Grape-Nut Pudding – A New England Marvel

As you can imagine, I have lots and lots of vintage cookbooks. I find reading them comforting, and I always dream of cooking all the recipes.  One recipe that shows up frequently in early to mid-20th century cookbooks is Grape-Nut Pudding.

Growing up, I liked Grape-Nut cereal. Then when we moved to New Hampshire, I discovered the amazing taste of Grape-Nut ice cream.  A New England tradition, I was hooked on the unusual taste and texture of the ice cream. I figured Grape-Nut pudding would be equally tasty. I’d been meaning to make the pudding and finally this weekend made this easy and very yummy recipe.

Grape-Nut cereal was introduced in 1897 by C. W. Post, a former patient and then competitor of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Grape-Nuts was first marketed as a health cereal, good for the brain and nervous system. The health claims were just a tad outlandish, to the point that Collier Magazine refused to accept ads from Post.

As time went on Grape-Nuts was part of a number of interesting ventures. Thanks to the cereal’s light and compact character, it’s nutritional value and resistance to spoilage, Grape-Nuts were not only the sponsor of the Admiral Byrd’s exploration of Antarctica in 1933, it was also used in 1953 on the first assent of Mount Everest. The cereal was also eaten in WWII as jungle rations. Pretty heady stuff for a cereal!

The other neat thing about Grape-Nuts is their groundbreaking marketing ideas. Post promoted the cereal with an ad campaign that positioned Grape-Nuts as “the most scientific cereal in the world”. Boxes of the cereal came with an 11 page pamphlet called “The Road To Wellville” written by Post. In-store tastings and sample give-aways also helped to entice consumers and Grape-Nuts became an almost instant hit. And Grape-Nuts was the first cereal to feature a coupon. This coupon gave housewives one cent off of their purchase which doesn’t seem like much, but I’m sure the cereal was pretty cheap back then.

One of the earliest references to Grape-Nut Pudding is in a 1901 church cookbook from Boston. By the 1920s the recipe was commonly found especially in community and church cookbooks. And of course Post used the recipe in magazine ads as seen here.

I had a huge choice of recipes to follow, but chose a recipe submitted by Grace Nye Smith in the 1949 Cook Book by the Evening Alliance of the Unitarian Church, Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Her recipe was a bit vague, so I did look on-line to learn a bit more about how to cook the pudding. I’ve added these tips to the recipe.

Grapenut Pudding (how they spelled it in the cookbook)

  • 1/1 c. grapenuts
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. molasses
  • 1 egg, separated
  • dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Scald the milk (which means heat it just to the boiling point)

Pour over the grapenuts and let this cool in a bowl

Separate the egg

Beat the egg yolk with the sugar, molasses and dash of salt

Beat the egg white until stiff

Pour the egg yolk mixture into the grapenut/milk mixture and stir (if the milk is still hot, make sure you temper the egg yolk by putting a few spoonfuls of hot milk into the egg and stirring. This keeps the egg from cooking when it hits the hot milk)

Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture

Pour it all into a buttered 2 quart pyrex dish

Put this dish into a pan and fill this half-way with hot water (and make sure you don’t accidentally pour the water into the pudding like I did.)

Bake for an hour

The resulting pudding is a creamy custard with a nice nutty crust at the bottom from the Grape-nuts. Served warm it is divine. I was going to whip some whipping cream, but quite frankly it didn’t need it.

 

 

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