As the rice industry gradually fell apart in the Lowcountry after the Civil War, cooks began preparing more and more nontraditional rice dishes, such as sweets. At the South Carolina and West Indian Exposition in Charleston in 1901, the Carolina Rice Cook Book compiled by Mrs. Samuel G. Stoney was a favored 25-cent souvenir. It included some two dozen recipes for rice pudding.

I serve individual rice puddings chilled, with a cranberry-orange puree, which is not only delicious but a delight to the eye as well. Prepare both the pudding and the sauce several hours in advance of serving. It’s essential to use fresh oranges in this recipe.

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Ingredients

For the Sauce and Garnish:

  • ¾ pound (about 3 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 2 or 3 large juicy oranges
  • 1 cup sugar

For the Puddings:

  • ½ cup long-grain white rice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart milk, or more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus butter for greasing cups
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Method

Reserve a few cranberries to roughly chop for the garnish. Cut strips of zest from the oranges for the garnish, grate a teaspoon of zest to flavor the puddings, and set aside. Squeeze a cup of orange juice and add to the cranberries and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring constantly. When all of the cranberries have popped and split open and the liquid has reduced by about a fourth, remove the pan from the heat and press the mixture through a fine sieve. Allow to cool at room temperature.

To make the pudding, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, simmer the rice, salt, and milk, uncovered, until the rice is soft and the milk has reduced by one fourth, about 15 minutes. You should still have 3 cups of liquid; if not, add more milk. While the rice is cooking, grease eight 4-ounce ramekins or six 5-ounce custard cups with butter. Refrigerate the custard cups to chill the butter, then grease again.

Preheat the oven to 325°. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, and orange zest, then stir into the rice and milk mixture. Pour into the greased cups and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the custard sets, stirring the custards once after about 15 minutes so that the rice does not all fall to the bottom of the cups. Remove from the oven when the custards are set, set aside to cool, then chill until serving.

To serve, dip the custard cups into very hot water; it will melt the butter and loosen the puddings. On each dessert plate, spoon a pool of the sauce, then invert the individual puddings onto each plate. Garnish with a sprinkling of cranberries that have been roughly chopped (a couple of quick bursts in a food processor is ideal) and orange zest.

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