Sunday, November 13, 2016

National Indian Pudding Day

Do not let the name fool you.  This is not a Native American dish.  It does, however, seems appropriate to hold this day in mid November, as we approach Thanksgiving. With Native Americans and the foods they introduced the starving settlers to very much a part of the first Thanksgiving feast, this dish made with cornmeal is a perfect complement.  It is slightly possible these puddings were served, and enjoyed, at that first Thanksgiving.

Early colonists brought with them to America a fondness for British “hasty pudding,” a dish made by boiling wheat flour in water or milk until it thickened into porridge. Since wheat flour was scarce in the New World, settlers adapted by using native cornmeal, dubbed “indian flour,” and flavoring the resulting mush to be either sweet (with maple syrup or molasses) or savory (with drippings or salted meat). In time, Indian pudding evolved into a dish that was resoundingly sweet, with lots of molasses and additional ingredients such as butter, cinnamon, ginger, eggs, and sometimes even raisins or nuts. Recipes for Indian pudding began appearing in cookery books in the late 1700s.

Indian puddings are as diverse as the population making them.  Generally, they include molasses and cornmeal. Apples were often an ingredient, or raisins, and they were usually baked.
Make sure to enjoy your American heritage, and a dish or bowl of Indian pudding, as you celebrate National Indian Pudding Day.  These days they generally a baked custard with milk, butter, molasses, eggs, spices, and cornmeal. The name is likely derived from the cornmeal, which was known as indian meal way back when, not from the American Indians.

Now served as a dessert it is rather unappetizing looking as it is a lumpy brown mush.  But served with a bit of vanilla ice cream, it can be a great holiday pleaser. I looked for the oldest version I could find and this one adapted from a book published in 1980 called An Olde Concord Christmas, may be the best tasting and closest to the authentic New England tradition.

New England Indian Pudding

6 cups of milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup golden raisins (optional)
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 250°F. Scald the milk and butter in a large double boiler. Or heat the milk and butter for 5 or 6 minutes on high heat in the microwave, until it is boiling, then transfer it to a pot on the stove. Keep hot on medium heat.

In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and salt; stir in molasses. Thin the mixture with about 1/2 cup of scalded milk, a few tablespoons at a time, then gradually add the mixture back to the large pot of scalded milk. Cook, stirring until thickened.

Temper the eggs by slowly adding a half cup of the hot milk cornmeal mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture back in with the hot milk cornmeal mixture, stir to combine.

Stir in the sugar and spices, until smooth. At this point, if the mixture is clumpy, you can run it through a blender to smooth it out. Stir in the raisins (optional).

Pour into a 2 1/2 quart shallow casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours at 250°F.

Allow the pudding to cool about an hour to be at its best. It should be reheated to warm temperature if it has been chilled. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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