Before cooking shows on television, Americans turned to the radio for all their culinary infotainment.
One early radio show, called Housekeeper’s Chat, was produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to spread information on housekeeping, cooking, health, gardening, and other topics. The show was hosted by the fictional “Aunt Sammy,” who was played by a different local woman for each station so that she would have the same local accent as her listeners. So many listeners wrote in asking for cooking advice that the Bureau of Home Economics began publishing cookbooks with recipes from the show. As the Great Depression progressed, “Aunt Sammy” became a way for the Bureau of Home Economics to distribute much-needed advice for cooking nutritional meals at a low cost. This recipe for a cranberry pudding, from the 1931 edition of Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes, is an example of the relatively simple and inexpensive dishes the show promoted.
Cranberry Pudding Supreme
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 1/4 cups sifted flour
- 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup raw cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 cups cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 to 4 tablespoons butter
- Cream butter and sugar together, then mix in the beaten egg.
- Remove 2 tbsp of flour from the 2 1/4 cups sifted flour and toss it together in a separate bowl with the cranberries.
- Sift the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt together.
- Add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately to the butter mixture.
- Mix in the cranberries last.
- Pour mixture into a buttered 2-pint pudding basin.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the basin, butter both sides, and place it on top. Cover it with either a pudding cloth or with foil, making a pleat across the middle to give the pudding room to rise. Tie it tightly around the rim of the basin with string.
- Place a small plate upside-down on the bottom of a large pot of boiling water. Gently lower the pudding in so that it rests on the plate. The water should come about half-way up the pudding basin.
- Return the water to a full boil, then reduce it to a rolling boil. Boil for 2 hours, topping up the water level with more boiling water if necessary.
- When done, loosen the sides of the pudding with a knife and turn out of the basin on to a plate.
- When the pudding is nearly done steaming, make the sauce: mix the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and 2 cups boiling water together in the upper pan of a double boiler. Cook, stirring frequently, for ten minutes.
- At the same time, cook the cranberries with 1 cup of water in a saucepan until soft. Press them through a sieve and add to the finished cornstarch mixture. Stir in the butter and serve with the pudding.
The pudding itself was excellent. It reminded me a bit of the cherry pudding I made last year, although this one was a little lighter and more buttery. Like the cherry pudding, the batter itself has no flavorings, so it is really a plain vehicle for whatever fruit and sauce you choose. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the accompanying sauce for this pudding as much; it tasted fairly strongly of cornstarch and not enough of cranberries. Even with all the cornstarch, it was a very thin sauce, and the recipe made far more sauce than was needed. If I were to attempt this sauce again, I would probably use less cornstarch and much less water, and aim for something more like a cranberry relish or jelly. Additional spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg might also be nice, since otherwise the predominant flavor in both the pudding and the sauce is simply cranberries.
Sauce complaints aside, I did like the pudding overall. It’s a great way to use raw cranberries when they’re available, and it would probably work well as a base recipe with other fruits such as cherries or blueberries too. For people during the Great Depression, this dish would’ve been a cheap and tasty way to add some nutritious cranberries to their diet.
Bureau of Home Economics. (1931). Aunt Sammy’s radio recipes. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture. http://hdl.handle.net/2346/45461
Ziegelman, J., & Coe, A. (2016). A square meal: A culinary history of the Great Depression. New York: Harper Collins.