Scalloped Tomatoes or in other words....Tomato Pudding???

It was lunchtime yesterday and I was hungry, only not for the usual sandwich, salad or leftovers.  It was a cold, rainy day and I wanted something warm and cozy.   What came to mind was an old standard from my childhood.  My mother would open up a jar of home-canned tomatoes into a sauce pan, add soda crackers, butter and some cream and heat until bubbly.  It was spooned into some bowls and always hit the spot.  

Today, I did the usual, adding some basil and parmesan cheese (something my mother never would have done) and was curled up on the couch, listening to the rain and feeling all cozy again!

I started to wonder, as I usually do, where did this come from?  My mother’s old standards have a tradition of being German-born, so I went about researching to confirm its origins.  It was more complicated than I thought. 

In 2009, the Chicago Tribune ran an article in it’s A&E section, telling the story of Tomato pudding as an early-American recipe.   Tomato pudding, as defined in this article, was a Thanksgiving side-dish consisting of bread cubes, butter, brown sugar, orange juice and tomato puree, cooked like a pudding or souffl√©-type dish, in the oven.  It was similar, sweeter and lacked chunks of tomato, which for me, defines the dish. 

My search continued, which led me to an article on RootsWeb (of all places) and another recipe for Tomato Pudding.  This recipe is attributed to a southern cook Helen Nielsen Allen from “The Great Tomato Book”.   What we have here is the similar process of toasting bread (Crouton), pouring a tomato mixture (this time, tomato chunks and NOT puree) and baking in an oven until puffy and bubbling.  We have water used as the liquid, instead of cream or half-and-half.  

I honed my search in on Germany, hoping that I could find some confirmation of the dish having sprouted or at least found root in the motherland.  It was on an Amish Food web site that I discovered a similar recipe to my mother’s than the pudding variations I kept coming across. 

Sometimes its just that old “peasant food” that brings us a sense of cozy!


Comfy Cozy Peasant Creamy Scalloped Tomatoes

1 qt Home-canned tomatoes
            No home canned, use 2 large cans of diced tomatoes
½ c cream or half and half
¼ t baking soda
½ c coarse crumbled saltine crackers
1 T sugar
½ t of fresh chopped basil, thyme, and oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T butter

Heat tomatoes in a heavy bottom sauce pain.  If you have used home canned, break up your tomatoes to desired size.  

Add cream and baking soda.  Mix.  Over medium heat,  simmer about 5 minutes.

Add crackers and continue cooking until the crackers have puffed up and taken on most of the liquid.  

Stir in sugar, salt, pepper and herbs. 

Turn off heat and add butter.   Stir in and serve.