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Old family recipes remind me of the good parts of childhood. The smells are familar and warm, enveloping me in a giant culinary hug. The tastes are like ancestral footprints, distinct to each family, passed down for generations. (They don’t call it comfort food for nothin’!)

My 5 siblings and I have started pulling together Mom’s family recipes, many of which are Southern. She grew up in the South but has lived in the North for almost 41 years. Out of 6 kids, 4 of us lived in the South part of our childhoods, and 2 have only known the Northern climates as home.

After we moved from Georgia, Mom learned to cook favorite Pennsylvania dishes. And we grew up with a distinct blend of Northern and Southern cooking. I think we are all richer for it. My heart will always be rooted in the South, but my feet have been firmly planted in the high North for over 40 years.

I posted Mom’s Soft Dumpling recipe a few days ago. My brother, R3, sent the Banana Pudding recipe to me in an email. There aren’t many gatherings in our family without banana pudding on the table. It’s a family tradition. And, let me tell you, it’s not long before it’s all gobbled up!

Here’s Mom’s Southern Banana Pudding recipe, complete with R3’s commentary. It’s perfect for Turkey Day. It’s perfect anytime!

Happy Thanksgiving!



Southern Banana Pudding (by R3)

Banana pudding has always been a family favorite.  I am not sure where it came from but it doesn’t seem like a complete family gathering if we don’t have banana pudding.

The recipe is basically very simple.  The ingredients are bananas, cooked vanilla pudding (you need whole milk for this) and vanilla wafers.

I usually make a 9 X 13 inch pan of banana pudding because that seems to be the right amount for our family. I also use Nabisco “Nilla” vanilla wafers because they are the ones Mom always used. I have tried others but the taste of the Nilla wafers reminds me of home.

As for the pudding, instant pudding cannot be substituted for the cooked version. Not only does the instant taste “grainy” but you need the heated pudding to help cook the bananas and to infiltrate the cookies to make them softer. The bananas should have no green on them and be just starting to spot, so they are still firm but at their peak of flavor.


Shopping list:

2 – 3 packages of cooked vanilla pudding (depending on the number of layers and the fact that the portion sizes from packaged foods are getting smaller. No instant pudding! Use the real deal.)

1 – 2 boxes of Nabisco Nilla wafers (I used to be able to use one but the volume of cookies has decreased, and my consumption while I make banana pudding has increased!)

3 – 4 bananas (depending on how big the bananas are and how many layers you make. Bananas should have no green on them and be just starting to spot, so they are still firm but at their peak of flavor.)


Cooking Instructions:

Cook the vanilla pudding per the package instructions (using whole milk for the total experience).

While the pudding is cooking, place a layer of Nilla wafers on the bottom of the pan and top with a layer of cut banana slices (cut into disks). I usually use 1 to 1 1/2 bananas per layer.

When the pudding is cooked, pour about a third of the pudding over the sliced bananas and cookies. Make another layer of cookies and bananas and cover them with more pudding. If you have enough for another layer then do another layer of cookies and bananas ending with a top layer of pudding.

If you want to get fancy you can put cookies around the sides of the dish, pushing them in vertically and another layer on top.

Let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight (this is an important step because banana pudding is always best if it ages overnight in the refrigerator).

The next day grab a spoon, a cereal bowl and enjoy (cereal bowl is optional).


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

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