My first encounter with Indian Pudding was over 30 years ago at Durgin Park, a landmark restaurant in Faneuil Hall, Boston, famous for its home-style Yankee cooking and, at the time, its cranky, octogenarian waitresses.
Few desserts look so completely unappetizing yet taste so incredibly good. One bite of this lumpy, brown mush, with a dab of vanilla ice cream, and I was sold. Scraped every last bit from the bowl.
Why indian pudding isn’t more widely known I have no idea; it’s one of my favorite desserts of all time, and a traditional New England Thanksgiving classic. Indian pudding is 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. Here is a tried-and-true recipe for indian pudding adapted from An Olde Concord Christmas, a long out-of-print book from the Concord Museum.
- 6 cups of milk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 cup golden raisins (optional)
- Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
1 Scald the milk and butter: 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.
2 Preheat oven to 250°F.
3 Make cornmeal milk base: 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.
4 Temper the eggs, combine with milk cornmeal mixture: 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.
5 Add sugar, spices, raisins if using: 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).
6 Bake: Pour into a 2 1/2 quart shallow casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours at 250°F.
7 Cool for an hour: 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.