Within my collection of vintage Maine and New England community cook books dating back to the early 1900s are dozens and dozens of recipes for “Indian Pudding.” It’s a humble, mildly sweet and spicy baked cornmeal dessert served warm and paired with whipped or iced cream. Each recipe is as unique as the contributor. Even within one cook book there are sometimes multiple variations offered: Lottie adds tapioca, no eggs while Cora uses eggs and no tapioca. Mary bakes hers in a “slow oven” (lower temp) for four hours while Alice only bakes her for 1 1/2.
After carefully reviewing my vintage sources I am offering you my own kitchen and taste tested (plus Wayne approved!) adaptation that’s made in a cast iron dutch oven.
While the majority of my vintage Indian pudding recipes are made without eggs, many dating as early as the 1920s are. Oftentimes that was due to economical reasons as opposed to the best option. Indian pudding made with eggs has more of a custard consistency and needs far less time in the oven which is why I prefer to add them.
6 cups of whole milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 large eggs
3/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Pour four cups of milk into an enamel-coated dutch oven (mine is 5 1/2 quarts) and turn the stove top heat to medium. Add the cornmeal slowly while the milk is still warming up.
With a wooden spoon whisk them together so that the cornmeal is thoroughly dissolved. Next, add the butter, molasses, sugar, salt and spices. Stir constantly until near boiling, turn off heat and remove the dutch oven from the heat source and let cool slightly.
In a separate bowl beat the two eggs by hand and then add the remaining two cups of milk to the eggs. Whisk together by hand until well blended, then slowly pour the egg and milk mixture into the dutch oven while quickly stirring them together to avoid having cooked bits of egg. Immediately place in a preheated 300 degree oven and bake covered for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the middle is set (will jiggle). If you use a covered glass baking dish instead of cast iron, increase baking time by about fifteen minutes. Makes about eight servings. Serve warm with your favorite ice cream or heavy whipped cream.
While Indian pudding doesn’t have a glamorous presentation it’s a delicious dish that warms you from within and will make your kitchen smell like November in New England.
Update: A friend of mine shared this blog post on Facebook, and one of his friends made Indian pudding following my recipe except she used coarse-ground cornmeal. Here is her pic and comments posted with her permission:
“Wow, just tasted it, still slightly warm, and it is so tasty! I’ve made a few different Indian Pudding recipes before and this is the best! Super simple too. Making this a Winter staple.”