Perhaps one of the nicest words in the English Language. Right up there with words like honey, peach, and cream.
In England, pudding defines the sweet course following the main meal. In America, however, pudding is an actual dish. Sometimes referred to as custard, pudding usually consists of milk or cream, sugar, eggs, corn starch, and flavoring.
Because pudding contains all the ingredients we've been taught to avoid over the last 30 years, this luscious sweet treat isn't as widely consumed as it once was. You can't, after all, make pudding with skim milk, zero calorie sweetener and egg replacers. (Yes, I know low fat, low calorie puddings are available in shelf-stable packages at the grocery store, but it's made in a factory out of dubious food-like products that probably lead to neurological impairments, tremors, incontinence and blindness)
Human beings love sugar. Some love it to the point of addiction. In the centuries before modern dentistry, people ate sugar as often as they could afford to. It was, however, expensive. Only the rich could afford to consume it regularly, which led to health problems; chief among them, rotten, black teeth. In fact, rotten teeth from too much sugar became a such a status symbol During Elizabethan times, that unbelievably, those who couldn't afford the sweet stuff "blackened" their teeth in imitation of those of higher rank. Sadly, people even died from putrid teeth. Death documents list those poor souls as dying simply from "teeth". Although the earliest record of sugar in England is 1099, it wasn't widely available or used until the mid to late 16th century.
One Victorian treat that is worth resurrecting is creamy, delicious rice pudding. Its so old-fashioned, many don't know how to make it, despite it's simplicity. Today's recipe comes from the 1939 edition of the Rumford Complete Cookbook (revised), called Poor Man's Rice Pudding. An apt title, there are only 5 ingredients, probably totaling less than ,50 per batch. It does, however take quite a long time in the oven, so electricity and gas must have been much cheaper in 1939. (The long cook time also contributes to the heat in the kitchen, so this might be a good dessert to prepare in the fall, winter or spring)
The authors of this recipe employed quite a bit of cleverness, accounting for the natural sugar in milk to contribute to the overall sweetness of the dish, without using store-bought granulated sugar. As the dish cooks, the milk reduces down to what amounts to condensed milk. The quart of milk required here contains over 1/4 cup of sugar naturally, and intensifies as it cooks down.
1 quart milk (although it doesn't specify here, I used regular whole milk)
2 level tablespoons rice ( I used long-grain natural rice. Converted rice may not achieve the same result)
1 level tablespoon butter
A pinch of salt
3 level tablespoons sugar
Wash the rice well and put it in a baking dish with the salt, sugar and butter; pour the milk over and bake very slowly, at least two and one-half hours, stirring twice during the first hour.
Again, oven temperature wasn't specified, but I used a 350 degree (F) and covered the baking dish during baking. After the fact, I discovered that and under-sheet would have been helpful, as there was a little spill-over.
Take a trip back to 1939, and experience an authentic flavor from the time. This rice pudding is sure to become a family favorite!!