Indian Pudding

 I didn't know anything about Indian Pudding until I began research for my second cookbook The Pharaoh's Feast (Published in the UK under the title Feasting with the Ancestors). This book traced cooking through the ages, from prehistory to the present. I discovered that in 1796, a Miss Amelia Simmons published the first genuine American cookbook, American Cookery. Prior to this time, the few American housewives who had access to cookbooks would have used European books published under an American Imprint. This book featured some unique American recipes. Among them, recipes for slapjacks, pumpkin pudding and spruce beer (alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage flavored with the buds and needles of spruce trees).  For the first time such words as cookie and slaw appeared in print.

Amelia Simmons was a self-described "American orphan." She worked as a domestic during the colonial period, and this gave her hands-on experience in preparing a good meal. She lays out simple guidelines that are as applicable today as they were in her time. For example, use only the freshest ingredients; and to determine freshness of fish, poultry or meat, go by their smell.

American cuisine owes a lot to Miss Simmons. One of the recipes in her book was a colonial favorite, Indian Pudding. Amelia Simmons gives three recipes for "A Nice Indian Pudding." Two recipes call for baking the Indian pudding, and one advises to boil the ingredients for twelve hours in a "brass or bell metal vessel, stone or earthen pot." I'll stick to the baking. Today Indian Pudding is usually served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


4 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup dark molasses
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Ina double boiler or heavy saucepan, bring the milk to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the cornmeal, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often for another minute. The cornmeal should be softened but slightly sticky.
3. Add the molasses and mix well. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.
4. Butter or grease an 8-to-9-inch baking dish. Pour the pudding mixture into the dish and bake for about 2 hours. The pudding should be brown on top with a dark crust in the center. The pudding can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

photo: courtesy of Yankee Magazine
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