February 12, 2012

Indian Pudding: The World's Oldest Recipes

It was kind of cold here yesterday, and we actually had a few snowflakes. Most of this winter has been freakishly mild, but yesterday it finally felt like the temperature matched the season. To celebrate I decided to make Indian pudding.

As a lot of people know, and I've written here before, New England Indian pudding doesn't have anything to do with the flavorful and spicy cuisine of South Asian. Despite its name it's really an old Puritan dish that has been made in this area for hundreds of years.

Stirring together cornmeal and milk.
 When the Puritans came to North America they brought their love of puddings with them. Wheat flour is one of the key ingredients of English style puddings, but unfortunately wheat didn't grow well in New England. Not wishing to be deprived of pudding the Puritans adapted their recipes to incorporate Indian corn (maize) and voila! Indian pudding was born.

The first cookbook in America, Amelia Simmons' 1796 American Cookery, contains three recipes for Indian pudding.

No. 1. 3 pints scalded milk, 7 spoons fine Indian meal, stir well
together while hot, let stand till cooled; add 7 eggs, half pound
raisins, 4 ounces butter, spice and sugar, bake one and half hour.

No. 2. 3 pints scalded milk to one pint meal salted; cool, add 2 eggs,
4 ounces butter, sugar or molasses and spice q. f. it will require two
and half hours baking.

No. 3. Salt a pint meal, wet with one quart milk, sweeten and put into
a strong cloth, brass or bell metal vessel, stone or earthern pot,
secure from wet and boil 12 hours.

I'm amazed to see that number three takes twelve hours to cook! Wow! These are the oldest Indian pudding recipes on record, and obviously come from an era when cooking was much more difficult.

Most modern recipes for Indian pudding have four key ingredients: cornmeal, molasses, milk, and spices. I used this recipe from New York Times writer Mark Bittman. It didn't take 12 hours, but it did take about two and half.

Like a lot of other recipes I have seen, one key step is to pour some milk directly on top of the pudding and then put it in the oven without stirring.

Pour the pudding into a greased pan...

... and then pour milk right on top!

Somehow it all magically works and it gives the pudding a nice texture. Do any foodies out there know why this is?

Two hours later, a humble looking but heavenly dessert!

Indian pudding is not what you would call a glamorous dish. When it comes out of the oven it's brown and kind of goopy looking. It was really delicious though!


Doug Lazorick said...

Perfect treat for a cold day!

rhea said...

I love Indian pudding. I use a recipe I found online from Durgin-Park.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your clarity and candor regarding my question on the Wild Hunt about Hutton's use of the word fundementalism applied to Paganism. It clarified some things for me!

Faoi Bhrat Bride Sinn!
~Daniel SnowKestral

Peter Muise said...

Doug and Rhea, thanks for the comments. It was really, really good!

Daniel, I'm glad you found my comment helpful.

Simon said...

Thanks i'm always on the look out for new recipes


Compliance Hong Kong said...

This looks delicious, I will try it out. Thanks for the recipe.