In any era, wartime cooking brings out the spirit of making do with whatever can be scrounged up when most supplies go to the war effort. The Confederate Receipt Book, published in Richmond in 1862 as the Civil War entered its second year, advertised itself as “adapted to the times.” Recipes informed readers how to make apple pie without apples and bread without yeast. It also gave substitutes for cream. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Confederate cooks was finding staples like flour and sugar when profiteers stashed away barrelsful, hoping the prices would increase. Ladies held “starvation parties,” serving water because nothing else was available. When Richmond fell to Union soldiers in 1865, looters broke into the profiteers’ warehouses and cleaned them out.
This simple pudding recipe has surprising staying power. I was tempted to make it in my great-grandmother’s ornate teacups (pictured), but I thought they would not withstand the hot oven. Instead, I chose the sturdier mugs that my husband made. The pudding is really glorified custard with a bit of nutmeg on top, but it’s smooth and comforting – just what a grim and worried lady on the homefront might crave as the war raged. It tastes good on an ordinary winter day, too. Below is my adaptation of the original recipe.
A ‘Cheap and Quick’ Pudding (1862)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Nutmeg, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the insides of two oven-proof teacups or mugs.
- In a bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Whisk in the flour, sugar and salt.
- Pour the batter into the buttered teacups. Fill each one more than 1/2 full. Grate nutmeg over the top.
- Bake until set in the middle, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.