Hasty Pudding was a British dessert that also spawned a simpler, but none-the-less popular, New England version.
It is a porridge, sweetened to be served as a dessert. The liquid it is made with can be milk or water, and the thickener can be flour, oatmeal or tapioca. In the New World, cornmeal was often used.
In the New World, the sweetener might be molasses, honey, maple syrup or brown sugar.
Fancier versions might have an egg stirred into them, be flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg or lemon zest, dotted with butter and popped under a hot grill (broiler) for a few minutes to get golden brown, and then be served with a poached fruit..
It could also be unsweetened, and be served with a gravy to be a savoury dish or side-dish. Particularly when made with cornmeal and unsweetened, it was essentially what we now call “polenta.”
It was called “Hasty” because it could be made quickly — in 40 minutes or under. Given how much kitchen effort was required to produce anything to eat back then, that counted as a “quick” dish — provided you already had the wood chopped for the fire.
Colonial American version:
6 cups (3 pints / 1 1/2 litres) of water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (5 oz / 150g) uncooked cornmeal
Bring the water to boil in a pot. Stir in the salt, then drizzle the cornmeal in slowly, stirring constantly (a wire whisk is ideal.) Lower heat to a simmer, and allow to simmer about 5 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken. Then cover the pot, and turn the heat right down, and let it cook for an additional 30 minutes, removing the cover periodically to stir and check on it. Serve in bowls with sugar sprinkled on top, and milk poured over it.
2 cups (1 pint / 475 ml)
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (3 oz / 90g) of flour
1/4 cup (2 oz / 60 g) sugar
Put the milk in a pot; bring to the boil. Stir the flour in, and cook until it thickens,stirring constantly. Some lumps should remain. Melt the butter in a separate pot, stir in the sugar. Serve the pudding in bowls, pouring some of the sweetened butter into the centre of each serving. You may also top with a dollop of jam. [Optional: before starting, add some grated lemon peel to the milk.]
Literature & Lore
Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy.
Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.