Tag Archives: food

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.

Food Culture

Yes, small children, first we drink the milk.  The good sweet milk, the rich fatty milk, the bluish cloudy clear-running milk.  Milk makes us, milk and mother.

And then we eat the berries, the tart and sweet and sticky berries with their staining juices.

We suck on the avocado pit, getting up the last of that patina of nutty, creamy richness.

We take a naive mouthful of lemon rind, grimace in surprise, but go back for another taste.  And another, sour-sweet and pith-bitter.

We bite the tomatoes, an explosion of seeds and flesh landing in hair and on noses, fragile, membranous skin tearing in our teeth, juice dripping down chins, and on our tongues the taste of sunshine, hoarded in a vessel the color of fire.

We eat the bitter, green, spring herbs, and the pollen-dusted dandelion, and the peppery arugula, and the delicately sour miner’s lettuce.

We crunch into the sweet-crisp-tart raw apple, cool from storage, and stew others until pasty and honey-scented.  We accept that the pear juice will run down to our elbows and drip off, leaving clothes sticky.  We gamely taste the raw quince, furry and unpleasant, but perfumed perfection once cooked.

We chew the bread crust, teeth working, jaw strong, using a shake of the head to get another mouthful.  The structural, tanned, golden brown crust, the spongy-soft crumb, the tang of wild yeast or the motherly kiss of molasses.

We eat the beans, stewed and soaked and puréed and raw from the pod in spring, verdant and herbaceous.

We taste little dips and finger-tips of sauces and salsas and dressings, some painfully spicy, some silky-smooth, some that make the back of your throat warm, some that pucker your cheeks.

And then we try potatoes; soft, fluffy mashed potatoes with melting-away butter, and the salty fries, and the green-and-white stick-to-your-ribs colcannon your great grandmother would rather die than admit to.

We tear the frybread, and it makes a sound like falling silk.  It leaves the barest sheen of oil on our fingertips, and smells like scalded milk and a hot pan.

We gobble down the pappardelle and slurp up the soup, we pile up the rice and we scrape up ice cream.  We crumble the granola between our fingers, lick them clean, taste brown sugar and almond and salt.

We dollop the yogurt and we spread the jam, we curl our tongues around backwards to lick up mouth-corners full of richly red pizza sauce.  We cup our hands around the bowl of curry, spiced and warm and full.  We spill the chocolate chips accidentally-on-purpose and half-tongue-melt, half-chew them up, bitter and sweet together, velvet against teeth.

We bite-suck the figs, seeds crunching in our maw, juice dribbling down chins, leathery outsides and succulent gelid inner chambers.

We dip everything, crunchy and crispy and salted, we clean our bowls of tangy-sweet beets and goat cheese, earthy hummus, the sloppy-but-salubrious seven layers, and we use a licked fingertip to gather up detritus of zaatar and otherworldly tendrils of saffron.

We taste the singing of the wildflowers in the honey, and the babylove nourishment of cheese, and you can try the smoke and the salmon together, and the salami over the mustard, and the chewy-meaty dried bison with cranberries, even though I don’t much care for them myself.

We relish the sour pickles, and crunch up the cabbage, raw and green or stomped and preserved, and we dig our fingers into the masa, and we thump the hot loaves and listen carefully for their response.

We carry the eggs tenderly into the house, scrub them and polish them, crack them open, find that golden treasure inside.

We pop the roasted cruciferous bits into our mouths, too hot to close our lips around, but with a delicious dark-brown edge and full of warm comfort.  We argue over the corner brownie and the bubbliest socca and the best-risen pão.  We put balsamic vinegar, dark and sweet and sour, on salads and bread, over sweet potatoes and in pasta, under vibrant basil leaves, in brine for precious figs.

We burn the tomatoes to bitter and jammy, and we toast the nuts, and we cook sugar golden-brown and sticky, and we seek the perfect pasta al dente, and we chew the pebbly dark-green raw kale.

We freeze and blend and blend and freeze, we boil away the air to keep the harvest for winter, and we scrape the salt out of the finishing pans, a hoarfrost of crystal pyramids.

We cannot resist the radishes, sulfurous and crunchy, or the barely-sweet crisp carrots.  We raise the fragile sprouts and shoots in a glass jar on the kitchen table and stir them into cottage cheese.  We crumble feta into homemade yogurt, and we roast garlic in the firepit, covering it with soot but making it buttery, rich, and savory.

We fold the pastry with practiced fingers and brush on butter, egg, milk, water, and sprinkle with sesame, poppy, salt, sugar, flax.  We drop the biscuits and we steam the tortillas.  We roll the crackers and we grease the pans.  We cut out the ginger-smelling cookies and stick our fingers together drizzling them with icing.

We share what we love, and we try new things.  We ask and we learn.  We give a tentative taste to the unknown, always ready to find a new favorite.  We are loud in restaurants, laughing and telling stories, and we are still and meditative over that first morning tea mug.

We reminisce together: that crispy, addictive pakora, that herbed and creamy dip with no cream in it, those delicate pastry boxes full of crunchy asparagus, those too-spicy tacos, those perfect chocolate chip cookies, the storebought guacamole and the sleepless nights.

And in the end, we are all of these things: milk and fruit, sweet and bitter, cookies and kale, salty and sour, memories and a sense of adventure.

That, small children, is the food of our culture, and the culture of our food.

Too Much Jam

I have this heady fantasy that someday, while I’m browsing the shelves of a used book store, I will happen across an old, stained, turn-of-the-20th-century book with a title like “Too much of a good thing: how to use up an excess of anything.”

This fantastical book will have chapter titles like “What to make with too much ________” and “How to use up extra _______” where the blanks are filled in with those things I usually don’t have enough of, but sometimes manage to be totally buried in.  Things like milk, and little scraps of leather, and decorative rivets, and palm-sized bits of cotton calico, and those temptingly sturdy boxes fancy chocolates come in, and jam.

Yes, jam.

Right now, I have a scraping of raspberry preserves, a scraping of quince paste, two and a half jars of quince jelly, and about 3/4 of a jar of huckleberry compote all clamoring for my attention in the fridge.  And we *just* managed to use up a pint of strawberry jam, after I shamelessly instructed Ithilien to scrape out the last spoonful and eat it straight.  I know how this happened: we were out of jam at the end of the summer, so I bought a jar of raspberry preserves on special.  Then I borrowed some strawberry freezer jam from my parents to make Ithilien’s birthday cake.  Then I found a forgotten pint of quince paste from last time at the bottom of our canning jar stack.  Then we canned our quince jelly for this year, and had an awkward half-jar leftover, plus two jars that didn’t seal.  Then my dad got some huckleberry compote for Christmas that wasn’t sweet enough for his taste and I volunteered to take it home because, for real, who wouldn’t accept free huckleberry jam?

And here we are.

So I’m spending my new year making homemade Pop Tarts and Jammie Dodgers in the desperate attempt to turn the preserves that we use sparingly at breakfasts and on the occasional PB&J into things we can eat up right away without any particular effort.

Which I suppose bodes well for our new year, because an embarrassment of riches is an auspicious way to start anything, right?

Happy (and sweet and sticky) 2017 to you and yours!  May this year be as kind to us all as possible.