A continuing series on weekly meals that use sustainable, organic, local and ethical food during the challenging winter months. For more information, go here to the DDC section of Not Dabbling in Normal’s website: Dark Days Challenge.
In which I start the day and end the season with an all-local breakfast of Indian pudding and cranberries…
Breakfast in our household falls into two camps: His and Hers. His is sweet and Hers is savory. Hers (mine) is easy to make from local ingredients at any time of year, including the Dark Days, since its ingredients of choice are vegetables, fruit, cheese, and eggs. My personal favorite is a poached egg over the previous evening’s leftover vegetables, but I would settle for local apples and cheese any day of the week. My favorite beverage is herb tea from leaves that I dried last summer, especially lemon verbena and mint.
But this is a challenge, right? His breakfast is not just a challenge: it defies local, except for milk, yogurt, honey, and maple syrup. There’s no way my homemade granola is based on local grains and seeds. There’s no way that hot oatmeal, cold cereal, wheat bread, muffins, and flour-based pancakes are fully local since our area simply does not support marketable grain production. (We are going to experiment during the upcoming growing season, so we’ll see if we can conquer small-scale production.) And while our coffee is locally roasted from fair trade beans, that’s outside my definition of local.
Never one to take the easy route, and challenged by Not Dabbling in Normal’s question about seeking alternatives to eggs and meat, I really thought about this problem. The pumpkin polenta that I made for the Vegetarian Challenge a few weeks ago could have worked. Then ah ha, what about Indian pudding? I recall this thrifty dish from my schoolgirl days in New England and figured I could proceed with local ingredients, other than cinnamon and salt. I consulted the ultimate Boston source, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
The recipe didn’t appear to have the right proportion of cornmeal to milk and after cooking it halfway, I changed course and doubled the cornmeal to reach perfection (which is now reflected in my recipe). I’m sure this is because cornmeal comes in all kinds of grinds and absorption rates. I also changed the amount (less) and type of sugar, opting for local maple syrup and molasses. I topped the finished pudding with a little heavy cream and the last of the candied cranberries that I made for the Dark Days Dessert Challenge, though poached or baked apples would have been good too.
Ta da! I managed to complete the full course of Dark Days meals and learned a whole bunch in the process. Bravo and thanks to the organizers and those who stuck it out.
Indian Pudding adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
2 c milk
½ c yellow cornmeal, fine-medium grind
1/3 c maple syrup
½ c molasses
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger (or 1 tsp grated fresh ginger)
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Bring water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Heat 1 1/2 cup of milk in the top of the double boiler and when very hot, whisk in the cornmeal. Cook over the simmering water, covered, for 10-15 minutes until creamy and thick. Add the salt, butter and spices and mix well. Turn into a buttered 1-quart baking dish. Heat the remaining milk and pour it on top. Place the baking dish into a shallow metal pan and pour the water from the bottom of the double boiler into the pan to reach halfway up the dish of the baking dish. Bake for approximately 2½ hours until set.
Serve with cream (or if using as dessert, ice cream).
Makes at least 4 servings.