To Make a Potatoe Pudding

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Recently, Marissa and I faced off … over rice pudding. We each made a different eighteenth-century rice pudding recipe and compared results, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming crossover post here and on The Recipes Project.  (Spoiler: we declared a draw.)

A few of the early modern recipe books contain handy tables of contents, but most don’t, and obviously none are text-searchable (if only!), so hunting for a specific recipe like rice pudding can prove a challenge. Judeth Bedingfield’s recipe book (UPenn MS Codex 631) from the 1730s and 40s has become one of my go-to sources because of its comprehensiveness – and sure enough, it turned up not one but four rice pudding recipes. In this hunt for rice pudding, I was reminded of the astonishing range of other puddings in her book: orange (x3), “green quaking” (with spinach), carrot (x2), apple, potato, caraway, oatmeal (x2), calves’ foot, hasty, barley, marrow (x2), “quaking,” “shaking,” green, liver, white (x3). A pudding bonanza! We made Bedingfield’s carrot pudding early on in the project and still count it among our favorites, so I was ready to try another one. I chose potato because I was curious to taste it – curiosity is the driving force in most of my early modern recipe selections!

The Recipe

potatoe pudding

To Make a Potatoe Pudding

Take one pound of Potatoes, Boyle them till they peel, pound them in a morter, melt half a
pound of butter, a quarter of a pint of sack, put into them, take six eggs, leave out half [th]e
whites, sweeten it to y[ou]r tast, stirr it all together, grate a Little nutmeg in it when you bake it
butter y[ou]r Dish very well, three quarters of an hour will bake it /

IMG_4775

Our Recipe
[halved from the original*]

1/2 lb. potatoes (about 1 large), peeled and cubed
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick), melted
1/4 c. white wine
3 eggs, separated (3 yolks, 1.5 whites)
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter or spray a small baking dish (or ramekins)**.

Boil potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork (about 10 mins). Transfer to a food processor, then add the melted butter, white wine, egg yolks + whites, and nutmeg. Pulse until completely smooth. Pour mixture into baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 mins, until top is puffed and golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temp.

*Note: Why do we halve most of these recipes? Because they often make a large quantity, because usually we’re feeding just a few people, and, most importantly, because they’re experiments. Neither of us wants to waste ingredients, so wherever possible, we make a smaller quantity to see how it turns out.

**Note: I used a 6.5″ square Corning Ware casserole “borrowed” (um, several years ago) from my mom, who received it as a wedding gift in the 70s. The pudding layer was fairly shallow in this small dish – probably too shallow for an 8″ square – so ramekins would work nicely too.

The Results

Carrot pudding still comes out the winner for me in our Great (and ongoing) Pudding Experiment, but potato pudding was interesting. While the carrot pudding recipe includes a specified amount of sugar and candied peel AND instructs the cook to sweeten it to taste, this one simple directs the cook to sweeten it to taste. The white wine and nutmeg produce a flavor profile not quite sweet or savory (especially given that the recipe doesn’t call for any salt), so how much sugar you add can alter the taste considerably. It tastes recognizably of potatoes – in fact, I’d perhaps try this with sweet potatoes, since I really like their natural flavor – and bakes up quite firm, more so than the carrot pudding. I’d had enough after a few bites. The potato plus some tang from the wine plus the earthiness of the nutmeg didn’t quite add up to something I’d be eager to try again. But it’s very easy to make and requires few ingredients, making it a simple dish to prepare. This ease might explain the prevalence of all varieties of pudding in early modern cooking – they’re easy, usually inexpensive, and can be scaled to large quantities. Stay tuned for the rice pudding report!

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8 thoughts on “To Make a Potatoe Pudding

  1. I hope you do not mind my commenting on your recipes. My aunt and grandmother made ‘rice pudding’. They were born at the turn of the 19th Century, and although there is a Century from the time of recipe to the handed down 19th century recipes, I assure you that white wine was ‘no longer used’ to make rice pudding. Unlike our age of progress, recipes were handed down for hundreds of generations. The sole role of women, until the latter half of the 20th century was to foremost cook, clean and take care of the children. Rice pudding was considered a dessert, and was sweet. My aunt and grandmother used whole milk only instead of the white wine, which would drastically change the flavor of this sweet dessert. Would have been nice to try sweet potato especially with fall.

    Blessings and thank you for reviving the art of cooking with tradition.

    Elaine

    • Thanks very much for sharing your family’s tradition of rice pudding, and how wonderful that you have these recipes passed down through generations. You’re right that this potato pudding is probably less sweet than the rice puddings we enjoy today. In the two rice pudding recipes that we tried and will post about soon, one called for white wine and the other did not, so there’s certainly a variety of recipes to suit all rice pudding tastes. We’ll look forward to hearing how those recipes compare to your family’s.

  2. These puddings will come in handy when I want to host an eighteenth-century Passover seder and need a kugel recipe. I look forward to the rice pudding faceoff.

  3. Yum. This does look good. Nothing is quite as delicious as a well-cooked potato! Don’t know how I feel about them not adding salt though. I am a true believer that every flavor is enhanced by salt.

    Interesting that they suggest adding sugar rather than salt though. I wonder if that means that salt was rarer during that time. Or perhaps sugar was rarer and being able to load lots of sugar into a meal implied that you were rich enough to afford such luxuries?

    Very interesting read…

  4. Pingback: Pancakes Two Ways | Cooking in the Archives

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