Above: Try this traditional American dessert with Native American roots (from Cultural Blend, November 2021). Photograph by Quentin Bacon.
I’ve adapted this dish from a recipe first made popular by English settlers in the colonial era. It’s a traditional American dessert with Native American roots. The English, craving the sweetened porridge they called hasty pudding, began using Native American cornmeal to create a version sweetened with milk and molasses. Mine is a silky-smooth, creamy baked custard. I keep the traditional flavors of molasses and corn but remove any hint of grittiness and add dashes of fragrant cinnamon and nutmeg plus a bright taste of cranberry. I serve it with a scoop of ice cream, but it’s also a comforting treat on a lazy morning with a fresh cup of coffee.
6 cups whole milk
½ cup unsalted butter
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup molasses
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
½ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries
Vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional
Fresh cranberries, for garnish, optional
Serves 6 to 8
Preheat the oven to 300°. Into a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, pour the milk and butter and bring to a rapid simmer.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, and salt.
Once the milk and butter come to a rapid simmer, remove from the heat and slowly whisk into the bowl with the eggs. (If you add the hot milk all at once, the eggs will curdle.)
After the milk and butter are incorporated into the egg mixture, whisk in the flour-cornmeal mixture. Stir in the dried cranberries.
Pour the mixture into a 12-inch round baking dish or pan. (If you prefer using a water bath during the baking process, set the baking dish into a larger ovenproof pan and pour hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.) Bake until cooked through, about 90 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve warm with ice cream and/or fresh cranberries, if desired.
New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian is available at bookstores throughout the country. Learn more about Freddie J. Bitsoie’s work, including his partnership with famed Italian chef Lidia Bastianich, on his Rezervations Not Required Facebook page.