Friday, June 2, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge: Lemon Cracker Pudding

Currently, there is a Retro Recipe Challenge taking place over at Laura Rebecca's Kitchen, and since I have a few vintage cookbooks in my small collection, I've decided to participate. Initially, I had thought of choosing a classic Betty Crocker recipe, but instead opted for Meta Given. The Modern Family Cook Book (Meta Given c. 1942, 1953, 1958, 1961), whose first sentence of the Introduction reads, "Mrs. Homemaker, this book is written for full appreciation of your problems of running a home," seemed perfect for this challenge. The Introduction further explains the various obstacles facing the modern housewife of yesterday (yet still holds some truth today), including menu planning, meal preparation, and household budgeting and accounting. The final sentence of the Introduction declares, "Mrs. Homemaker, this book is your book," and considering this single volume is nearly encyclopedic, with over 1000 recipe entries, in addition to extensive instructional information for seemingly all aspects of domestic cookery, this book remains a definitive homemaking text.

Although Lemon Cracker Pudding is not a dessert recipe that sounds very appealing, this is a retro recipe challenge, so it seemed an appropriate choice. The process was simple enough, scald some liquids, mix some dry ingredients, combine all together and bake. Top baked pudding with meringue, and bake again to set. I wasn't quite sure what the best baking dish for this recipe should be, so I used a classic vintage Corningware casserole. It worked very well.

While the pudding presented itself well, I remained skeptical of its flavor. But since I have an adventurous palate, I sampled the questionable dessert with reckless abandon. 'Odd,' was my initial reaction. The second forkful was, 'better.' And when I had finished the serving, this dessert had proven itself not only edible, but, actually, 'not too bad.' I can easily understand its appeal in 1942, when this book was first published. Food staples were limited and rationed during this time of world war. The ingredients for this dessert would have been more accessible than those required for elaborate dishes. This was simple, honest comfort food. And so, I am pleased to post this recipe for Lemon Cracker Pudding as my entry in the Retro Recipe Challenge from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen.

Lemon Cracker Pudding
(recipe courtesy of The Modern Family Cook Book, New Revised Edition, c.1961, Meta Given)

1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup water
2/3 cup coarse cracker crumbs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Add milk to water and scald in top of double boiler. Combine cracker crumbs, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and the rind, and add slowly to scalded milk, and water, stirring constantly. Stir in melted butter and beaten egg yolks. Pour into greased baking dish and bake in a moderately low oven (325° F) 45 minutes. Then remove from oven, cover with meringue made by beating whites of eggs until stiff, gradually adding 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Bake in a moderate oven (350° F) until meringue is brown (12 to 15 minutes). Serve warm or cold. 5 servings.

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