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 soufflĂ©-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. 



Annie's Salad

My Neice Anne is a fabulous cook and loves to try to take old things and make them new.   She takes combinations that you ordinarily wouldnt think of putting together and turns them into mouth-watering, just got to have more dishes.  This is a great salad that is a great accompaniment to any grill meal, or it can stand alone by adding some of that leftover grilled chicken or beef you had the night before!

Annie’s Salad

Romaine lettuce, washed, root end removed and rough chopped
Grape or cherry tomatoes (I use 1/2 a Costco package of grape tomatoes)
3-4 cobs fresh corn, cooked and cut off the cob
2 avacados cubed
2-3 cans cannellini (white kidney) beans or great white northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
Lighthouse brand Creamy Ciltrantro dressing (Taste the dressing and see if it has enough kick, if not, add more cilantro)

Combine lettuce, tomatoes, corn, avocados, beans, onion in salad bowl.  Toss.  Add dressing and toss lightly.  Keep cold until ready to use.  


Printable Annie's Salad Recipe


Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Heritage House Smorgasbord -
Madison Wisconsin cir 1960

This recipe started out as a simple bread pudding recipe.  When I was a kid, my parents very rarely took their brood of 10 (7 children, the parents and a crotchety old German grandpa) out to eat, but when they did, they went to a Smorgasbord restaurant.   Now, for those of you who do not know what a smorgasbord is, we now call them all-you-can-eat and buffets.   However, back in the late 60s, early 70s in Wisconsin, the preferred term was Smorgasbord – its that Norwegian heritage infiltrating the local culture. 

In Madison, it was Heritage House on the Northeast side of Madison.  It was an iconic place for many years and unfortunately in the late 80s, it saw its demise.

Where is this going?   To the dessert table, of course.   There, without fail, was bread pudding.  I tried it once and fell in love with the stuff.  Why, cause I adore and love all things BREAD!   I had asked my mother to make it sometime and she turned her nose up and said how much she hated the stuff.

I don’t know if it was because it was considered a “poor man’s” dessert or what, but she just wouldn’t, so I did!

When I left home, I searched out recipes (before the blessed day of the internet) at the library, in cookbooks or from others I knew had made it.  I kept trying to find a compilation that reminded me of the rich, custard and apple-filled pudding that I had in my youth.   I was not a fan of raisins until recently and every recipe I got my hands on was too dry and had raisins?  What was up with that?   I was completely unsuccessful.

That is, until I moved to Hawaii, of all places.  It is on the Island of Oahu and from the most Hawaiian woman I would ever meet, that my 20 year search would come to an end.  

She was generous in sharing her secret recipe with me and the key ingredient would surprise me, to the point of thinking, “now why did I not just think of that”.  

What was it, you ask?  Apple pie filling, that’s all.  Oh, and NO raisins!

I have made this recipe for as long as my children have been around.  It’s all they know and they too, now, have become finicky bread pudding connoisseurs.   I’m sorry, dear children…. I know your pain, but at least you know how to do it yourselves now! 

Here you go.  Enjoy as much as we have!

Carmel Apple Bread Pudding
10 slices of stale bread - 
I like to buy day old Challah (Hit the bakery or grocery store on a Saturday Morning) OR you can use a day old Italian load (no seeds on top).  A few days old loaf of Texas Toast is a good choice as well. 

4 large eggs
1-1/2 c heavy cream
1-1/2 c whole milk
2/3 c sugar
2 t vanilla
½ t salt
½ t ground cinnamon
Apple pie filling
If you can get a 32oz jar (some local Amish communities make and sell a jar-canned version, which is fantastic) – get 1 jar.   If not, 2 of the regular 21 oz cans will do.  You may not use the entire second can, as it may be too much, but one can is just not enough.  Try it and see.  Its all preference. 

1 recipe of Caramel Sauce (follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.   Break up bread into a bowl and then spread into a greased (butter or Pam will work – butter will help to caramelize the edges and make them nice and crunchy.  Pam just helps it to not stick.  You pick).   In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the cream and milk.  Add the sugar, salt and cinnamon and mix together.  Pour the mix over the bread in the pan.   Then, spoon the apple pie filling into the bread and egg mix in the pan, making sure to get as much as you can .  Carefully mix the filling into the mixture, just so that it is covered by the egg/milk mix.   Make sure the bread is completely covered with egg/milk mix and that the apple pie filling is mixed in carefully. 

Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes.  The pudding will be set in the center and the bread will be a golden brown. 

While the pudding is baking, make the Caramel Sauce.

Caramel Sauce

1-1/3 c packed brown sugar.
1 c light corn syrup
1 c half and half
4 T butter

Over medium heat, cook all the above ingredients in a 1 quart sauce pan.  Stir constantly.   Cook until thickened (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove from hear.  Pour over the top of the warm pudding. 

Place the pudding under the broiler, about 4 inches from the heat source.  Broil about 1 minute, until bubbly!

Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or a rich vanilla ice cream!