by Jane H.
(Bemidji, MN, USA)
Start by sorting a cup of uncooked wild rice and picking out all the stones and other debris and extraneous materials. This is the most important step. It is certainly not pleasant to bite into a stone, or to swallow one.
Hand harvested lake rice tastes best but you can use paddy rice as well. If you want to cook the genuine wild rice, not the cultivated hybrid, make sure the package label says “hand harvested, organic, and from the Great Lakes”.
Wash the rice several times, until it is very clean. Add it to the crockpot, along with a half gallon milk, one cup sugar, one fourth teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, a tablespoon of vanilla extract, one half cup dried fruit, and cinnamon to taste.
Stir the ingredients together.
Cook on high for one and one half hours, stirring occasionally. It works just as well to cook it on a lower setting for more hours. It’s ready when it’s the consistency you want. The pudding will get thicker as it cooks.
For a more “natural” dish, substitute local honey, brown rice syrup, or raw cane sugar for the white sugar.
I think the original recipe called for dried apricots or peaches but raisins, golden raisins, or currants work just as well and are more traditional. Or use dehydrated cherries, prunes, figs, dates, or berries.
A real treat would be the substitution of fresh berries for dried fruit, when in season.
This is a hearty, filling pudding. Served with milk, it almost makes a complete meal. For something a bit lighter and dessert-like, white or brown rice can be used. Either way, it’s a delicious treat.
Compared to other grains, wild rice is high in nutrition. It contains protein, fiber, carbohydrates, B vitamins, and the minerals iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium. It is also low in calories, cholesterol, and sodium.
Wild rice is not really a rice, but rather a grass, or an aquatic grain.
It sustained several Native American tribes during the long winter months, long before the arrival of the Europeans. They called it manomin. It was believed to be a gift from the Great Spirit.
Wild rice is chewy and has a nutty flavor unequaled by any other grain.
I cook this on cold winter nights and think about my Scandinavian ancestors who made a similar pudding out of regular rice, and about the Native Americans of the upper midwest who survived on this dark, delicious grain. And so the two traditions come full circle.
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