Thursday, November 24, 2011

Indian Pudding- A Yankee Classic

Yankees have always loved desserts. Its funny because life was not always easy in New England, the early Puritan colonists did not always have the materials and ingredients they would have had in Europe. However, they always seemed to find just enough to scrape together a sweet treat. The Yankee style of hasty pudding, called Indian pudding, is a great example of this.

In Britain, at least since the 16th century, hasty pudding had been a well known dessert. It was created by boiling wheat flour in either milk or water until it reached the consistency of batter, kinda like oatmeal or cream of wheat. This was certainly no Bill Cosby style pudding cup.

When the early Yankee colonists were hacking out a life in colonial New England, wheat was not always available. However, ever since Squanto taught the colonists how to plant corn, “Indian flour” or corn meal was something Yankees would have been familiar with.

New Englanders boiled the corn meal in water or milk and flavored the thick mash with something sweet or salty. Again, they used things that would have been very familiar to them. They classically used maple syrup, molasses, or meat drippings. Cane sugar might not have been widely available this far north, but molasses would have been heavily traded in New England.

The mush could be eaten hot, or left to solidify. Slices could be taken and later fried. It was popular with early Yankees because it was easy and cheap to make, and also satisfied that craving for something sweat which they share with us.

In time, what was called Indian pudding evolved into a primarily sweet dish, as it remains today. Things like cinnamon, nuts, raisins, butter, and eggs were added to the recipe.

I have to say that Indian pudding is not exactly a favorite dish of mine. If its available at the table, I’ll sample a spoonful or two, but I’ve never actually attempted to make it myself.

If you’re interested, here is a recipe for Indian pudding from Yankee Magazine. Good luck with it and Happy Thanksgiving.