Garden Lifestyle

Seasonal Dish: Indian Pudding

Recently, at the Herb Harvest Fall Festival at the Ozark Folk Center State Park, we celebrated the northern United States.

Warm Indian Pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream; I prefer it with just a drizzle of cream or whipped cream that has just a touch of vanilla and maple syrup. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Recently, at the Herb Harvest Fall Festival at the Ozark Folk Center State Park, we celebrated the Northern United States. I decided to demonstrate how to make Indian Pudding since it is a popular dish in New England. Little did I know that there is a National Indian Pudding Day on November 13! So I figured I’d share my recipe here so you can gear up for this national celebration and it also is a delectable dish to share on Thanksgiving.

There are many thoughts about the derivation of this recipe, which combines cornmeal with molasses to make a spoonbread of sorts. The First Nation peoples showed the settlers how to grind corn to make porridge with boiling water. The colonists referred to the ground corn as Indian meal. The recipe evolved–milk and sweetener were added, maybe some spice (perhaps this was in memory of the English Hasty Pudding)-and Indian Pudding was created. Various versions have been found in early cookbooks from New England and Massachusetts.

Please don’t let my lengthy discourse or ingredient list discourage you from making this tasty pudding!

Indian Pudding

There are many recipes for Indian Pudding-probably as many as there are cooks in New England. To me, it tastes as good as pumpkin pie-without the crust. Some use just milk, others use half-and half-cream and milk; this can also be made successfully with almond, oat, soy or coconut milk though of course they change the flavor and texture somewhat.

The traditional sweetener is molasses-blackstrap molasses is very different from sorghum molasses-the former is black, much stronger and more bitter in flavor-while sorghum is lighter, sweeter and a little thinner; I wouldn’t use more than 1/2 cup of blackstrap. Some add brown sugar or maple syrup in addition to the molasses; I like the flavor of the maple. I have seen recipes that use different combinations of spices while some just add ginger or cinnamon. Eggs vary from none to 6.

When doing research on Indian pudding, which was also called porridge or corn pudding, I ran across a recipe for Earl Mill’s Indian Pudding, which he served at The Flume, his restaurant in Mashpee-he doesn’t bake his, he stirs it in a double boiler on the stovetop-and he adds just a tablespoon each of two secret ingredients: tapioca and grapenuts!

In summary, this is a simple recipe, which you can take liberty with-why I bet it wouId be good with 1/2 to 1 cup of winter squash or pumpkin puree. I must confess, when I made this during a cooking demo, I decided to double the recipe at the last minute-and I was talking and cooking at the same time-I forgot to double the eggs! It came out fine and no one knew except me; it was not as creamy rich and custardy though it tasted fine.

If you use a coarse cornmeal it will have more texture and be more like a spoonbread. If you want a more creamy, custard-like consistency, use a finer cornmeal and leave out the 2 extra tablespoons using just 1/2 cup total cornmeal..

My version here is full of flavor with lots of spice. I like to add a bay leaf to the milk while it is scalding (it bakes right in the pudding dish) and a generous teaspoon of pure vanilla extract stirred in at the end of mixing though neither of these ingredients are traditional. This basics of my recipe here is adapted from the following web site:

Serves 8 to 10

3 cups whole milk
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half cream
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal, preferably organic and stone-ground
1/2 cup sorghum molasses, or blackstrap
1/3 cup pure maple syrup, or brown sugar, preferably organic
Scant teaspoon salt
Generous teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
4 large eggs
Generous teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 °F. Lightly butter a 6- to 8-cup souffle or baking dish. (Choose a dish that will fit comfortably into another pan that will hold hot water to create a bain marie.)

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, scald the milk with the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, pour the cream or half-and-half into a medium to large bowl, add the cornmeal, molasses, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, mace, ginger and cloves and whisk to combine. Add this mixture to the scalded milk and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking, over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until the pudding has thickened a bit. Remove from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, whisking until melted.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Temper the eggs by adding 1/2 cup of the hot cornmeal mixture to the eggs while whisking rapidly and then add another 1/2 cup. Then whisk the tempered eggs into the remaining cornmeal mixture; add the vanilla extract and whisk.

Pour mixture into the buttered souffle dish, and place dish in a shallow baking pan on the center oven rack. Pour enough hot water into the shallow baking dish to come 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the outside of the souffle or baking dish (this is referred to as a bain marie or waterbath).

Bake until pudding is set, check for doneness after about 1 1/2 hours; also add more hot water to the bain marie if need be. The pudding should be set, though just a little jiggly in the center. A tester or butter knife inserted close to (but not in) the center should come out clean, The pudding can take up to 2 to 2 1/2 hours to cook depending upon your oven and the ingredients used, so you may have to cook it for up to another 30 minutes; check every 10 minutes or so. Remove the bain marie with pudding from the oven and remove from the water bath and let cool slightly.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or heavy cream. This is also good at room temperature; if you have leftovers, refrigerate it and let come to room temp before serving.





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