My Grandma’s Banana Pudding

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Happy Fiesta Friday #26, you guys! I am SO honored to be co-hosting this week’s party with the lovely Prudy@ButterBasilandBreadcrumbs. She’s one of my closest blogger buddies and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather co-host with. I hope most of you guys that are following me are joining in the fun with us- if you’re not, you’re just really missing out. Go ahead and click on the picture link at the bottom to find out how you can link up with us, we’d love to have you. As this is my first time hosting, I wanted to make my contribution to FF a special one and I really think I succeeded with today’s post.

When I shared the recipe for Banana Yogurt Popsicles, I said that it was based upon an original recipe for Southern Style Banana Pudding that my grandma makes for our family, albeit, a more ‘healthier’ version. I received a lot of requests from you guys asking for the real thing, and because I love when people ask me about food, I decided to go ahead and make some for a photoshoot to share on the blog.

I’ve already shares several of my grandmother’s recipes with you guys, but I never really went into any detail about the cook behind this oustanding food that I was blessed enough to grow up with and in turn, learn to make myself. Behind all food is a story and here is no exception. Yesterday I called up my grandma to ask if she’d mind if I shared a bit of her story, and fortunately she said  it was okay. I’d love to share some of the story with you guys, if that’s okay.

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This is my grandmother, Selma Leander Sanders. She’s my mom’s mom and probably one of the strongest, bravest people I’ve ever met. Her smile and laughter are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. She’s the first of 3 daughters born to Isaac and Lily Mae Haynes 79 years ago in  Carson, Mississippi. Isaac was unique among many African Americans in the Jim Crow South in that he not only owned his own land, but also employed black and white laborers to help work his farm that Selma and her sisters grew up on. I only met him once in my life and by that time he was in his nineties and ailing in health. But my Mom tells me that when he was younger, he was a real riot, always telling funny stories and playing practical jokes. He was a real family man, willing to do any and everything for his children. My great grandmother Lily was very quiet and reserved. She died before I was able to meet her, but my Mom said that she had an uncanny sixth sense about everything. If you were having a bad day, she’d call you and ask if everything was alright. My grandma definitely inherited that from her, she can take one look at me and know whether or not something’ wrong with me or not.

My grandmother attended Alcorn College, where she met my grandfather, Willie John Sanders. (Random fact: my grandfather attended Alcorn at the same time as Medgar Evers; he still has his yearbook and Medgar Ever’s picture is right there. How cool is that?) When they married they, like many Black people in the South at the time, migrated up north where there were more employment opportunities in the car assembly plants.

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After settling in Lansing, MI, my grandparents soon began having children of their own; three daughter to be exact. While my grandpa worked at the GM auto plant, my grandma worked at home as a homemaker and mother to their children. There, she consistently cooked and baked both simple and elaborate foods for her family, that they still rave about to this day.

My grandma’s cooking is the reason why  never had any problems with eating my vegetables growing up as a kid. My grandpa is 80 and she’s 79, and to this day they still keep a vegetable garden in their backyard that we all love to eat from. One of the only foods I could eat every single day for the rest of my life and never get tired of is a bowl of cabbage greens from the garden, with a hunk of her cornbread- literally one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life, hands down.

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My grandma knows how to make stuff that would make both inexperienced and experienced home cooks break out into a sweat. When I first began seriously cooking for myself, it was one of my greatest hopes that I would someday, somehow get proficient enough to be able to pull off her ‘signature dishes’; the foods that we as a family always attribute to Grandma and all look forward to eating whenever we see her. To date, my proudest moments in the kitchen have been when I’ve succeeded when trying out some of her recipes. She’s getting up there in age and there are times when she doesn’t feel as able to make some of the more complicated things that she used to when she was younger. I’m grateful that I’ve taken the initiative to learn how to do these things myself so that the tradition of her food can continue to be enjoyed by our family without exhausting herself. This Banana Pudding is one of her best ‘signature dishes’. I recently made it for the 4th of July and when I took it over to her house for dinner, I received her stamp of approval-which is how I know for sure that I did it right.

The custard is definitely the star of this banana pudding. It’s sweet, smooth and the ‘glue’ that makes the wafers and bananas mold together perfectly. Guys, this stuff is so good, you won’t even have words. You’ll just sit there, shaking your head back and forth as you keep spooning the pudding into your mouth. That’s what everyone at the table was doing when I last made this, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the same thing you’ll be doing too. Even people in my family who don’t really eat bananas love this pudding. I’m super psyched and proud to share this recipe, as well as the inspiration for my cooking at today’s Fiesta Friday- because it all really does start with my grandma.

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My Grandma’s Banana Pudding

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp banana extract
  • 5 large bananas, sliced
  • 22 oz. crushed vanilla wafers, (2 11 oz. boxes)

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, combine evaporated milk, cornstarch, brown sugar and salt over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Mixture will begin to thicken and form a thin foam across the top.

2. As mixture thickens, transition to mixing with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and set aside for about 2 minutes.

3. Add 1/2 cup of milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk together to temper. Pour egg yolk & milk mixture into the saucepan, then add the extracts.

4. Pour custard into a separate container and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until moderately cooled down.

5. To assemble: using a glass trifle dish, punch bowl, or other large container, layer the pudding in this order: 1) crushed vanilla wafers 2) sliced bananas 3)custard. (See notes for layering tips)

6. Once you have finished layering the pudding, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight until set. Serve with whipped cream.

*Use a spatula to spread the custard evenly

* Don’t worry about the bananas, wafers, or custard covering each other completely; they’ll mold together perfectly when setting up overnight.