Apple pudding a Thoreau favorite

Henry David Thoreau was fond of foraging on his lengthy tramps through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. His favorite fruits were wild apples from trees randomly planted by animals or from neglected trees where the grafts had died and the root stock survived.

In his natural history essay “Wild Apples,” he raves about the spicy tang of these noncommercial varieties. “They are more memorable to my taste than the grafted kinds; more racy and wild American flavors do they possess.” He found their wild taste “vivacious and inspiriting.”

Thoreau observed that “the time for wild apples is the last of October and the first of November. They then get to be palatable, for they ripen late, and they are still, perhaps, as beautiful as ever.” Not surprisingly, his favorite dessert was boiled apple pudding — often his entire meal.

Thoreau followed a mainly vegetarian diet at a time when the American diet was centered on meat. He made a practice of eating locally produced foodstuffs, such as beans and apples. His neighbors were growing hay and field corn as commodities and advised him to do the same. Instead, Thoreau cultivated a small field of beans at Walden Pond to demonstrate sustainable farming for local consumption.

I think he would like the following dish from “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book” of 1884.

Like many cookbook writers of her generation, financial necessity drove Mary J. Lincoln to teach cooking and writing cookbooks. She was the first principal of the famous Boston Cooking School, which taught nutrition and sanitation as well as cooking. Her book became the standard text for other cooking schools as well her own and the forerunner of the perennial bestseller by Fannie Merritt Farmer.

Eve’s Pudding
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Adapted from “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book” of 1884.
Eve’s Pudding
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Rating: 0
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Adapted from “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book” of 1884.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. lemon rind grated
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • cups dry unseasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ cup salted butter melted
  • 3 egg yolks beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup apple peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (about 1 medium apple)
  • 1 cup currants
  • 3 egg whites
  1. Butter a 6-cup capacity pudding mold or baking dish. Mix the sugar with the spices, lemon rind, and salt. In a large bowl, stir the bread crumbs and the melted butter. Stir in the sugar mixture. When cool, add the egg yolks and lemon juice and mix well.
  2. Position a rack in your big steaming kettle and add water up to the top of the rack. An upside-down ramekin can serve as a rack. Start the water boiling.
  3. Stir the chopped apple into the batter. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold one third of the egg whites into the apple batter with a rubber spatula, then gently fold in the rest of the egg white.
  4. Pour the batter into the pudding mold or baking dish, screw on the lid, or cover tightly with aluminum foil (shiny side out), and place on the rack inside the steaming kettle. (You want to prevent the steam that condenses on the inside of the lid from falling into the pudding and making a soggy mess.).
  5. Cover the steaming kettle with a lid and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 3 hours. Allow the pudding to cool for a few minutes, then unmold on a plate. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
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