Friday, April 22, 2005

Sugar High Friday - Indian Pudding

Ahhh... Indian Pudding. I love the smell of it baking, its homey taste, its warmth. It is comfort food of the highest order. Why, oh why have I waited all these years to make some for myself?

Indian Pudding, like baked beans, made frequent appearances at the dinner table of my childhood. I have always loved it, though I don't think it is quite so fondly remembered by my siblings. When I mentioned to my brother Bob that I would be making it for the upcoming Sugar High Friday (which, by the way, has a theme of Molasses this time around and is hosted by Derrick of An Obsession with Food) and said that I thought I remembered that I was the only kid in our family that liked it, he remarked, "I remember that I liked the vanilla ice cream on top."

I couldn't find any definitive history of Indian Pudding, but it does seem to be generally accepted that it came to the early New England settlers by way of the native Americans. I learned from this article in Native Peoples Magazine that the Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes traditionally ate their main meal in the morning and that it often included a savory or sweet corn meal porridge. It sounds as though molasses may have been a later addition.

If you're not inclined to make your own Indian Pudding, your best bet might be to try some at Durgin Park next time you're in Boston. I've never eaten there, but I remember my parents speaking of it fondly. Believe it or not, you can also buy Indian Pudding in a can!

My recipe for Indian Pudding was given to my Mom by Auntie Bee. It is simpler and plainer than others I've seen. It has no butter, eggs, or raisins. I made it with skim milk which resulted in a rather thin, but still very tasty, porridge. I believe my mom always made it with whole milk. This keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days and can be reheated in the microwave.

Baked Indian Pudding

1 quart milk
1/3 cup corn meal
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 tsp ginger
a pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased baking dish. Cook in a slow oven (275 F) for 2 hours. Stir pudding 3 or 4 times while cooking or until it is well blended. (My note: stir fairly often in the beginning to avoid lumps.)


Jennifer said...


Thanks for the interesting post. I've never heard of Indian pudding before. I'm intrigued. Is it served hot or at room temperature? How would you describe the texture? It looks soup like but I imagine it is a bit thicker.

Nic said...

It's interesting to see a photo of it. And I have to agree with Jennifer that it looks a bit soupy. I had never heard of indian pudding before I started hunting down recipes for this month's theme.

Cerebrum said...

I never, ever heard about Indian Pudding either, sounds very interesting, with the salty and sweet playing with each other there. Cool entry Cathy! I always love it when there's a story behind what you cook...

Cathy said...

Hi Jennifer! It can be eaten hot, cold, or room temperature, but I like it best hot. In fact, I think I've decided I like it best hot without any ice cream! I like the contrast of the hot and cold and the sweet (ice cream) and not so sweet (Indian pudding), but the ice tends to cool down the pudding and dilute the pudding as it melts.

Hi Nic! My Mom's recipe does have a loose consistency and mine was even soupier because I used skim milk. If you used whole milk or cooked it longer, it would thicken up some. I'm curious to try one of the many other recipes out their - particularly the Durgin Park recipe - to compare.

Hi Zarah! - Thanks - actually its not noticeably salty at all. It's a small amount of salt that probably just serves to heighten the flavors in some way. The standout flavor in this is the molasses. I use the light molasses, but it still has a dark, just-barely-sweet flavor. I love it! It's really worth trying, though I realize it's not everyone's cup of tea!

Anonymous said...

Cathy, I really am intrigued by this recipe. I, also, have never heard of this before. It sounds really good and different, too. I really, really like cornmeal in things...and while I'm having a hard time imagining exactly what this tastes like, I think I'd like it. I'll have to make it to find out for sure! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy --

I haven't had Indian Pudding since I was a child, but reading your post definitely makes me feel game to try it again. I especially love your gorgeous pic, showing the vanilla ice-cream melting tantalizingly into the pudding. For New Yorkers who want to try this, it's served at the NoHo Star. Considering the quality of the rest of their food, I bet their Indian Pudding is stellar.

Cathy said...

Hi Alice! If you like the flavor of molasses and you like porridgy things like oatmeal, etc., I'll bet you'll like Indian pudding. In act I would bet that YOU would like Indian pudding!

Hi Julie! Finally, someone else who's heard of it! Sounds like you weren't crazy about it as a kid, though. I do think the molasses flavor is more likely to appeal to an adult. That's great to know about NoHo Star - I've never been there, but I'm in New York several times a year, so maybe I can try their Indian pudding some day.

Reid said...

Hi Cathy,

OK...count me in as one who has never heard of this. The recipe sounds easy enough, and I'm almost tempted to make this just to see what it tastes like. Great job!

Cathy said...

Hi Reid! Thanks! Yes, looks like Indian pudding is definitely a regional (New England) thing. I expect if I took a poll of my neighbors or my co-workers, most of them would not have heard of it either. If you like molasses you should try it!

Unknown said...

Hi Cathy, I had never heard of Indian pudding too, until I made it for this SHF. Mine, however, didn't turn out too well and was a lot thicker than yours.
Maybe I overbaked it? Is it supposed to be still liquidy when done?

Cathy said...

Hi Lynn! I think your looks pretty yummy! I've only ever had my Mom's - so I'm not an expert. I have the sense from looking at other recipes that her's is looser than most and I know my rendition of it was soupier than hers. I noticed your recipe has less milk than mine, so it seems natural that it would be thicker. Also, my Mom always used a bowl to cook hers in so I used a round casserole dish. If the pudding had been more spread out in a flat baking dish it would have dried out some more and been thicker in the end.

In the end I guess it's more a question of what you like. You can always do something to making it thicker or thinner according to your taste. I plan to try at least one other recipe sometime soon, so I'll let you know how that turns out!

Unknown said...

Thanks Cathy, for setting the record straight for me. I did get a layer of film on my pudding, so maybe next time I'll cover the dish. I will probably try it again when I go back to Tokyo.

Cathy said...

Hi Lynn - I don't think you should cover it for the whole time (if at all) - if the milk can't evaporate, I wouldn't think it would thicken much at all. I use a smaller, deep dish, but no lid. You can just stir the skin in - I get that too.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I have a family recipe that has been passed down from my great grand mother. I am getting ready to make it for Thanksgiving so I thought I would see what I could find about the history of Indian Pudding. This is a favorite for my family but my husband's family is yet to embrace it. ~Bethany