Lemon Pudding – Historical Context
Today, pudding is considered to be a sweet, creamy rich dessert that is eaten alone and sometimes used as fillings for cakes, tarts, and flan. However, today’s puddings, such as this recipe for lemon pudding, more closely resemble custards, than traditional British puddings. The word “pudding” comes from the French word “boudin,” which means “small sausage.” This is because traditional English puddings, like black pudding and white pudding were created by mixing various ingredients,, usually sausage with binding agents like flour, egg, and milk until it resembled a solid mass, which could then be baked, boiled or steamed.
This lemon pudding has a similar consistency to a fruit custard, which is created using a mixture of various liquid (your flavoring agent), milk, cream, and eggs, which is thickened by gentle heating, and can be eaten solo, or filled into cakes, tarts, or other desserts. First known documentation of custards were by the Ancient Romans, who were the first to realize the binding properties of eggs. This lead to the creation of patinae, crustades, and omelettes, and custards. It is also said that the sweet custards that we eat today originated during the Middle Ages as deviations from caudle and posset. In their original states, these recipes were drinks, but as the cooled, they thickened. Pureed fruits, such as oranges and lemons were added in, and fruit cremes were created.
The distinction between European custard and American pudding became mixed up around the 1840s. Around this time, traditional puddings no longer became necessary to feed large quantities of people, and thus was cooked less frequently. Also, British chemist Alfred Bird created custard powder, a cornflour and sugar mixture that when mixed with hot milk creates a sauce. Custard powder began to replace eggs as thickeners, which proved to be useful for Western settlers who were unable to obtain fresh eggs. Because of invention and the betterment of the American lifestyle, the traditional meaning of “pudding” started to become interchangeable with the British “custard.”