Ozark Pudding and Frozen Berry Pie

A Missouri original with an unfortunate presidential history.


Thomas McWhirter, Bess Truman and Census Taker Eileen Nolte on the lawn of the Little White House on April 1, 1950. Jeff Brodhead Collection, via Florida Keys–Public Libraries, on Flickr
We encountered a presidential recipe from a truly great First Lady in kedgeree. Unfortunately, not every recipe can claim an association to an Eleanor Roosevelt.

It is the nature of government that some people in it are terrible, and it is the nature of government cookbooks that some perfectly innocent recipes will be associated with people the Republic could’ve done without. Thus it came to pass that Ozark pudding would have to overcome its selection by Bess Truman, a woman who could have done more service for her country by taking a trip to Japan the day her husband took the oath. The Japanese would have surrendered instantly if we agreed to take her back.

Ozark pudding is a specialty of the Ozarks, predictably enough; the Ozarks are 47,000 miles of highland plateau that covers much of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. Harry Truman and his wife Bess were from Missouri, with Bess hailing from a little north of the Ozarks and the President from smack dab within them.

It’s no surprise, then, that when she was asked to submit a recipe for the 1950 edition of The Congressional Cook Book, Bess selected Ozark pudding. The December 9, 1948 edition of The Portsmouth (Ohio) Times included the recipe in part of a longer story about the release of the updated cookbook:

The First Lady, who joined the club when her husband was a senator, has written a foreword for the book and contributed her favorite recipe too. Signed simply “Bess W. Truman, Missouri” are the following directions for making Ozark pudding, a dish which features chopped nuts and apples and is served with whipped cream or ice cream:Mrs. Truman did not list the ingredients first. She just pitches right in–“One egg and three-fourths cup sugar, beaten together for a long time until very smooth. (She underlines the ‘very’.) Mix two tablespoons of flour, one and one-fourth teaspoon of baking powder, one-eighth teaspoon of salt. Add to egg-sugar mixture, add one-half cup chopped nuts, one-half cup chopped apple, one teaspoon vanilla. Bake in greased tin in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes.

That ought to be the end of the story, given that the only three things Bess Truman seems to have accomplished in her 97 years of life are sleeping with a president, publishing this recipe and being in the finals for the biggest anti-Semite ever to live in the White House. But it’s not.

At some point, evidently, a journalist copying the recipe made a fatal error; where it calls for baking powder, he wrote baking soda. This resulted in bakers across the nation trying to make Ozark pudding and instead making a soupy, unbaked mess.

Bess Truman, being as diplomatic and intelligent as two pounds of rocks in a one-pound slingshot, opined that the failed recipes weren’t her fault. Using her extensive experience as a hot-air-filled hat stand and her training in absolutely nothing of any value to anyone, ever, Bess explained that the problem was, in the words of the St. Petersburg Times piece, “[t]hese modern wives were mixing it with electric whirlygigs; they should have used a fork and kept on using it till their arms wore out.”

Uh-huh. I’m sure the reaction of most cooks was the same as mine, which went approximately like this:

So that said, what does it taste like? A follow-up piece describes the flavor as “a cross between an apple pie and a five-cent candy bar,” and later, “like peanut brittle with a touch of apple pie.”

From the box of F.J. from Sun City, Arizona. Some cards suggest a family history in Missouri.

Ozark Pudding

1 egg
3/4 c. sugar
3 heaping Tbsp. flour
1-1/4 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt

1/2 c. chopped apple
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1 t. vanilla

Beat egg well and add sugar, beating until light and creamy. Sift flour and baking powder and salt and add to egg mixture. Blend well. Fold in apples and nuts and vanilla.

Pour into greased paper-lined dish; bake in slow oven, 325 deg., for 30 minutes. Serve with whipped cream. May also add dates.

Frozen Berry Pie

1 pkg. frozen berries
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 pkg. Jell-o
3/4 cup water

Frozen Berry Pie method (provided by Yesterdish)

The proportions are a bit strange (that’s an awfully small amount of water for a package of gelatin), but based on those ingredients, here’s the most likely preparation the author had in mind:

  1. Traditionally, you’d use a flavor of gelatin that matches the frozen berries you’re using and a prepared graham cracker pie crust.
  2. Cut the pint of ice cream into small-ish cubes, around an inch on each side.
  3. Heat the water until it just under a boil; dissolve gelatin in hot water.
  4. Stir ice cream cubes into hot water until they dissolve. Chill until partially set.
  5. Stir frozen berries into mixture. Pour into prepared crust, chill, and serve with whipped cream.

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