Indian pudding is a dessert made of cornmeal boiled with scalded milk, sweetened with molasses, cooked slowly until thickened, then baked until set.
Slow Cooked Food
Traditional Indian pudding is a slow food to make, requiring baking of up to seven hours. Indian pudding is commonly served warm with sauce, ice cream or whipped cream, heavy cream, or cider sauce. It is also sliced and eaten cold as a breakfast dish by some.
American Indians did not create Indian pudding, the Puritans did. They called it Indian Pudding because it is made with cornmeal. Originally, the Puritans called corn “Indian Corn” to differentiate it from what the English called corn, which in truth is simply any grain. So…since they were using what was known to them as Indian Corn, they called it Indian Pudding.
Indian pudding dates to the Colonial days of America, when newly arrived Colonists at Plymouth, Massachusetts (and elsewhere) wished to re-create dishes from their homeland with ingredients they had available to them in their new land.
Indian pudding remains a popular dessert, especially in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. Its appeal has expanded beyond the New England region and has some surprising health benefits.
Cornmeal, the main ingredient in Indian pudding, contains Potassium, Folate, Vitamin A, and Phosphorus. Enriched cornmeal contains Riboflavin, Niacin, and Thiamin as well. Prepared with eggs and milk, Indian pudding is a source of both Protein and Calcium.
Blackstrap molasses sweeten the dish, giving it its characteristic flavor and color. Blackstrap molasses are a good source of several minerals, including Iron, Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Low-fat milk may be used successfully in the recipe, and butter can be cut in half or even omitted altogether to help cut out much of the fat.
Although many connoisseurs of this traditional dessert would be hard-pressed to forego the customary scoop of vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream melting atop, some of the more health-conscious might be persuaded to swap it for frozen yogurt, reduced fat ice cream or reduced fat whipped cream. Even non-fat whipped cream… you make the call and enjoy this Traditional American treat. You can also purchase pre-made Indian Pudding. There are many brands, but we found Bar Harbor All Natural Indian Pudding to be the best.
Traditional Indian Pudding
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- Pinch nutmeg
- 2 eggs, well beaten
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
In a medium pot, bring milk to a gentle simmer. Very slowly whisk in cornmeal briskly to prevent clumping. Cook for 20 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon well. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, molasses, maple syrup, salt, and spices until well blended. Temper the eggs, meaning slowly whisk in about 1/4 cup of the hot pudding mixture to the beaten eggs, then return tempered mixture to the pot. This prevents the eggs from scrambling.
Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and bake about 1-1/2 hours, until center is set (the center will still be soft, but you don’t want it to look liquified). Some recipes call for a water bath (i.e., set the casserole dish in a larger pan, then pour boiling water into the outer pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pudding dish), but we did not find this necessary. Let sit at least 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
Recipe adapted from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer, originally published in 1896.
Did You Know?
National Indian Pudding Day is November 13th.