Sweet Marrow Custard with Vanilla Bean

Layered With Summer Berries . . .

Cinnamon sprinkled peaches, or ripe figs in the fall, this faintly sweet custard makes it’s way to our breakfast table every season of the year. Wholesome fats and protein plus many vitamins and minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, B-Vitamins, Vitamin K and Vitamin A to name a few), make this a deeply nourishing dish for everyone, but it’s infusion of marrow makes in an especially important for children.

As noted by Dr. Price in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, traditional cultures such as the indigenous people of the Rocky Mountains often made special preparations of marrow for growing children. We’re still unraveling all the specific benefits of this revered food, but we have learned a few things. First, marrow contains phospholipids and methionine – two essential components for proper brain growth and overall function. Second, the monounsaturated fats contained in marrow are known to lower LDL cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health. Also, thanks to a hunch from Swedish oncologist Dr. Brohult, we have a little insight into it’s healing capabilities as well.

Drawing On The Scandinavian Tradition . . .

Of feeding children marrow soup to build strength in winter months, Dr. Brohult decided to try a little exercise with leukemia patients in her care:

In an effort to stimulate her patients’ bone marrow to resume normal function, Dr. Brohult administered calve’s marrow to the children in her care. She was operating on little more than a hunch. Parents in Scandinavia have long served bone marrow soup to their children in winter, in the belief that it builds strength. Dr. Brohult reasoned that healthy bone marrow from calves might trigger a resumption of healthy function in humans.

Her hope—and desperation—paid off. Although the results were inconsistent, some of her patients quickly experienced remarkable improvements, including a normalization of white blood cell counts and a striking return of energy. ¹

Dr. Buhult’s team traced eventually traced the benefits to alkylglycerols, or AKGs, contained within the marrow. Later studies on AKG’s showed that when they were given to cervical cancer patients, tumors regressed even before radiation treatment began! ²

A Perfect “First Food”

To make this recipe more affordable I have incorporated whole eggs rather than the yolks traditionally used. However, by replacing whole eggs with 6 pastured yolks and omitting the honey, this recipe becomes a perfect early food for baby. For more information on how and when to introduce solids check out this post, and for more recipe ideas check out my ebook, Nourished Baby.

This recipe was inspired by this one from the Weston A. Price Foundation, whom I am deeply indebted to for their incredible work in promoting traditional diets, and also this one at The Healthy Home Economist.

Sweet Marrow Custard with Vanilla Bean

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By Mommypotamus Published: July 10, 2012

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Ready In: 55 mins

This sweet custard is seasoned with vanilla and served with fresh fruit, but it's creaminess comes from marrow - a potent source of healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Ask for marrow bones at your local butcher shop or talk to your local rancher.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef marrow bones (or 1/4 cup marrow)
  • 3/4 cup milk (or coconut milk)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • butter, coconut oil or lard (for greasing the ramekins)
  • fresh fruit (to serve)

Instructions

  1. Bring marrow bones to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. While you’re waiting on the marrow preheat oven to 350°F and place four ramekins in large roasting pan.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, egg, milk/coconut milk, vanilla, honey and salt.
  3. When the marrow is ready, scoop the bones out with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to drain. After they’ve cooled a bit use a butter knife to extract the marrow. Place it in a small bowl. Set aside for a minute while you pour the egg mixture into the blender or get out an immersion blender.
  4. Spoon marrow – but not the oil that has collected at the bottom of the bowl – into the mixture and blend until smooth.
  5. Pour custard mixture into cups, dividing equally.
  6. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set in center, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Top with fruit, if desired.

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What people are saying

  1. Priscilla says

    Why not use the oil from the marrow? Will it just alter the recipe? Or it it unhealthy? Can I use it for something else? Thanks!

  2. Christina says

    What a lovely idea! I especially like the idea of making it into baby food, but I have just one reservation – my 10 month old is VERY hit or miss when it comes to food, which means I have a hard time justifying spending the time and effort for things like this. So two questions – how long does this keep for, and do you have any tips for mamas of skinny babies who prefer to play and play and eat things off the floor instead of learning how to eat real solid food? Thank you!

    • Cassandra says

      Babies don’t “learn” how to eat real solid food, as in they don’t need to set aside time to practice eating – it’s not like playing a violin. When they want food, they will eat it. Eating is actually pretty inherent, the only thing that really changes is gaining skill with utensils. That will come with normal fine motor skill development, not something that has to happen separate from the rest of development. If your baby doesn’t have interest, don’t bother. Baby should still be nursing (bottle or breast).

      • Christina says

        This has been my philosophy pretty much, I think it’s just the fact that she still gags on anything semi-solid (even pureed squash), and just doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of picking up food and putting it in her mouth (despite the fact that she likes to do that with all the other stuff she finds on the floor), and is small for her age that have made me feel a little desperate. She’s pretty much exclusively nursing at 10.5 months (and crawling and walking!), and she’s not even a big nurser. It also doesn’t help that her big sister loves both nursing and eating and is a chunk, so that’s what I’m used to. Thanks for the reassurance that these things will come with time :)

    • Dana says

      You could always eat it if he doesn’t, so it’s still worth the time. YOU ARE WORTH IT, MAMA! And if you’re nursing him, he’ll get the benefit of it anyway. :)

    • says

      Oh, I wish I had an answer for you Christina, but it’s never lasted long enough in our house to find out! On the subject of babies and solids, though, I do have one tip: Definitely let them eat things off the floor! In this post I wrote about starting solids there’s some good info on why it’s beneficial, and you may find the section on when my babies started showing an interest in food reassuring (it was way after 12 months!). Here’s the link: http://www.mommypotamus.com/when-should-my-baby-start-solids/

  3. sara says

    Do you just ask for marrow bones at the butcher? Are they sort of osso buco-style bones? How much marrow should you get once you scoop it out of the bones?

        • Paula says

          I understand your point, but I think it’s a health concern, not the pursuit of perfection. I would avoid marrow from conventionally ranched cows, same as I avoid their livers.

    • jb says

      The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of marrow.
      Also, using eggs from a local farmer would be better than store bought. And a good grade butter such as KerryGold or Organic Valley Pasture Butter if you can’t find raw butter. Coconut oil would give some good flavor.

  4. says

    Holy schmokes, this sounds good! I’m a sucker for any kind of custard and this sounds like it would be over the top good! Thank you, Heather! (My 7-month-old thanks you too… :-) )

  5. Kate says

    Also, can this be doubled and put all together in a big dish? Any idea how long it would take to bake? I know my family will really like this and I’d like to have it ready to serve at a couple of breakfasts during the week. Thank you again!

  6. says

    Intrigued!
    I’m hosting a gals-night tomorrow and many of us have been following the Real Food conference. Now, given that it’s 40 degrees in our town this week, I have 3 boys under 4, and have about a dozen mamas heading over for the evening, I’d love to make this tonight (while it’s a bit cooler) to serve tomorrow. Would it last? Would it have any ‘off’ flavors from sitting?
    Also, would my beef soup bones work (they all have marrow centers).
    Would love it if you’re able to reply before this evening! Thanks!! :)
    d

    • says

      Hi Dea! We always serve this fresh out of the oven as it is best warm, but I often make the mixture ahead of time and store in the fridge until I need it, so you could possibly try that! And yes, your beef soup bones will definitely work!

  7. says

    I had no idea you could make such a thing with marrow, this is worth a try. I wonder what else I could put marrow into, maybe a pate? I also love the flower decor you made with the berries, I will have to use that.

  8. Darbi says

    This sounds too interesting to not try. I have one question though. What is a marrow bone? I have beef bones in my freezer right now. The bag is a grass fed variety pack. Will these suffice?

  9. Ara says

    Hi,
    I’m trying to make this now, how do you separate the little bits of brown from the marrow?? I let my bones cool off too long I think. Scooped marrow no problem but don’t like the idea of little brown bits in my custard. Thanks for the awesome recipe as always!

  10. Cassandra says

    Hopefully someone is still checking comments on this and can answer. I don’t have ramekins or any kind of small oven safe cups. Can I use pint canning jars? Or bake it in one large pan set inside another, larger pan?

      • Cassandra says

        Took a risk and tried it in the jars. It was easily split into 2 wide mount pint jars. Also, when I made the marrow, I scooped everything – oil and all – into a jar and stuck in the fridge for a few days. Forgot about the oil part and just spooned 1/4 cup into the blender. Definitely agree with the comment you made earlier – even though I drained the oil that rose to the top, it was still too oily. Daugter is loving it regardless though! I’d like to try it with a warm spice mix, cinnamon, cloves and the such. Maybe chai?

  11. Cynthia says

    Wonderful! This is the first recipe including bone marrow that actually sounds yummy, i’ve had bowls of it sit in my fridge in the past before finally tossing it out of exasperation (with maybe a little guilt!). One question: for babies under 1, could I substitute maple syrup instead of the honey? Have you experimented with lacuma powder (a very delicious sweetener of Incan origins), that might be good and safe for the very little ones…

    • says

      Depending on your honey, maple syrup might add more liquid than the recipe needs – try molasses or palm sugar. I’ve never heard of lacuma powder, so I can’t comment there!

  12. Erin says

    This is a fabulous recipe! I’ll be cooking bones just for the marrow to make this custard. The recipe doubles nicely, so freezing boiled marrow in 1/2 cup portions is great!
    Thank you so much!

  13. Leah says

    The recipes says to add the yolks and eggs… but the ingredients just call for eggs. Are they supposed to be separated at some point?

  14. Jessica says

    This looks good and I am just about to roast some marrow bones for stock. Can I roast instead of boil the bones and then scoop out the marrow to make this custard?

    • Leah says

      In her book Nourished baby she calls for egg yolks, here she calls for 3 eggs I think that is where this confusion comes from

  15. says

    marrow for breakfast makes one feel a little righteous…”uber” healthy. this is a delicious idea. i was going to make a savory custard, but this sweet version caught my eye. i made it with quite a few changes and will be posting about it soon…with credits to you, of course. thanks for the recipe.

  16. Carrissa says

    Does it taste beefy? I’ve been vegetarian for longer than I haven’t so I can’t recall what marrow tastes like. I’d like to make this for my dad, he needs to build his strength up for surgery, but I know he’ll turn his nose up at it if it tastes marrow-y.

  17. Susie says

    This was SO.GOOD. I’ll be doubling it next time and probably making it weekly. This batch didn’t last 24 hours, and my 2.5 year old loved it!

  18. Nicole says

    Hi I was wondering if I could use venison or goat bone marrow? I am having a hard time finding grass fed beef in my area.

  19. sara r. says

    ooh I can’t wait to try this! I’ve been looking for marrow recipes for healing my son’s teeth, and they already LOVE custard, so this will be perfect :)

  20. Erin says

    Oh my goodness, was this delicious! I am obsessed with this recipe at the moment. I start to panic whenever I run out of marrow bones. :) I did change a few things – I used six egg yolks instead of three whole eggs, substituted 1/4 c whole sugar for the honey (it just wasn’t sweet enough for me with the 2T of honey, and I didn’t like how the honey tasted), and added a scraped vanilla bean. I’ve made six or seven batches now and I’ve also found that no matter how much of the oil I pour off the marrow before mixing it into the custard, the finished product still always has a layer of oil on top. So I started just pouring it off before the custard cools, and now my custard is absolutely delicious and not the slightest bit oily. After each batch I throw the marrow bones back into the water with a knuckle bone and make broth, and it’s been some of the best beef broth I’ve ever made. So glad I found this recipe!

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