of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, an architect, an adventurer, a scholar, a teacher, a diplomat, a planter … and yes, a slave owner who fathered children with his wife’s half-sister who was actually enslaved by Jefferson. It is the diplomat, adventurer and planter that I want to know best! Of all the accomplishments of this man, his quest to explore the United States to the west is my favorite topics. The Louis and Clark Expedition is one of my favorite parts of this history lesson!
However, it is the planter and vast land-owner that I’ll talk about today! Jefferson was a foodie! He loved his gardens. Historians call it a Revolutionary American garden and it included what they call economic plants from all over the world. He had 330 varieties of 89 species of vegetables and herbs. He grew 170 varieties of fruit. He supported small farmers and sustainable agriculture! Sound familiar? We need more Thomas Jeffersons today.
The United States as an agricultural nation with large scale exports was a dream of Jefferson’s. To that end, he focused on rice production and searched for rice that would grow in a dryer environment that what we grew in the southeast. He watched as an Italian rice variety outsold American rice in Paris markets. He went to Italy and smuggled out samples of the rice in his pockets! He sent those to planters in America. Later, he studied rice from Cochin China (Vietnam), but was never able to get seeds. None-the-less, he wanted to improve the health conditions that surrounded growing rice in stagnant ponds of water. We are finally growing rice on dry land in the United States. Laotian farmers in Appalachia are growing it on those small farms that Jefferson loved.
New York City
Apricots with rice à la Jefferson is a dish created by Delmonico’s Chef Charles Ranhofer. Jefferson died forty years before Ranhofer began his duties at the popular New York City restaurant, but Ranhofer clearly thought it was important to name the dish made with a new rice being grown in Texas … after Jefferson. Ranhofer’s heavy book, The Epicurean, includes a second recipe using apricots and named after Jefferson and it seems that he combined that stewed apricot recipe with rice pudding to celebrate the new Texas rice.
The Chef made a beautiful rice pudding that was chilled and blended with whipped cream. He molded the pudding into layers and between the layers he spread a nice portion of apricot marmalade. He topped the beautiful rice pudding bomb with pineapple. Doesn’t that sound deliciously sweet?
I’m going to share two rice pudding recipes today. One is easily made in an instant pot/pressure cooker. The other comes from my childhood. My mother always made good use of a long baking oven! If she was roasting a chicken, she’d put rice pudding in the oven, too. When she made meatloaf, it often came out with scalloped potatoes, baked beans … and rice pudding!