Thursday, November 02, 2006

Indian Pudding

This dish has a long and storied history in America. It was a favorite dish of my favorite of the Founding Fathers, John Adams. He had it for dessert at night and then reheated in the morning and served with cold milk. He also drank hard cider at every meal. There are no monuments to Adams, he knew that there most likely would not be and was bothered by that knowledge. Yet, he was instrumental in almost every single event in our early history. His ranting and railing at the Continental Congress was the stuff of legend. His outburst before his resolution on "independency" was brilliant stuff. He pointed out that King George had already declared the colonies to be in rebellion and that Congress had yet to do so. He, with remarkable self-awareness told Jefferson that he should be the writer of the Declaration because "I'm not half the writer you are, and besides, I'm obnoxious and disliked." I think I admire Adams most because of his human failings. I understand his single minded pursuit of excellence. I admire his fidelity and love of his wife and family. I am in awe of the courage it took for him to stand in the Court of St. James as the first Ambassador and be ignored. That he was able to rise above his frailties and truly achieve greatness was brilliant and courageous stuff. Would that we had politicians of that mettle now. Since we can't seem to find anyone that is willing to act like John Adams, at least we can eat like him. There are many variations to this dish. This recipe is from the lovely and strong Abigail. It is plain and simple. I will list some of the possible variations after the original has been presented. My kids adore this. When I would have it on the table they would, when they were little, exclaim "Indian Pudding! 'Cause we're Indians!" (the last words shouted at proper war whoop volumes) My stock reply was always to say "Indeed you are my darlings."


1 quart scalded milk
1/3 cup corn meal (she means yellow or yankee corn meal here)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup molasses
1 good teaspoon ginger (slighty more than level will do nicely)

Scald the milk and strain through a sieve into a double boiler pan with the corn meal (milk skin is icky and I have discovered that tossing it to the dogs keeps them out from underfoot while I'm moving about the kitchen, they also manage a good floor cleanup while they're at it). Over rapidly boiling, salted water (there's some scientific principle about salting the water, it makes it go a little hotter or a little cooler I never can remember which one) mix together with the salt and cook, stirring often (you don't have to do this constantly but scorching and lumping are to be discouraged) for 20 to 25 minutes. You're looking for a thick, rich porridge here. Bubbles should bulge and hiss steam like Yellowstone mud pots and the granularity of the meal should be tenderized. Mix in the molasses (and I like to start with 3 tablespoons of good maple syrup then top off with a viscous dark blackstrap molasses to make 1/2 cup) and the ginger and transfer to a buttered soufflé dish (see that's not a totally single use item) or a sturdy baking dish and bake at 300° for about 2 hours. This is orgasmic if you serve it with a top flight vanilla ice cream.

Now, to variations. Dried fruit can be added without any changes at all. If you choose to add eggs, you will be making it more of a custard and will have to increase the milk proportionally. You might be tempted to add cinnamon or nutmeg or a dose of brown, white or maple sugar. Resist these foolish thoughts! Think of John Adams scowling at you for putting on airs! Molasses and ginger were huge treats at a colonial New England table. Cinnamon and nutmeg were only available through the same East India Tea Company bastards that were fouling up a pretty good system, while ginger could be smuggled easily by good neighbors like Hancock through New Orleans from the Islands. Show your solidarity with our Founders, eat some Indian Pudding, drink some hard cider and imagine Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine taking turns bitch slapping our current President while John Adams, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, John Jay, Jefferson and a handsome young Hamilton smoked their pipes and offered technical advice.

crosspudding at 3B's


Anonymous Vervet said...

I LOVE Indian pudding! I haven't made it in years. It's chilly and very windy here in St. Augustine today, and I may just bake some of this luscious treat for dessert tonight.

8:44 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

I just found out that this recipe from Abigail Adams was the same one that Howard Johnson's used! The boy and I had Indian Pudding for breakfast this morning. No frost yet, but it was chilly enough to make it extra good.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous tata said...

I've never seen your children but I love the mental image. Co-conspirators and playmates for you! Yay!

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Blogger Sarah V said...

Hi, I love the idea of making Abigail's recipe. I love culinary history and particularly that of early America. I am just wondering what the source of the recipe is? I tried searching for Abigail's recipe online after hearing that she and John shared my love of Indian Pudding, but most recipes that I found, despite having their names attached, were clearly from more modern sources. Your recipe certainly appears more authentic, but I am just wondering the source both out of curiosity and because I might be interested in obtaining it (if it is a cookbook, for example).


11:45 PM  

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