October 15, 2013

Gramma's Sweet Rice

Growing up, I would spend long winter-break days at my Gramma's house.  And like any days spent with a Grandparent, I can only assume, the treats and goodies were the very best part of the stay. Gramma would cook up warm fixin's like chicken and dumplings from scratch or hot spaghetti topped with fresh cheddar cheese.  Sometimes it was just a simple salami sandwich on white bread with a steaming bowl of soup.  I can still remember the lazy-susan on her dining room table where she would place that day's lunch and we could spin it around and help ourselves.

One thing was sure to be found on that table during the coldest of days though.  The treat of treats.

Sweet rice.  

From what I know, it's a lot like rice pudding.  But I like to think it's an exclusive recipe that my Great-Gramma invented and no one else knows about it's secret custard-like goodness.  I have to be the only one in the universe with such knowledge and culinary secrets to such a thing as sweet rice.

And I'm not sure why I didn't think of this ten years ago, but I decided it was about time I learned how to make this amazing dish.  And as a treat for my humble handful of readers, it's about to not be a secret, because I'm going to share how to make it.

First - you need an amazing lady with you.  Sweet rice is meant to be shared.

Hence - my jolly Gramma.  Oh, do I love her.
Ingredients to have on hand:

1 Cup rice
2 Cups of water
1 Cup of sugar
1 Stick of butter
1 1/2 to 2 cups of milk
Cinnamon and sugar to top

"Now, don't be in a hurry when you make this.  It's slow and it takes some time." Gramma says.

I suppose the sweetest things do take time.  And I can always use the reminder to not be in a hurry.
The rice and water need to cook on medium heat.  Once the rice has absorbed about half of the water you add the butter and then the milk.

I asked Gramma if she had ever used cream or half and half instead of milk.  Her eyes got wide and mischievous and she says, "Oh no.  Don't use cream.  That's just going overboard - use milk."

She pauses.

"Unless you're really wanting something rich - then of course, use cream!" She laughs.

So apparently, cream or half and half can be substituted for plain ol' milk.  But only for a special occasion or if you're feeling especially mischievous.
The milk and butter will start cooking up in the pot.  "Cockeye the lid," she says.  "So you can keep on eye on what it's doing." 

Once it starts boiling up (again, still on medium heat), you'll want to turn the heat to low, and cover the pot with the whole lid on this time.  I don't remember for how long as it felt like an eternity waiting for this stuff to be ready for consumption.

Once the rice is tender and you have a creamy, soupy looking consistency in your pot, it's ready to pour into a bowl.  She recommends pouring into a glass bowl that comes with a lid - like Corningware.  Top with a generous coating of sugar, then cinnamon and cover with the lid.  It needs to sit for a good 20 - 30 minutes for the flavor to lock in and the custard to set some. (Note:  less milk makes a for a thicker, more custard like consistency.  More milk makes for a soupier consistency, which is my personal preference as I used two full cups of milk for my recipe).
Gramma recommends serving it in a coffee mug.  As long as I can remember, we've eaten sweet rice out of coffee mugs and I finally asked her why.

"Well, it's got a handle on it so you can take it with you wherever you need to go." 

Makes perfect sense.  Because one might need to travel with a mug of sweet rice. 

"You don't need a fancy bowl," she says.  I mean, of course. Who needs fancy bowls anyway?

Seriously.  It tastes better in a mug though.  Especially on a cold, blistery winter's day.  Trust me.
Friday afternoon, as I stood over a bubbling pot in my kitchen, Gramma sat close by guiding my moves and giving me her careful instructions and family secrets to her legendary sweet rice.  It was one of those times where you know you're making memories - the kind you will look back on in ten or twenty years and remember what a good day that was.  How precious that your very own Grandmother was stirring with your wooden spoon and giving you tips about how you should "never wash your rice."  Those are the times I don't want to forget.  It's why I took pictures of every moment.  It's why I wrote down what she said.  Why I soaked in her presence, her laughter, and noticed her gentleness and ease in the kitchen. 

What a blessed woman I am to have her.  For her legacy and traditions and memories to live on through me and my family. Maybe someday it will be me in the kitchen with my granddaughter teaching them how to make sweet rice. 

I'll be the one telling her to cockeye the lid.  And maybe we'll even use cream.

Gramma's Sweet Rice

1 cup rice
2 cups water
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
Cinnoman and sugar topping

Cook rice and water on medium heat until rice has absorbed about half of the water.  Add milk and sugar and let cook up, partially covered.  Once bubbling, turn to low heat, cover completely with lid.  Once rice is completely tender, pour into bowl.  Rice may be soupy.  Coat rice with cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Cover with lid and let stand for about 20 minutes.

Serve in a mug and eat with you Grandmother.  That's when it tastes the very best.


  1. This recipe is awesome! Thanks, we definitely want to try it out!

    Greets from NYC!
    Davie and Erica

  2. What a great day of memories! And I'm pinning this recipe. I will try to wait until a not so tropical day to make it, but no promises.