Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Great Raisin Divide: Creamy Rice Pudding

My sister suggested that I hit a different region for each recipe this week, and so today, we'll go to New England. The County Fair Cookbook highlights the Fryeburg Fair, in Fryeburg, Maine. It's held the first week in October containing the first Wednesday in October (wrap your head around that one), and runs for 8 days. It's on Route 5, in western Maine, near the New Hampshire border. October in New England? Go for the foliage, stay for the fair. Evidently, they have the biggest set up for campers after Disney World, so if you feel a need to camp, you're all set.

When I think of "pudding," I tend to think of instant Jell-o pudding. Take powder (chocolate or butterscotch, in my head), take cold milk, beat or shake for two minutes, eat. I have some bad memories of other puddings in hospital cafeterias...tapioca, bread, rice... Thankfully, all of these have been redeemed by eating them, you know, not in hospital cafeterias.
My Grandmother's Creamy Rice Pudding

Rose Robinson, Loretta [Greene]'s grandmother, lived on a small farm in South Paris, Maine. "This is the version as it's been passed down," says Loretta.

Serves 4

1 cup white rice
1 cup cold water
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Few drops lemon extract

1. Boil the rice and water until the water is absorbed.
2. Add the milk, sugar and salt, and the optional raisins. Simmer uncovered over low heat (or on the back of a wood-burning stove) until most of the milk is absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in the lemon extract.
First of all, the salt is not optional. Salt makes things taste better, folks, and a small amount of salt in your dessert is going to make it taste lovely. It won't taste like a salt lick. It's half a teaspoon, for pity's sake. Use the salt.

Here's where I'll lose some of you, here on the banks of the Great Raisin Divide. The raisins are not optional. Oh, sure, you could substitute some chopped up dried apricots or apples or dates, if you ran out of raisins, but you need the dried fruit in this to make it more than, well, milky rice without raisins. Raisins are nature's candy. Raisins are essential. You will miss it if you don't have the little bit of yielding chewiness.

I know, I know. Some of you hate raisins. I weep for the future, sometimes. But I stand by my beliefs, here on the proper side of the G.R.D. Just as I know the cheese is never optional, the raisins are never optional here at Take One Cookbook.

As for the wood stove reference, evidently Loretta cooks on a wood stove throughout the fair, in a display of old-time farm crafts, and also at home. Yes, by choice.


  1. For Amanda's sake, you can choose to read this as the Great Dried Fruit Divide, and read "dried fruit of your choice" for every mention of raisins.

  2. So what's your position on raisins in cinnamon rolls? Raisins in apple pie? How about nuts in brownies?

  3. Raisins whenever raisins are called for in recipes, and sometimes, even when they're not! So, yes, add 'em.

    Nuts in brownies: inoffensive to me, potentially lethal to others, and I don't tend to include 'em because I have too many friends in the lethal I use nuts so infrequently, they usually go rancid before I get around to using them.

  4. Wendy. You know very well that options are the key to happiness. Shame on you!

    (Not that I'm anti-raisin, tho' in this case I'm thinking apricots, almonds, and cinnamon. Ooo, or golden raisins, cashews, and garam masala!)

  5. Yellow raisins and rum. Italian style rice pudding. Yum.

  6. I stumbled upon your post here about the raisins and had a good chuckle. I'm Lorettas son and can attest to the fact that my mother is not a fan of raisins. And yes, she does cook year round on a Queen Atlantic wood cook stove as well as serves samples at the Fryeburg Fair that are cooked on a wood cook stove. Fryeburg Fair is the largest Fair in Maine covering 180 acres, has more livestock in one place than anywhere else at one time, has more buildings as part of the fair than any fair East of the Mississippi, has more free entertainment than any other fair in the world, and is well worth the trip. FWIW, I prefer my rice pudding without rasins...

  7. For the sake of recipe authenticity, I'm willing to let your lack of raisins slide.

    This time.

    (And, welcome! Glad to hear from someone attached to one of the recipes/books. Look for another book next week, after my play is done.)