It has been a while since I’ve cooked on the hearth and I have missed it greatly. With my rotator cuff finally healing, I’m off again on my culinary journey. The weatherman predicted snow; the weather was cold enough, and my thoughts went to something sweet, sticky and warm.  Indian pudding with ice cream is one of my husband’s favorites, so I felt this would be a good start for a frosty evening. The history of Indian Pudding can be traced back to the 1650s when milk became prevalent and the English made their hasty pudding with wheat flour. With the arrival of molasses in New England around the mid-1700s, and the native corn, Indian Pudding was born.

In the New World, Indian tribes were making some form of corn meal gruel or pudding, sweetened with honey or berries.  However, what we know as Indian Pudding is strictly part of our early English American culinary heritage.

The early colonists brought with them their tradition of “hasty pudding” made with wheat flour, and water or milk, which thickened into porridge. Here in New England wheat was not only scarce but hard to grow so corn became a staple. Our pudding deprived forefathers and mothers adapted the use of the plentiful native cornmeal to make sweet and or savory puddings. The corn, a quintessential new world food, was beat in a mortar to make a meal which they call Samp. They then sifted it. This native corn is gluten-free, and does not rise like yeast base breads, and was successfully adapted to puddings.

In the beginning of the 1700s, pounding corn in a mortar was hard work, and the only way to produce the meal one needed for the household.  Plymouth started a grist mill in 1633 however it was a pounding mill rather than a grinding one. The first water-operated grist mill was built in 1634 in Milton, Massachusetts. So a lot of work went into the Indian Pudding placed on the table, and that does not count milking the cow and trading hard cash or labor for spices, molasses and sugar.

So, having the luxury of a store and hard cash I bought what I needed for making an Indian Pudding. Now, what receipt to use? In “THE ART OF COOKERY MADE PLAIN AND EASY,” 1776, by Hannah Glasse, the Indian pudding was made very simply with corn meal, a tad of salt and  sweetened with molasses. Her receipts call for either baking or boiling. In later years, Amelia Simmons, who wrote the “THE FIRST AMERICAN COOKBOOK,” 1796, dressed hers up with sugar, eggs, raisins and spices. She also boiled or baked the pudding. Now somewhere in-between these two receipts, I’m sure there was a woman who added her spin to the pudding also.

I decided to go with Amelia Simmons, as I like my pudding dressed up. I first started with putting out all my ingredients and scalding the milk. I needed to let the milk cool down before the eggs went in so I first added the spices and sticky good molasses.Untitled-1 copy


Not wanting to scramble the eggs in the warm milk, I added a little milk to the bowl and mixed it up.  Then I slowly added that to the milk mixture.I love golden raisins, so in went a nice handful.


When everything was well beat together and a wonderful brown color I poured it into a redwear dish that I had warmed by the fire.


Untitled-3I like my pudding with a soft center, so I emptied a cup of cream over the top.

 This I stirred to distribute the richness of the cream.


The coals were perfect and the night young. Good thing as it takes one and a half hours to bake the pudding.  I turned it a quarter turn every 15 minutes to ensure even baking. With the coals out on the hearth some smoke swirled in the room but the smell of that mixed with the pudding only made it harder to wait for it to be done.

We are missing a picture here.  We finished our dinner and could not wait to dig in to the warm and luscious Indian pudding that we topped with large spoonful s of vanilla ice cream.  All I can say is that it was a real treat and, with Thanksgiving coming along, it will be made again soon.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving with good friends, fine food and a happy heart.


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About Sandie

Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However it was not until about Fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury Ct. I was the director of the Junior Docent program and among the programs each week we cooked. At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages you name it we offered it. I am now a member of the ALFAM foodways group. Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on heart cooking and the 18th century way of life. I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 17070’s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at Museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing workshop and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright house. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the Museum of Old York in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file Because I do make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager. I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.

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