As an Italian-American, certain foods were off limits; as my grandmother would say “They don’t make that in the home town.” Ham was one, bread pudding was another. While ham had the whiff of illicit (are we Jewish, somewhere way back?), bread pudding would elicit the gag reflex.
So when I went to college in Boston, plain Yankee cooking struck me as exotic. Raspberry-lime rickeys, sweet rolls served with dinner, and Indian pudding were not from my grandmother’s home town or my own.
But when I left Boston, I took Indian pudding with me. Hoping to ease my homesickness, my dear husband made it for our first Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C. and gamely served it to our wondering parents. Nothing in their Mediterranean heritages helped them deal with the brown, sweet bowlful; the vanilla ice cream felt like a bit of a dinner-table bribe–just try one bite.
Since then, we make it every year–inflicting it on friends and family. Some laugh, some politely head for the pumpkin pie, but we love it and look forward to having leftover for breakfast the next day.
Our version is inspired by the mass quantities steamed up at Durgin Park, but makes enough to ensure breakfast leftovers.
Indian Pudding at Home
4 cups of whole milk, 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, 1/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, vanilla ice cream
- Scald two cups of the milk in an 8-inch skillet and slowly pour in the cornmeal, stirring to break up the lumps. Simmer over low heat until thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside until it’s warm.
- Stir in the molasses, sugar, salt, egg, and one half cup of the remaining milk. Cover the skillet and bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring in a half cup of milk every half hour. The pudding should be thick but no solid.
- Serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.