Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Many Variations of Hasty Pudding

Maize was planted early in the colony of Australia. As far as I can gather, it was at first used primarily as animal food, but there was increasing interest in it as human food over the first decades of the nineteenth century. This was not in the form of sweet corn on the cob, but as maize flour. The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, of  March 30, 1830, included a lengthy extract from the work of the famous Count Rumford on this topic. Part of it is included here:

[From Count Rumford's Essays.]
In regard to the most advantageous method of using Indian corn as food, I would strongly recommend, particularly when it is employed for feeding the poor, a dish made of it that is in the
Highest estimation throughout America, and which is really very good, and very nourishing. This is called hasty-pudding; and it is made in the following manner. A quantity of water, prortioned to the quantity of hasty-pudding intended to be made, is put over the fire in an open iron pot, or kettle, and a proper quantity of salt for seasoning the pudding being previously dissolved in the water, Indian meal is stirred into it, by little and little, with a 'wooden spoon with a long handle, while the water goes on to be heated und made to boil; great care being taken to put in the meal by very small quantities, and by sifting it slowly through the fingers of the left hand, and stirring the water about very briskly at the same time with the wooden spoon with the right hand, to mix the meal with the water in such a manner as to prevent the lumps being formed. The meal should be added so slowly that when the water is brought to boil, the mass should not be thicker than water-gruel, and half an hour more, at least, should be employed to add the additional quantity of meal necessary for bringing the pudding to be of the proper consistency, during which time it should be stirred about continually and kept boiling. The method of determining when the pudding has acquired the proper consistency is this; the wooden spoon used for stirring it being placed upright in the middle of the kettle, if it falls down, more meal must be added; but if the pudding is sufficiently thick and adhesive to support it in a vertical position, it is declared to be proof; and no more meal is added.- If the boiling, instead of being continued only half an hour, be prolonged to three quarters of an hour, or an hour, the pudding will be considerably improved by this prolongation.
This hasty-pudding, when done, may be eaten in various ways.-It may be put, while hot, by spoonfuls into a bowl of milk, and eaten with the milk with a spoon, in lieu of bread; and used in this way it is remarkably palatable.-It may likewise be eaten, while hot, with a sauce composed of butter and brown sugar, or butter and molasses, with or without a few drops of vinegar; and however people who have not been accustomed to this American cookery may be prejudiced against it, they will find upon trial that it makes a most excellent dish, and one which never fails to be much liked by those who are accustomed to it.-The universal fondness of Americans for it proves it must have some merit, for in a country which produces all the delicacies of the table in the greatest abundance, it is not to be supposed that a whole nation should have a taste so depraved as to give a decided preference to any particular species of food which has not something to recommend it.

The manner in which hasty pudding is eaten with butter and sugar, or butter and molasses is as follows: The hasty-pudding being spread out equally upon a plate, while hot, an excavation is made in the middle of it, with a spoon, into which excavation a piece of butter, as large as a nutmeg, is put, and upon it, a spoonful of brown sugar, or more commonly of molasses.-The butter being soon melted by the heat of the pudding, mixes with the sugar, or molasses, and forms a sauce, which being confined in the excavation made for it, occupies the middle of the plate.-The pudding is then eaten with a spoon, each spoonful of it being dipt into the sauce before it is carried to the mouth: care being had in taking it up, to begin on the outside, or near the brim of the plate, and to approach the centre by regular advances, in order not to demolish too soon the excavation which forms the reservoir for the sauce.

An edition of the same newspaper on April 10, 1830 continued the article, and embedded in it was yet another variation of the recipe.

A pudding in great repute in all parts of North America, is what is called an apple pudding. This is an Indian pudding, sometimes with, and some-times without suet, with dried cuttings of sweet apples mixed with it; and When eaten with butter, it is most delicious food. Those apples, which are pared as soon as they are gathered from the tree, and being cut into small pieces, are freed from the cores, and thoroughly dried in the sun, may be kept good for several years. The proportions of the ingredients used in making those apple puddings is varied, but in general, about one pound of dried apples is mixed with three pounds of meal – three quarters of a pound of molasses, half an ounce of salt, and five pints of boiling water.
In America, various kinds of berries, found wild in the woods, such as huckle-berries, bel-berries, whortle-berries, &c. are gathered and dried, and afterwards used as ingredients in Indian puddings: and dried cherries and plums may be made use of in the same manner.

All those Indian puddings have this advantage in common, that they are very good warmed up. They will all keep good several days, and when cut into thin slices and toasted, are an excellent substitute for bread.

1 comment:

Piet said...

It continues to occupy a warm spot in many hearts under the name "mush", or "cornmeal mush". In our family, it's a treat when made with bits of crisp bacon mixed in; the mush is poured into a loaf pan to cool overnight, and then sliced and fried in the morning not as a sweet dish but savory. Under ordinary circumstances, it's what we call "water mush", just made plain and either eaten hot and soft or, again, sliced and fried the next day. And, of course, in Italy it's polenta; in Roumania it's mamaliga.