Indian Pudding – Finally

Who would have thought Indian Pudding was so tricky? This quintessential old-time New England dessert was one I’d made sometime in my culinary past, but for some reason when I made it last week it was a disaster. It just never firmed up, but instead remaining a soupy mess.

How they cooked Indian Pudding in the 18th c. in a dutch oven with hot coals (though it could have been also baked in a beehive oven). Yes, this is me.

So what’s the big deal anyway about Indian Pudding? For those not from New England, you’ve probably never had it. It has a long history in New England foodways going back to the mid-18th century when molasses began to be imported from the West Indies. Our English ancestors who arrived to the New World brought with them their love of boiled puddings. In fact, puddings are British in origin.  But our English ancestors were faced with the fact that wheat – the common ingredient for their puddings – was not able to grow well in the harsh climate of New England. So corn meal – or Indian Corn as it was called by the early settlers – began to be substituted. Then add molasses for sweetening and voila you have Indian Pudding!

My cook books are filled with recipes for Indian Pudding, which was as popular a Thanksgiving dessert as pumpkin pie in it’s day. Last week, rather than just choose one recipe, I tried combining several. Perhaps that was my downfall. So today I pulled out a cook book I’ve never used, New Delineator Recipes, dated 1930. A history of the Delneator cook books, published by Butterick Publishing Company can be found here.      

The recipe is rather unusual for Indian Pudding recipes in that it does not contain molasses.  But the end result was still very tasty. Here’s the recipe:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/3 c. corn meal
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  •  1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1 egg

I love using my vintage double boiler!

Place the milk in a double boiler and when it is scalding hot add the corn meal  which has been moistened with cold water (note – scalding means that bubbles have formed around the edge of the pan, but the milk itself isn’t boiling)

Stir this mixture constantly to avoid lumps for 20 minutes (this is the tedious part)

Turn the mixture into a pudding dish (I used a casserole dish)

Add all the other ingredients except the egg and mix

Beat the egg and then temper it by adding some of the hot corn meal mixture to the egg

Add the egg slowly to the corn meal mixture while stirring

Place in a 300 degree oven and bake for 1 hour

When you remove the Indian Pudding from the oven it will still be a bit jiggly. Don’t worry. As it cools it will continue to set.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream (which our 18th century ancestors could only have dreamed about)

It makes a lovely dessert even if its a bit fussy to make.

It's still a bit soupy, but it tastes great.


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