People and Places: Tomato pudding – Bertie County tradition

People and Places

WINDSOR, N.C. (WNCT) No matter where you go in Bertie County, there’s a certain food that just about everyone here knows and loves.

“Oh gosh it’s one of my favorites and I’m getting it today,” said Betsy Miller, Heritage House customer. My grandmother made it all the time, and this is the only place I’ve had it good since she left this earth.”

From Windsor to Aulander and every point in between, it’s a dish they call their own.

“It is something I think we really started here,” said Rachel Pierce, owner of Heritage House.

“I don’t know that it’s necessarily a Bertie County thing,” said Aulander Mayor Larry Drew. But I’ve known about it since I was a small child and that was 69 years ago when I was a small child.”

“I believe if you lived in Bertie County or was raised in Bertie County you know what tomato pudding is,” said Betty Drake, owner of Betty’s Catering and Southern Diner.

Yes, you heard her right.

“Tomato pudding,” said Pierce. Everybody loves tomato pudding.”

It’s pudding by name, but not the creamy kind you’re used to.

Restaurant owner better drake has been making tomato pudding all her life.    

“See there’s a lazy version and the real version,” said Drake. You get the whole tomatoes and you boil them in water, and you find out they’ll start to peel.”

Others will use canned tomatoes

Then comes a dash of salt, some sugar, butter, and sometimes cinnamon or nutmeg.

For a little kick, Betty adds black pepper.

“And in my day, leftover biscuits from the night before,” said Drake. They didn’t waste anything. And then you do a little bit of vanilla flavoring and cinnamon. Kind of to your taste. And tomato pudding!”

It’s a Sunday staple at Betty’s restaurant in Aulander.

And it’s on the buffet every day of the week at Windsor’s Heritage House.

“If you don’t like tomatoes you still would like it,” said Pierce. To me, it’s sweet. And it’s more of a dessert, but it’s a vegetable. It is a vegetable. And we have it on our vegetable side. But it is sweet. And it’s got cinnamon in it so it’s kind of hot. It’s got pepper. Cinnamon and pepper. So, it’s very flavorful.”

“Once you put that sugar and butter in those tomatoes, it becomes a dessert,” said Drake. You cannot put it on your buffet line and call it a vegetable. You can’t put it and say it’s a fruit. You’re going to have to say it’s a dessert.”

Okay, so there are differing opinions on how to classify it.

But there is one thing most in Bertie County do agree on.

“(Ken) ‘is it really a Bertie county thing.’ definitely. It’s been in my life forever and I’ve been here a few years!” said Miller.

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