Posted by: njbrown | February 21, 2011

Indian Pudding


Indian Pudding

After an all too brief February thaw, the snow has returned, and with it the desire for more comfort food.  I don’t remember when I first had Indian pudding, but it must have been sometime after 1961 when I entered Mt. Holyoke.  Four years there, and three summers spent on campus for social work school at Smith exposed me to a number of wonderful New England things that I’d never encountered  in my family’s postings up and down both coasts and in Hawaii.  The story in my father’s family was that his ancestors had come on the Mayflower, so I felt a kinship with New Englanders long before I lived there.  In a visit to Plimouth Plantation (as it is now known) in the 80s, I was appalled at what those first settlers endured.  If I had been among them, I’m sure my father’s line would have ended far sooner.

I think Indian pudding is an acquired taste, and apparently now even around Boston, it is hard to find, but for me, Indian Pudding and clam chowder represent New England in a way other dishes don’t.  Julia gave a recipe for this in Julia Child & Company that she had found in an 1829 cookbook by Lydia Maria Child (no relation to Julia).  Julia describes Lydia as, “an early feminist of stern and rockbound character, who never, I suspect, threw away a scrap of paper or string and whose mission was to teach us all how to live sparely.”  I’m sure the recipe was old in 1829.  A quick scan of the recipe revealed that it takes about six hours to make.  I then did a Google search and found one that could be done in an hour and seemed to be true to the spirit of Indian Pudding.  I think Julia would forgive me.

My first clear memory of eating Indian pudding was when George and I had been married a short time and I accompanied him on a sales trip across New England.  We stopped for lunch at a historic inn outside of Boston, and I ordered Indian Pudding for dessert.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups whole milk
  2. 1 cup heavy cream
  3. 1/2 cup molasses
  4. 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  5. 1/3 cup cornmeal
  6. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  7. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 pint vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°. In a medium heavy
    stainless-steel saucepan, bring the milk, cream, molasses, and brown sugar
    almost to a simmer over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal,
    ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the milk mixture, whisking. Bring just to a
    simmer, whisking. Pour into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. The batter will be thin
    and shallow.
  3. Bake the pudding in the middle of the oven for 20
    minutes. Remove from the oven and stir well. Return the pudding to the oven and
    continue cooking for 20 minutes. The pudding will still be quite wobbly but
    will set as it cools. Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes and serve warm. Or cool
    completely and reheat the pudding in a 350° oven for about 5 minutes just before
    serving. Serve the pudding topped with the ice cream.

Having now made and eaten the Indian pudding, I once again bow to Julia’s superior wisdom.  In her recipe, she added one tart apple, peeled, cored and coarsely grated (scant 1 cup).  I think the tartness of the apple would add complexity of flavor, and the hint of tartness would be lovely.

After writing the above, I did some research on when molasses began being used in New England cooking, and found it was the early 18th century.   Clearly, the first Pilgrims didn’t use molasses if they made Indian pudding.

Nancy

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