Indian pudding is an old New England recipe. When the early colonists landed here, they brought with them a fondness for a dish called hasty pudding, which was wheat flour boiled in water or milk until it thickened into porridge. But, alas, wheat did not grow very well in New England, so the colonists, learning from the Indians, used corn meal. They gradually began to add molasses, spices and milk as life and cuisine became more civilized.
This Indian pudding tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. After all, it has all the same spices. I made it for dinner yesterday evening when the young marrieds came to dinner. We had corned beef and cabbage as a salute to Saint Patrick's Day, and because everyone loves corned beef and cabbage. They really loved it. I was looking forward to corned beef sandwiches for lunch, but it was not to be. My son handed me the last scrap of meat, about the size of a slice of American cheese.
I reminded my son that we had made Indian pudding 27 years ago, when he was four. He didn't remember. I won't tell you what he said it looked like. Use your imagination about something a four year old boy would say. We had it with vanilla ice cream in the living room around what might well be the last fire of the season. We had tried to have a fire two weeks ago, at the creamed lobster dinner. It turned out, although we opened the damper we knew about, there was another one that the heat auditors had closed. Smoke spewed everywhere, and the guests had to retreat to the addition. This time, both dampers were open, and we sat around the fire talking and throwing logs on.
The only tricky thing about Indian pudding is putting the corn meal on gradually. You just want to float a teaspoon at a time on top of the boiling milk. If you put too much on at one time, corn meal clumps up. So sprinkle, stir, sprinkle, stir. Don't dump. Because my son asked to wait for dessert, ours was not as moist as it should have been, but it was still good. It is also possible that I let the corn meal mush thicken too much before I stopped cooking it. I cooked it until it was pulling away from the side of the pot.
4 cups milk
1 cup yellow corn meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup finely minced suet (I left this out. It makes food fatty and greasy tasting.)
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup light molasses
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
vanilla ice cream
1. Bring the milk to a boil, and add the corn meal gradually, beating vigorously with a wire whisk. When mixture starts to thicken, set it aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
3. When the mixture is nearly cool, stir in the remaining ingredients except the ice cream and mix well.
4. Pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake two hours. Serve piping hot, with vanilla ice cream on top. Makes ten to one dozen servings.