“Take sum parsneps and boyle them till thay bee very soft, then mash them very small and picke out the hard peces, then put to it sum grated breed or flouer, and a good many Corrants sum nuttmeggs and a Litell suger, and when you have mixed them together putt too an Indeferett quantaty the yeolks of 4 or 5 eggs: Wett it with Creme till it bee as thin as batter, and then fry them quick, if you will boyle it you must not make it so thin and boyle it in a Cloath spred with butter, when it is boyled melt sum butter with sack and shuger for the sam.”
-Penn Family Recipes, 1702
So, I made this recipe for the first time last Thanksgiving, and it met with surprise rave reviews. The trouble is, I didn’t really write down the measurements I used. So, enter 2018, and I want to make it again. But this time from scratch, since I didn’t write down what I did last time around. SHEESH. Come on, past self.
Parsnips are an unsung vegetable of bygone days. I’ll warn you now that you are going to have doubts about this recipe. It starts when you buy the funny looking anemic-carrot roots, and the cashier has to look up the price because he’s never seen one before. Or, at best, regales you with tales of how her Canadian grandmother used to cook with parsnips. Take heart that you are broadening their horizons, and get yourself back to the kitchen.
You’ll doubt again when those parsnips are a roiling boil, when you take one sniff and think, “I’m up for new things, but that’s NOT going to make a delicious side dish.”
Bear with me, gentle readers. Because by the time we’re done, I promise it will all be ok. The finished dish is certainly quirky, but in the best historical way. The pudding cooks up to a great consistency, so that you can easily cut slices of it but it’s still quite soft. The spice of the nutmeg complements the sweet earthiness of the parsnips, and it combines with the turkey-cranberry-squash-etc. spread of Thanksgiving like it was always meant to be there.
I didn’t try it with the sauce of butter/sugar/sherry (we drank all the sherry… whoops) but I bet it would pair beautifully with the flavors in the pudding. But since it’s now a holiday staple, there’s always next year!
Parsnip Pudding Recipe, circa 1702
- 1 lb. parsnips, roughly chopped
- ~2 cups breadcrumbs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2-1 cup dried currants
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 cup sugar
- heavy cream, enough (~1/2 cup)
- butter for cloth
- pudding mold or bowl
Boil the parsnips in a pot of water until they are very tender. Drain and add the parsnips to a bowl, then mash them to a nice even consistency. Add the breadcrumbs, egg yolks (the whites make a tasty meringue!), currants, nutmeg, and sugar. Then begin adding in just enough heavy cream to get a consistency that isn’t too soupy, but not to stiff either; aim for a batter that drops off the spoon, but isn’t runny.
Now’s the slightly tricky part: if you have a pudding mold, great! If not, a small mixing bowl should do just fine in a pinch. You’ll also need to fill a pot with just enough water to come almost up to the top of the mold; bring the water to a boil while you prepare the pudding. Spread out a piece of cheesecloth or linen (big enough to contain the pudding in the mold/bowl) on your counter and spread it generously with butter. Lay this cloth in the mold/bowl and transfer the pudding into it. Lightly fold over the ends of the cloth and place a small plate on top, pressing down to compact the pudding. Set the prepared pudding into the pot of boiling water, put the lid on, and boil for about 2 hours, checking every now and then to see if the water needs to be topped up.
When the pudding is done, remove from the pot and let cool for at least 15 minutes before unwrapping. Turn over onto a platter to serve either warm or cold.