When I grew up, I would eat pudding. My mother got those boxed mixes. You know the ones you add milk to, then mix up, pour into dishes, and let set. My mother was not much of a cook so if she was feeling really creative that day, she would used the pudding you cook until thick, then pour in glass containers, and let cool. I remember loving to eat the skin that formed on top.
It wasn't until I hit college that I learned that not all puddings are created equal. I ran across bread pudding (yummy), Plum Pudding with Run Sauce, and other puddings that in no way resembled the mixture of my youth. I had this awesome bread pudding a couple years ago made with taro bread and it was fantastic. I ate too much of it but I wanted more.
Did you know bread pudding has been around since the 11th
or 12th centuries. It developed as a way of using stale bread. It
became known as the "poor man's pudding" and was enjoyed by the lower
classes. You can make bread pudding out of almost any type of bread and other ingredients. Check out this website which has tons of recipes for bread pudding by the queen of bread pudding.
The original puddings were meat based and often resembled sausage and used oatmeal as a filler. It is thought that the word pudding came from the french word boudin which came from the latin word botellus meaning small sausage which referred to the encased meat used in Medieval puddings.
By the 17th century puddings might be meat based (savory) or made with flour, nuts, and sugar (sweet) These puddings were cooked using special bags dropped in boiling water which is where the term boiled puddings came from. By the later part of the 18th century, puddings no longer contained meat but they were still boiled. By the 19th century boiled puddings resembled cakes and were not quite as dense.
The food we call a pudding is actually more like a custard and dates from the middle ages. At that time it was used as a filling or eaten alone. By the 1840's the distinction between European and American puddings became murky. The earliest recipe for chocolate pudding dates back to 1730 and calls for cream, eggs, egg whites, biscuits, chocolate, and a few spices and was baked.
Now for odds and ends:
Although rice pudding existed prior to the 19th century, it was originally used as a medicine for digestive ailments. It appears to have come from Asia where rice puddings known as porridge's were common but most every country has its own version of rice pudding. At some point it became a dessert.
One of the first puddings/custards was created in 1837 by Alfred Bird who used a corn starch for an instant pudding because his wife was allergic to eggs. I used Bird's custard mix when I was growing up. We'd put it on fruit for almost a trifle. It was good. I even use it today for a quick dessert.
Stay tuned to learn more about instant pudding that most of us have grown up on or use when we bake.