Art’s favorite dessert: New England Indian Pudding

If you are not from New England, you probably have never had Indian Pudding, a much loved regional dessert. It is basically cornmeal slow cooked in molasses and milk, and was given its name because of an American Indian dish that used maple syrup to sweeten ground cornmeal.

The Boston Globe recently had a piece suggesting it be renamed Puritan pudding, but I’ll stay with the original name, and think of it as an homage and not an appropriation.

It is a humble dish, often on the menus of good diners. Both my father and father-in-law (Boston born) loved it, as well as my brother and my son. I love it.

My beloved father-in-law , Art, died a few weeks ago at age 94, and I have made it a couple times since then. He loved the Indian Pudding at the famed, now gone, Durgin-Park Restaurant at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Durgin-Park was in operation since 1827 and closed in 2019. Sad.

My mother-law found and gave me a handwritten card with the Durgin-Park Recipe, but it bakes for 5 to 7 hours, so I have tweaked my own that can be done in under 3.

I consulted several cookbooks, including Fannie Farmer (Boston Cooking School) and Jasper White’s “Cooking from New England.” White suggested using Johnny Cake meal (an heirloom corn meal from RI). It turns out that Gray’s Grist mill that makes it is a stone’s throw from my daughter’s house in Adamsville, RI, and so I got some last time I was there (The mill is actually in Westport, MA right on the line.)

Ingredients

3 TBS unsalted butter (divided)

3 cups good whole milk (I used local High Lawn Farm from nearby Lee, MA)

5 TBS yellow cornmeal or johnnycake meal

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup dark (unsulfured) molasses

¼ Tsp salt

¼ Tsp dried ground ginger

¼ Tsp cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

1 cup whole milk, cold

Recipe

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 1 ½ quart ceramic baking dish with a tablespoon of the butter (I used my soufflé dish). Heat the 3 cups of milk on the range just to the boiling point and stir in the cornmeal, reducing the heat to low. Stir like you would polenta, until the mixture starts to thicken. Turn off the heat, and add the maple syrup, molasses, salt, ginger, cinnamon, remaining butter and egg. Pour into the buttered dish.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Pour the cold milk over the pudding and return to the oven. Bake for 2 hours. It’s OK if it separates a bit.

Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

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