In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. Just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.
Although American colonists grew wheat, most of it was exported to England. Corn was the grain most likely to be found on the colonists’ tables, in corn bread, corn dodgers, corn mush and hasty pudding. You may remember this dish from the lines of the old song “Yankee Doodle:”
“Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.”
Hasty pudding was originally a mush that was slowly simmered over the open fire and topped with butter and whatever sweetener was available, such as honey, maple or sorghum syrup. This version is baked, more of a fancy dessert, and has some additions that are not strictly traditional.
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Lightly grease a 6- or 8-cup soufflé or baking dish with butter. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, scald the milk. While the milk is heating, pour the cream into a medium to large bowl, add the cornmeal, sugar, molasses, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Add this cream/corn meal/spice mixture to the scalded milk. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat until the pudding has thickened to the consistency of syrup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Temper the eggs by slowly adding 1/2 cup of the hot cornmeal mixture to the eggs while whisking rapidly. Vigorously whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cornmeal mixture. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring until melted. Pour mixture into the prepared soufflé dish, and place dish on a shallow baking pan on the center oven rack. Pour enough HOT water into the shallow baking pan to come 2/3 of the way up the outsides of the soufflé or baking dish. Bake until pudding is set and a tester inserted close to (but not in) the center comes out clean, usually about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and remove from the water bath and let cool slightly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or heavy cream.