I was born in Boston, raised on Durgin Park. Their legendary 7 hour slow bake Indian pudding was my standard. Over the years I have actually made it their way, but eventually learned a good way to speed up the process. My own take is to add fresh cranberries and most recently, of course, sumac, which I have dried and ground from local, native drupes. The commercial brands are no doubt better, but I enjoy my homemade edition, nonetheless. To save on dish washing, create your own serving dishes optionally from pumpkin and squash...okay, I am kidding. You will need a plate underneath, if you like as much ice cream with these as I do. I have always found Indian pudding a must to serve warm. I love it, but only in small servings with heaps of vanilla or ginger ice cream. My version adds more acidity with the addition of cranberries, sumac, lemon and ginger to balance out the intensity of the molasses. I like the addition of pumpkin for Thanksgiving, but that is optional. I do not suggest baking the pudding in the pumpkin; when you bake the pumpkin or squash on their own, you can get the caramelized topping. This dessert can be a mini meal in itself, a second feast. This is my offering on a traditional recipe. —Sagegreen
For the Optional "Dishes"
small sugar pumpkins, cut into serving sized shapes
acorn squash, cut in half, or just 2 more small sugar pumpkins, if you have them
sprinkle of cinnamon
brown sugar, to taste
fresh cranberries, chopped roughly in half or so
or 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, to taste
pinch of salt
fresh grated ginger
corn meal, yellow or white
buttermilk, or whole milk
unsalted butter for pan and topping
to 1 tablespoon of ground sumac, optional
warm maple syrup
splash of bourbon or brandy, optional
great vanilla ice cream, or possibly ginger ice cream
fresh grating of nutmeg, optional finish
toasted pecans or walnuts, optional garnish
Cut the squash and pumpkin into halves. Clean out all the seeds and gunk. Then craft and trim down the squash and pumpkin bottom halves into deep saucer shaped dishes. Make sure they sit squarely. If not, trim the bottoms, as well. A whole half pumpkin is too big for one portion, so trim the pumpkin into good portion sizes. Do use the bottom "saucer" as shown in the photo, but you can also create serving shapes out of the sides. Create as many serving shapes as you need for your company.
Dab each portion with butter. Pour a bit of syrup and a sprinkle of sugar on each. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you like.
In a 375 degree oven bake until done, about an hour. Then set aside. You can re- warm them for 20-30 more minutes in the oven while the pudding cools, after it is done.
Mix the syrup, salt, and sugar with spices together. Combine with the chopped cranberries. Let sit.
Scald 2 cups of milk in a sauce pan. Quickly whisk in the corn meal, stirring continuously. You can use a double boiler, but I live dangerously.
Whisk in the beaten egg and molasses. Cook for about 5 minutes. It should thicken up nicely. Add the cranberry mix and cook for another 5 minutes.
Whisk in the buttermilk (or regular milk) thoroughly. Add the lemon zest.
Pour into a generously buttered 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the top with sumac and demerara sugar, maybe a dash of cinnamon. Add a few curls of unsalted butter, too. Place the dish in a bath of hot water for best results, but you can avoid this step if it seems like one step too many at this point. Bake in a 300 degree oven for about 2 hours (it beats 7!) until the pudding has the thickness of a moist bread pudding. Check midway to stir the pudding. Stir the pudding again in the final hour, too. Take out and let cool for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile return the squash and pumpkin "dishes," if you are using them, to the oven to reheat in the warm oven (which can be turned off at this point).
To plate scoop out the warm Indian pudding onto the warm "vegetable" plates. Top with warm maple syrup and a splash of optional spirit, a grating of nutmeg, and hopefully a hefty scoop of vanilla or ginger ice cream. You can also include some toasted nuts on top for a final garnish.