but still my mother held onto the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage of her mother's family. My mother, with her easy-to-tan skin and her copper-lined face, declared her family history, passed down, passed down, passed down from people I have never met. Her mother, who died in 1981, lives on in the stories I can coax out of my own mother every now and then.
When the timing is right.
When there's nothing to talk about on the phone.
When we find old photographs wedged in a Bible.
We didn't grow up comfortable, but we grew up satisfied in what we could do. My mother, a coupon collector and tectonic force in our house, was able to work the night shift and still have time to make dinner. My mother, who made boxed soup and stayed home with us when we were sick. My mother, who I associate with the smell of fresh sheets and open windows and the burning embers of a dying candle.
My mother, who has invited us down to their house in North Carolina every time I talk to her this week.
And while I am not able to go, not able to see her as much as I'd like, there are pieces of her I still hold close. Like pouring milk and sugar over leftover rice. A recipe my mother says is from her ancestors, but I do not know this for sure. A mix of economical forces and the vestigial remains of immigrants' milchreis is probably more like it. But it has always been a favorite of mine, and for which I turned into a proper pudding below.
Almond and Cherry Brown Rice Pudding
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3-5 sage leaves
- 1 1/2 cup brown rice, cooked by factory directions
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 TB butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- First, infuse your milk mixture by combining cream, milk, brown sugar, and sage leaves in a small sauce pan
- Heat on medium-high until bubbles form on the rim of the milk
- Cover, remove from heat, and allow to steep while you prepare your rice
- Prepare your rice according to instructions on your bag
- When rice is done, remove sage leaves from small sauce pan and transfer milk mixture over your rice
- Simmer on a low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes covered, then 10 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally)
- In a small bowl, vigorously stir a bit of your rice mixture into your yolks, tempering them
- Add the yolks and butter, simmer for about 5-10 minutes. It should be very thick by now
- Add remaining ingredients, take off heat, and enjoy! It can store for up to 5 days in the fridge