President Grant’s Lemon Rice Pudding

IMG_0580Ulysses S. Grant had a thing for lemons and rice puddings. His wife was the first to admit that she was not a good cook, so it is unclear who would have made recipes like this one. I like to imagine that Grant cooked for himself…when he was General Grant, this was not entirely impossible. During the Civil War, soldiers has their own “messes,” or sets of cooking and eating utensils. In all likelihood, a lower-ranked soldier would have cooked for Grant, but you never know. Anyway, I digress.

Mrs. Grant did not cook, but she certainly knew how to throw epic parties. She planned an elaborate banquet and ball to celebrate her husband’s second inauguration in 1873. Unfortunately, that ended up being one of the coldest inaugurations in history. Those of you who (like my friends and I) felt like human icicles during Monday’s inauguration festivities will appreciate the fact that it became so cold in 1873 that the parade band had to stop performing because the condensation from their breath caused the instruments to freeze. At the ball, guests wore their coats as they danced in a quiet room-sadly the live canaries which Mrs. Grant had arranged to provide music for the guests frozen to death. The roasted boar head, chicken, salmon, oysters, mutton, and other hot dishes became cold before the guests could partake in the feast. Many of the guests left early. Bet they would have stuck around if they had this rice pudding!

For further reading:

Bauer, Linda. Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress, and all of the Presidents. Taylor Trade Publishing: Maryland, 2010.
Smith, Jean Edward. Grant. Simon and Schuster: New York, 2001.


Hilary and I are so ready for this.

Cooking Thyme!


3 cups cooked hot rice
1 tablespoon butter
4 eggs, separated*
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups whole milk (I suppose you could be healthy and go low fat or skim…we didn’t)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (we added 2)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
(Grant’s recipe doesn’t call for this, but after tasting we agreed that nutmeg and/or cinnamon would have been a welcomed addition)

*To separate eggs: you have a few options. The most traditional way is to crack the egg and move the yolk from one shell half to the next, allowing the white to drip into the bowl. As a child, I struggled with this step in cooking. Fortunately for me, Grandma Shirley taught me another trick. Crack the egg into the palm of your hand and jiggle over bowl. The yolk will stay in your palm, and the whites will fall through your fingers. Fun right? Either way you choose, make sure none of the yolks get mixed with the whites or they won’t beat well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir butter into rice to reduce sticking. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, half-and-half, milk, sugar, lemon peel, vanilla, and salt. Add the rice. In another bowl, beat egg whites until they are stiff enough to form peaks.

Hand was super helpful folding in the egg whites. And eating the pudding.

Hand was super helpful folding in the egg whites. And eating the pudding.

Gently fold egg whites into the rice mixture (do not mix or you’ll take the air out). Pour into a greased 2 quart baking dish and set in a pan of hot water in the oven (we used a glass pyrex and placed it inside a larger jelly roll pan).

The bowl was quite heavy with all that cream and rice. Pouring became a two person job for Maggie and me.

The bowl was quite heavy with all that cream and rice. Pouring became a two person job for Maggie and me.

Bake for an hour or until knife comes out clean when inserted in center. Let the pudding set for a few minutes, then eat warm with lemon sauce.


There were four of us. So naturally everyone claimed a corner.

Lemon sauce

½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
A pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Almost like lemon pie curd. We kept adding more lemon because you can never really have too much.

In a small pot, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add water. Cook, stirring constantly, for about five minutes until the mixture comes to a slow boil. Add remaining ingredients. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving with warm with the rice pudding.


About thymetravelers

Bringing passion for history to all through delicious food.
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