There is a connection between cousins. Your parents are siblings, which is as close as you can get. So cousins are siblings too, once removed. More about that in a moment.
Today is National Utah Day. What does Utah have to do with cousins? Nothing really. This is just an acknowledgement of Utah Day. We’ve celebrated Utah in the past, and might again in the future, but not today.
Today is the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. They were cousins. Elizabeth was six-months with child when Mary learned from the Angel, Gabriel, of the miracle granted to her cousin. Elizabeth was well beyond her child bearing years. She had never conceived and was thought to be barren. Mary, now with child as well, rushed to her cousin’s side upon learning of the great news.
Mary was chosen by God to bring salvation into this world. In preparation, she was the immaculate conception, conceived free of original sin. Mary is the only person conceived in grace. But she was not the only person born free of sin. Elizabeth was chosen to bring the forerunner, John the Baptist, into the world ahead of Jesus. While John was conceived with original sin, upon Mary’s arrival, his sin was wiped away while he was in his mother’s womb. John is the only other person born without sin. While Christ experienced life in the flesh, He was not of the flesh.
When the Holy Spirit came upon John, he leapt with joy. While Elizabeth knew of Mary’s presence, it was John who was aware of the Lord’s grace within her. When he leaped, he filled his own mother with that same grace from above.
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.” This is how Gabriel greeted Mary with the good news.
“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” This is how Elizabeth welcomed Mary into her home. These are the words we recite as we pray the Rosary.
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
Holy Mary Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
We are remined of these two women of God, two cousins, who supported one another like sisters. We are reminded of the blessings received when we too submit to God. God never promised that life would be easy. But He did promise great blessings. Sometimes blessings are wrapped in hardships and sufferings. Fear not, for He will be with us always.
When I think of cousins, I think of my own cousins, Liz and Mary. We were stepping stones as children, and I was sandwiched between them Liz was the eldest, the me and then Mary. We were as close as sisters. Still are. For me, it’s easy to understand the bond between Mary and Elizabeth. Family bonds are strong.
Like most of my fondest childhood memories; food is involved. And many of those memories revolve around my mother’s signature dessert, Leche Flan. It’s a recipe I’ve share several times before, but never with step-by-step photographs. For the record, this is one recipe I have never altered. It is my mother’s, cooked in the same pan. This amazing egg-shaped custard seems perfect for the Feast of Mary’s Visitation. Enjoy!
Note: You will need a flan pan OR large Tin from a canned ham. The thin walls of the ham tin are ideal for making flans. I have had mine for over 40 years. My family knows not to mess with or toss out that old ham tin!
Maria Luisa’s Leche Flan
1 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Water
Melt 1 cup of sugar with water over medium-high heat while stirring constantly to prevent sugar from burning. Continue to cook until all the sugar has melted and is a nice golden-amber color. Pour caramel sauce into the bottom of a large baking tin. Allow sugar to cool and begin to harden.
20 Egg Yolks
1 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 large cans Evaporated Milk
1 cup Half and Half
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large casserole pan about a quarter of the way with water to create a bath. Set aside.
Separate egg whites from yolks. Reserve 4 whites for the meringue, the remaining 16 whites for another purpose such as egg-white Omelettes. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with vanilla and sugar, set aside.
In a large, heavy-bottom sauce pan over medium heat, scald evaporated milk and half and half. Immediately remove sauce pan from heat, reducing burner to low. Ladle about a cup of hot milk into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs. Pour egg mixture into the sauce pan with the milk off heat. Mix slowly while stirring constantly. Once mixed; return to heat for about 90 seconds.
For the ultimate smoothness of the flan, CAREFULLY ladle the custard mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into caramel-glazed baking pan. Cover with foil . Place pan in the bath and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes or until firmly set and done in the middle.
Remove from oven. Carefully life Flan Pan from the bath. Place on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge to loosen custard from the pan. Let custard cool in the pan for 1 hour. Invert onto oven-proof serving dish. Pour any remaining caramel from pan onto custard. Set aside to make the meringue.
4 Egg Whites
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
Beat together ingredients for meringue topping with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Top flan with meringue.
Heat broiler element in the oven. Place flan under the broiler and and lightly brown before serving. May be served at room temperature or cold.
Any uneaten flan will keep the the refrigerator for about 3 days.