Ashley at Ice Milk Aprons encouraged me to submit a recipe to her Heirloom Recipe series. I’m so grateful she got me writing right now; it’s a super busy season but recounting stories from my youth makes me remember what the holidays are all about: family. I adore Ashley, and her gorgeous aprons. You can see her post here.
Hispanic and Italian American by birth, I was surrounded by so much amazing food growing up. We had sweet plantains and homemade refried beans every Sunday, and there was always a big pot of orange-tinted rice on the stove, loaded with so much chopped cilantro. Sure, we sprinkled Parmesan cheese on our plantains and served our beans with finger-thick slices of whole milk mozzarella, always finding a way to intertwine the foods of my Mom’s Honduras with my Dad’s Naples-infused Newark-New Jersey-upbringing.
The holidays were really no different from the every day, except that our dishes were just much bigger, brighter and even more exotic. We had tamales often, as they were one of those impressive Latin dishes that required extra time to prepare, something my hardworking family really only had around the holidays. And on many Christmas Eves, my Dad would make a rich, tangy “gravy,” filled with pork neck bones and so many cans of Italian tomatoes. I was in charge of opening each can, a task I took on gleefully, loving to watch my Dad on his rare appearances in the kitchen and knowing the sweet reward was a bit of the chef’s treat, a bite or two of that meltingly rich pork.
It wasn’t strange to incorporate other cultures into our festivities. Rarely would a family celebration conclude without a thick glass of store-bought Baileys, a warming Irish treat that my non-Irish family adopted as their own. My family closely identified with the Irish, always pointing out their centuries of suffrage. My Honduran uncle always said he never met an Irish man who didn’t intimately understand his own plight as a poor, hard-working immigrant who just wanted a good life for his family. Indeed, he never met an Irish man he didn’t instantly adore. (He also slyly requests his “Irish medicine” when he wants a tiny glass of whiskey or Baileys, whatever is on hand.)
Twenty years later, I met my Irish man. Born in Boston but raised to feel solidly attached to all his cousins, aunts and uncles in the old country, my husband completely understood me but didn’t quite understand my family’s infatuation with Baileys. From his visits to Ireland, he recalled how the coffee and whiskey infused cream was just something the old ladies drank instead of straight whiskey. It was rarely drunk in his family. In fact, he didn’t really remember tasting it until my Mom offered him a glass of the stuff with a few ice cubes. Now, he can’t get enough.
When my sister’s colleague shared her recipe for homemade Baileys a few years ago, I laid my claim to the ingredient list and poured, measured and mixed everything until I found my favorite version. I also replaced many of the ingredients with the organic versions (although that’s not necessary) and homemade extracts (and that’s really not necessary but, I think, kind of special). I now make this each holiday season and bottle it in tiny medicine bottles. I love sending my holiday visitors home with one of my family’s favorite medicines to sip and savor once they’re home, out of the wintry cold. While this specific recipe hasn’t been in my family for generations, the spirit of it has and I’m so pleased to share it with you again, with some slight revisions from the first posting a year ago.
- 4 fresh hen eggs
- 0.5 teaspoon of homemade almond extract
- 1.5 teaspoons of homemade vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons of organic chocolate syrup
- 2 teaspoons of organic instant coffee granules
- 1 can of organic sweetened condensed milk
- 1.25 cups of good Irish whiskey
- 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
Blend all ingredients in a blender or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Or put everything in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake it all until combined. Store in the back of your refrigerator, where it’s the coldest. Shake again just before serving, and serve over a cube of ice. This recipe makes a quart that keeps for 4-6 weeks.
Ingredient notes: (1) I always use farm fresh eggs when I’m making something that isn’t cooked in some way. (2) Whiskey is a very personal decision so use whatever you like. I tend to use the good stuff like Basil Haden (my favorite) or Bushmills (my husband’s favorite). (3) Whiz this mixture up with some vanilla gelato or ice cream and ice in a blender and you will discover just how delicious a Baileys milkshake can be.