Often referred to as Indian Pudding, this simple cornmeal recipe speeds up a classic dessert that dates back to colonial times.
Way back in September, when you could still travel a little on occasion, my wife and I went to Cape Cod for a few days. Always curious about the local foods of wherever I visit, I was excited to find a historic grist mill still working in the town of Sandwich, MA.
Situated on a quaint pond and surrounded by old colonial homes, the Dexter Grist Mill still grinds fresh cornmeal today. Typically, you can buy some in flour sacks to take home for cooking. But being 2020, the mill was closed, and I couldn’t find any of its cornmeal for sale in the area.
a simple dessert for a simple Thanksgiving
Now that Thanksgiving is here and we’re all following the recommendation to stay at home for the holiday, I thought of cornmeal again. Specifically, I thought of a simple dessert called Indian Pudding. It’s made by simmering cornmeal in milk, with molasses and spices. It tastes a little like gingerbread with a consistency of pumpkin pie. At least, the filling of a pumpkin pie.
I thought this pudding could make a suitable dessert for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. It doesn’t require much in terms of ingredients or thought—no rolling out of dough and no fancy presentation. Most recipes suggest you cook it in a slow cooker or a casserole dish in the oven, so it doesn’t even require much of your attention, either.
But in my experience, I find slow cookers to be terribly inconsistent from one to another, especially with older models compared to new ones. I feel like you really have to keep an eye on them, and that kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? Also, I was not too fond of taking up oven space for several hours when you might have a turkey or other dish in need of space. Instead, I made it in small ramekins for individual-sized portions. That way, it bakes up in just 40 minutes.
the history of Indian Pudding
Although called Indian Pudding, this dessert seems to be a variation of the English dish called Hasty Pudding. Native Americans wouldn’t have had milk or molasses to make it themselves. Rather, colonists adapted their recipe in America, using ground Indian corn, as they called it.
Although you can find Indian Pudding recipes in plenty of cookbooks, I didn’t think it made sense to title my recipe the same. For starters, we know that Native Americans weren’t Indians because they weren’t in India. That means they were never Indians. And since it’s not a native recipe, it doesn’t seem to make sense to call it Native American Pudding, either. So I settled on New England Cornmeal Pudding, as that more accurately describes what it is.
Although I didn’t get to take home fresh Cape Cod cornmeal, that’s okay because we have fresh cornmeal here in Vermont as well. The Nitty Gritty Grain Company produces cornmeal, flour, and other grain products at their farm in Charlotte. I find their products in the bulk section of the Rutland Food Co-op. I swear their cornmeal makes the best cornbread.
You can make this pudding for a holiday or save it for a cold winter day. It’s so simple and unpretentious. When you don’t need to impress anyone and want something warm and a little sweet, it’s just the thing to make. I think it is best served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, which adds some more sweetness. A splash of cream over the top could also work, though in that case, you might want to add a little brown sugar to the pudding.Print