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Indian Pudding in Sturbridge Massachusetts (with recipe!)

Indian Pudding was on the menus absolutely everywhere we went in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. We finally tried it the day we had lunch at the Old Sturbridge Village Tavern.

We were expecting a dish something like southern classics corn pone (an eggless corn bread), corn pudding (somwhere between a quiche and a souffle), or spoon bread (a pudding-like bread).

We couldn’t have been more wrong!

It turns out that Indian Pudding, which originated in New England, is a spicy baked pudding made chiefly of cornmeal, milk, and molasses. The name Indian pudding comes from the addition of cornmeal—early colonists called most everything made with corn “Indian.” Originally the pudding was cooked in a pot over the open hearth and was very dense.

And it is NOTHING like the southern dishes we had in mind.

Indian pudding is traditionally serviced with ice cream, whipped cream, or hard sauce for a reason. We declined all of the above, and quickly regretted our choice.

What we received was essentially big bowl of warm molasses, slightly diluted with cornmeal and ginger. It was astoundingly strong in flavour.

Neil, a molasses fan, thought the Indian Pudding was amazing. I found it too sweet to eat.

I also got so loopy from the iron and sugar in just a spoonful that I spent the afternoon running and whooping up and down the dirt roads of historic Old Sturbridge Village (OSV). (Picture an overstimulated child the day after Halloween: that was me. Parents and school teachers will know exactly what I’m talking about.)

To put that phenomenal sugar rush into perspective, the OSV tinker told us that the early settlers at Sturbridge ate an average diet of 5,000 calories a day, and yet had life expectancies into the 70’s and 80’s: they burned off the calories with hard physical labour.

Indian Pudding had to go a long way to making up those 5,000 calories.

This is a good dish to serve on the crisp autumn weekend you fill your cellar with wood for the winter. Or the day you shovel driveways for your entire zip code.

It should also be a big winner with any anemics or vegan vampires you have over for Thanksgiving dinner.

You can find recipes for Indian Pudding in both Fanny Farmer and the Joy of Cooking, or you can try this recipe from Jasper White’s Cooking from New England via Steven Frederick’s blog.

Indian Pudding

  • 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 5 Tablespoons yellow cornmeal or johnnycake meal
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • Heavy or light cream for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Grease a 1 ½ quart soufflé mold or baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter; set aside.
  3. Heat 3 cups of milk in a saucepan until it is close to a boil.
  4. Add the cornmeal and reduce heat to low. Stir until the mixture thickens (about 5 minutes).
  5. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter, the molasses, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, ginger and egg.
  6. Pour into buttered mold or dish.
  7. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Pour the cold milk over the pudding and return to the oven.
  9. Cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes more or until the top is brown and crisp.
  10. Serve hot with cream.

Serves 6 to 8 people.

And if Indian Pudding isn’t hearty enough for your tastes, you might want to try flumadiddle: a baked main course pudding from New England made with stale bread, molasses, spices and pork fat.

Enjoy your taste of Massachusetts!

Photo Credit: Elise at Simply Recipes

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1 Lore { 09.17.08 at 2:33 pm }

Sounds like a yummy pudding although I’ve never heard of it until now…I guess I wasn’t traveling to the right places ;)

2 Shaula { 09.17.08 at 3:55 pm }

It really was omnipresent in the menus around Sturbridge. Keep an eye out for it if you ever find yourself in central Massachusetts.

And remember: don’t pass on the side of ice cream!

3 Doug Alder { 09.18.08 at 9:10 am }

Alas it sounds fabulous but I can no longer eat any sugar (Type II) but check out the fabulous fig dessert my wife made for me yesterday http://www.soundvisions.ca/2008/09/17/fresh-figs/ (and check out her art work while you’re there – she’s great) – I’m glad someone invented Splenda as it’s made going without sugar so much easier.

4 Shaula { 09.18.08 at 4:15 pm }

Doug, I missed the news that yo u got married! Congratulations! I am so happy for you and Diane, both. :)

And happy belated birthday as well.

That fig dessert looks amazing–and much more my style, too, than a big bowl of molasses and corn meal!

5 Carol V { 11.28.08 at 7:21 pm }

We miss the Indian Pudding that we used to be able to get at the little shack in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard. I attempted it as a dessert for this Thanksgiving and it was great…cooked in the crockpot. Now we can have it a couple of times a year. What a treat!

6 David Hershey { 11.29.08 at 9:53 am }

Thanks for sharing your New England Indian Pudding experience. In glancing through your listings I noticed the mention of Haggis in the weird food realm. My grandparents were from Scotland and settled in Massachusetts. As such I’ve acquired the taste for both Haggis and Indian Pudding as kid. Haggis used to be found in many of the local butcher shops in Scotland. If you care for a recipe let me know as I can send you one. Leave it to the Scots the same people who decided that a horse rub tonic was better suited for inebriation and thus the birth of Scotch. Again, thanks for sharing the indian pudding experience, it’s been years since I’ve been to Sturbridge, and I may have to stop by there the next time on my way through to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Mildford, Massachusetts. If you enjoyed Sturbridge you should try Plimouth Plantation for a Thanksgiving Dinner.

7 Neil { 12.05.08 at 2:16 pm }

I doubt we’ll be trying to make haggis (since I would be the one eating it, and I’m not much of a cook), but I do appreciate the offer =]
I’m actually a similar hybrid; my mom is from England (and her family, some time back, up and moved to Scotland), and my dad is from the land of chit’lins. We spent some time in Dallas, surrounded by menudo, too . . .
I didn’t know about the horse tonic connection, that’s pretty interesting. Although, I have known a sailor or two who’ve filtered aftershave through a loaf of bread when alcohol was scarce.
The more things change . . .
We are certainly hoping to meander back through New England in the spring (we’re developing something of a counter-clockwise migratory pattern), and we will keep an eye out of Plimouth Plantation for an extremely early Thanksgiving meal =]

8 Nathalie (Spacedlaw) { 04.24.09 at 9:23 am }

That must be fabulous (and indeed excessively sweet). The ginger would make it nicely hot, but I would try to reduce the amount of sugary bits (easy. To start with, where would I find molasses in Rome?).

9 Nathalie (Spacedlaw) { 04.24.09 at 9:26 am }

Just a clarification, though: Would the cornmeal be completely cooked after 5 minutes or just starting?
(since I would have to use polenta meal to do this, I need to know)

10 Mark { 09.21.10 at 3:07 pm }

After 5 minutes the cornmeal/milk mixture has the consistency of outmeal, but is not fully cooked. Only after the other ingredients have been added and it is baked does it have a firm consistency (and if too much milk is added it may still not hold it’s shape.)

11 Marc Osten { 09.22.10 at 11:56 am }

Here is a fantastic woman, in Pilgrim garb, running through her version. http://sc.blogs.com/marcs_culinary_compass/2010/09/episode-46.html

12 deborah dufour { 11.15.10 at 10:25 am }

being a true Yankee and a Mayflower descendent it was nice to find a simple receipe for my favorite childhood dessert! My grandmother use to make it every thanksgiving for me but I havent had it since my own mother passed 10 yrs ago. I married a southerner so have incorporated dishes he grew up with into my more traditional New England dishes. Again thanks for the simple receipe, this year Thanksgiving desserts will include Indian Pudding and (his) sweet potatoe pie

13 sharon { 12.29.10 at 7:04 am }

I wanted to find out about Indian Pudding after reading about a Thanksgiving Party in a book, I am always on the lookout for ideas for my Vegetarian Restaurant in the UK. May I respectfully point out to your subscriber that this is in no way suitable for vegans, as it contains dairy and eggs !

14 Phil { 11.22.11 at 5:38 pm }

Indian Pudding is one of my favorite Desserts. One of the best is served at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury Mass. There are so many versions of this pudding it’s hard to tell if one is better than the other. One of the best is from Durgin Park in Boston, their recipe cooks for 6 to 7 hours and is out of bounds good. Long cooking times over short and fast appears to be one of the secrets, too sweet than it’s not a very good recipe.

15 Davee { 01.13.12 at 8:09 pm }

I grew up eating Indian puddings made by various home and restaurant cooks in several states. I have never eaten or heard of any that could be described as cornmeal in a puddle of molasses, and, much as I love molasses, I don’t think I’d eat that, either! No, it should be quite thick and dense, not overly sweet, and served warm with the ice cream, whipped cream, or hard sauce. As it is very rich, the servings are usually quite small.

16 Bill { 06.17.13 at 8:54 am }

I grew up in New England and always enjoyed the traditional meals. Indian pudding was one of favorites that my mother made. The pudding at the Inn (which I stop at each time I am in the area) is wonderful and reminds me of the dessert I enjoyed as a child.

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