Sinfully Easy Homemade Pudding

My family has a milk problem.  We buy pretty awesome milk– it’s local, it’s organic, it’s unhomogenized, and it’s pasteurized just enough to satisfy the legal requirement– but it’s only available by the full gallon.  A gallon of milk– in a family full of people who never developed the taste for cow’s milk– is a LOT.

Lately we’ve settled into a pattern in which we buy two gallons of milk at the start of the month, use the first gallon to make yogurt, and the second gallon goes into a recipe here or there and then just kind of sits around waiting.  It goes sour– so we use it for baking and soup instead of desserts and sauces– and then it goes actually bad, so there’s nothing left to do but let the last half-gallon or so clabber and then give it to the chickens.

To combat this waste, I’ve been experimenting with homemade puddings.  I love pudding, silky and creamy and sweet, and it’s an excellent way to use up milk.

Below is my master recipe for homemade pudding, followed by a long list of flavor options.  Choose your own adventure!

The basic recipe (and some of the less-modified versions, like vanilla and tea leaves) fills 3 half-pint canning jars perfectly.  Versions with a large volume of additions (fruit flavored, chocolate almond, etc.) may take 4 half-pints or more.

  • 3 cups whole milk*, divided
  • 2/3 cup turbinado sugar (white or light brown will work, too)
  • dash of salt
  • 3.5 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca flour

mise en place:

Pour 1 cup of the milk into a small container and whisk in cornstarch until completely dissolved.

Combine sugar and salt.

  1. Pour the remaining 2 cups milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepot and heat just below medium, stirring frequently, until warmed through and steamy.
  2. Stir in the sugar/salt mixture, mixing well until all crystals are dissolved.
  3. Slowly add the cornstarch/milk mixture, stirring constantly.
  4. Stir constantly and continue to cook until the pudding coats the side of the pot and a light trace is achieved.  Remove from heat, continuing to stir through frequently to minimize skin.
  5. Pour into canning jars, filling as close to the top as possible to minimize the formation of skin, lid tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  Keeps for at least a week, although some flavors may start to suffer after a few days.

*dairy alternatives will also work, but if you want to use a pre-sweetened product (such as Vanilla Silk) sugar should be reduced to 1/3 cup

For very vanilla pudding, stir 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or powder into the sugar/salt mixture.  Use a 3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste/powder if you’re after something more subtle.

For delicate banana pudding, make as above and layer thin slices of one ripe banana into the jars as you pour in the hot pudding.  Chill at least 5 hours to infuse with flavor and use within 3 days.  The banana slices will start to oxidize after about 12 hours, so if appearance is important, be prepared to use it sooner rather than later.

For intensely chocolate pudding, make as above but add 1/3 cup of cocoa powder (natural will give a better flavor than Dutched) into the sugar/salt mixture during mise en place.

For chocolate-almond pudding, make as chocolate pudding and add 2 tablespoons of amaretto or almond extract to the milk/cornstarch mixture.  Top with slivered or chopped almonds.

For rustic, fruit-speckled pudding (my children especially love strawberry), stir 1 cup of fruit purée into the cold milk and prepare as above.  This pudding will be thicker than others due to the pectin in the fruit.  If you’re using overripe fruit, it may acidify your milk and cause it to separate, but just keep whisking and have faith– the starch will bring it back together.

For salted caramel pudding, increase salt to 1 teaspoon, and dry caramelize the sugar in a separate pot to a medium golden brown and scrape slowly into steaming milk, stirring constantly to avoid scalding.  Especially nice topped with chantilly cream and a few delicate flakes of sea salt just before serving.

For cookies and cream pudding, powder 3 chocolate sandwich cookies and finely crush or chop another six.  Prepare pudding as above, then stir these variously destroyed cookies into hot pudding.

For chocolate chip cookie pudding, add a pinch of vanilla powder to the sugar, add 1.5 teaspoons blackstrap molasses and 2 tablespoons browned butter to the cold milk, and layer with a sprinkling of chocolate chips in the jars.

For a unique, sophisticated flavor choice, pour the contents of a tea bag (or about 1tsp finely-crushed loose leaf tea) into the cold milk.  Earl grey is a lovely choice, as is Good Earth Sweet and Spicy.

For chocolate mint cookie pudding (great for Thin Mint lovers), prepare as chocolate pudding, then stir 1 teaspoon peppermint extract into the hot pudding.  You can also stir in crushed Thin Mints or similar cookies.