New England Summer Pudding

I am always surprised that this dessert never became as popular in America as in England. It is a natural any time you have lots of summer berries. But we did make it a lot in New England. And since it must rest overnight before serving, it is a perfect dessert for entertaining.

Use whatever mixed berries you can find, but the berries must be sieved. Regardless of what other recipes may say, the texture will be ruined if the seeds are left in and some berries left whole.

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) grow with abandon in Rhode Island, where they are probably Sambucus canadensis, and in the South, where they are probably Sambucus mexicana. But use whichever. All are delicious when cooked with other berries, if a bit odd by themselves.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh red currants, stemmed
  • 1 cup elderberries (if you have them)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, loganberries, or ollalieberries
  • 1 cup light sugar syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 10–15 slices day-old dense white bread (sliced ¼-inch thick)
  • 2 cups custard

Method

Coarsely chop the strawberries and put them and the other berries in a nonreactive saucepan. Add the syrup and salt and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, or until the berries are just beginning to give up their juices. Remove from the heat and cool. Pass the berries through a food mill or sieve. Discard the seeds.

Line a 2-quart pudding mold or other deep bowl with cheesecloth. Dip both sides of some of the bread slices in the berry puree and arrange very neatly and snugly around the sides and bottom of the mold. Soak the remaining slices in the berry puree and layer, alternating with the remaining berry puree, and ending with soaked bread to completely cover the top.

Place a plate that fits just inside the top of the mold on top of the pudding. Put the mold in a pan to catch the overflow of berry juice, and weight the plate. Refrigerate the pudding overnight.

To serve, unmold the pudding onto a serving platter, slice, and serve with the custard.

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