Foods | Cooking
Hints & Tips
Despite the name Indian Pudding, it is not a traditional native
dish. Native Americans had neither milk nor molasses to use in their
cooking. They did mix ground corn with berries, and may have had
maple syrup. Hasty Pudding and Indian Pudding are basically the same
pudding, as Hasty Pudding was an English tradition for centuries.
Printed references to hasty pudding in England date to 1599, while
Indian pudding recipes start appearing in American cookbooks in
The love of pudding
came with the first colonist in Virginia and was a favorite of the
New England settlers. In the colonies, this dish was also known as
Indian Pudding, Indian Mush, and Indian Meal because the colonists
In colonial days, Indian pudding was a simple cornmeal mush sweetened with molasses.
In later years, it was dressed up with everything from sugar and
eggs to raisins and spices.
the article From the Kitchen by Jan Longone from The American Magazine
and Historical Chronicle, Vol 2, No. 1, Spring-Summer 1986:
We do know that the techniques used in making Indian or Hasty Pudding are age-old;
gruels, potages, porridges, frumenties, and puddings were made
from earliest times. We also know that specific pudding recipes
very similar in nature to those for Indian Pudding appear in
early English cookbooks, but these use wheat flour, rye flour,
oatmeal, ground rice, crumbled bread or cake, or other cereals
and starches in place of the corn meal. Further, there are
records that various Indian tribes and civilizations in the New
World were making some form of corn meal gruel or pudding, of
times sweetened with honey or native berries. But it is exactly
the combination of the ancient techniques with the
indigenous New World crop, corn, flavored with the colonial
products of ginger, nutmeg and molasses, which I believe makes
Indian Pudding a contender for our national dish.
The first printed
pudding recipe did not show up until the 16th century and the recipe
called for bread. In later years, the pudding was dressup with
everything from sugar and eggs to raisins and spices.
In 1662, John Winthrop, Jr., son of John Wilthrop (1588-1649), first governor of
the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote the following about the pudding
in his letter to the royal Society in London. (reprinted in New
England Quarterly Vol. X No.1  p.121-133):
. . this is to be boyled or Stued with a gentle fire, till it be
tender, of a fitt consistence, as of Rice so boyled, into which
Milke, or butter be put either with Sugar or without it, it is a
food very pleasant. . . but it must be observed that it be very
well boyled, the longer the better, some will let it be stuing
the whole day: after it is Cold it groweth thicker, and is
commonly Eaten by mixing a good Quantity of Milke amongst it. .
John Josselyn, in his
England Rarities Discovered (London, 1672) also discusses the
use of hominey or corn in puddings:
is light of digestion, and the English make a kind of Loblolly
of it to eat with Milk, which they call Sampe; they beat it in a
Morter, and sift the flower [flour] out of it; the remainder
they call Hominey, which they put into a Pot of two or three
Gallons, with Water, and boyl it upon a gently Fire till it be
like a Hasty Puden; thye put of this into Milk and so eat it.
In 1796, Joel Barlow
(1754-1812), American poet and diplomat, wrote his famous poem
called "The Hasty Pudding." The poem was inspired by his
homesickness for New England and his favorite cornmeal mush.
And all my bones were made of Indian corn.
Delicious grain! Whatever form it take.
To toast or boil, to smother or to bake,
In every dish 'tis welcome still to me,
but most, my Hasty Pudding, most in thee.
In 1795, a society
called the Hasty Pudding club was organized by twenty-one Harvard
College students. The club's purpose was to encourage "friendship
and patriotism." Its constitution stipulated that every Saturday,
two "providers" were to carry a pot of hasty pudding to the meeting.
For the majority of the 19th century, prospective members were
forced to ingest large quantities of hasty pudding. According to
Harvard University historians, the club was founded by students who
sought relief from the food the college provided by cooking their
own hasty puddings in fireplace pots. With this ritual, the Hasty
Pudding Club found it namesake. Today it is the nations oldest
theater company, which annually puts on a spectacular spring
production starring men in drag.
Today because the pudding is usually
served hot from the oven as a dessert and is frequently served with
vanilla ice cream, it has also sometimes been called “Heaven and
Hell” in some areas of New England, Indian
pudding is considered regional New England fare today, and in some
families it is considered a traditional Thanksgiving Pudding. There is even
a National Indian Pudding Day on November 13th every year.
Indian Pudding Recipe - How To Make Indian Pudding
This recipe was shared with me by Mary Wright
Huber of Tucson, AZ (formerly of CT and MA). Mary says: "Below
you will find my family’s version of Indian Pudding. It is based on
an old 1896 Boston Cooking School recipe, which was run by Fannie
[Merritt] Farmer. There are many variations of this recipe, some
with no spices and some with raisins. One or two even include
pumpkin. Although I prefer lots of spices (I am fairly flexible on
that issue), and can even see the pumpkin people’s point of view.
But I am adamantly anti-raisin! I also think it is a travesty to
cook the pudding for less time, at a higher temperature. Many of the
newer recipes do this, and I can’t see how one can get the same
fine-grained custardy texture. I also think the higher
temperatures are likely to form a thick, coagulated layer over the
top of the dessert. This recipe takes times and patience, but the
reward is great (taste). It not only makes a great dessert (with ice
cream), but I have been known to eat it re-heated; with half and
half; for breakfast."
Puddings, Creams & Custards
Yield: 8 to 16 servings
Cook time: 2 hr 30 min
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy (whipping)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup light brown
sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Lightly grease a 6- or 8-cup soufflé or baking dish with butter (you can use margarine, but DON’T use non-stick sprays).
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, scald the milk.
While the milk is heating, pour the cream into a medium to large bowl, add the cornmeal, sugar, molasses, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Add this
cream/corn meal/spice mixture to the scalded milk. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat until the pudding has thickened to the consistency of syrup (about 5 minutes).
Remove from heat.
In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Temper the eggs by adding 1/2 cup of the hot cornmeal mixture to the eggs while whisking rapidly.
Vigorously whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cornmeal mixture. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring until melted.
Pour mixture into the prepared soufflé dish, and place dish on a shallow baking pan on the center oven rack. Pour enough HOT water into the shallow baking dish to come 2/3 of
the way up the outsides of the soufflé or baking dish.
Bake until pudding is set, a tester inserted close to (but not in) the center comes out clean, usually about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven
and remove from the water bath and let cool slightly.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or heavy cream.
Makes 8 to 16 servings (depending on your sweet tooth).