Pop Robin is a term that used to be popular in New Hampshire’s early days, but one that most of today’s residents may have never heard.
Pop Robin was a type of boiled milk pudding created using a simple recipe. It consisted of boiled milk that was slightly salted, butter added, and then thickened with a batter of wheat flower dropped into it gradually. If available cinnamon was added and sometimes a sweetener. The lumps of scalded flour formed a “pop” or small buttons in the pudding.
Possibly the term was brought to New Hampshire by the Quaker immigrants. The term was used outside of New England. In 1830 the Annals of Philadelphia describe that the local Quakers made a Poprobin Soup (the Pennsylvania Dutch called it Rivvel Soup].
“In 1815….apprentices and farm boys had for supper a bowl of scalded milk and a brown bread crust, or bean-porridge, or pop-robin.” [ — Saturday, December 23, 1871, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics (Portsmouth NH) Vol LXXXI, Issue 51, Page 1]
I was able to find a recipe in an 1891 newspaper as follows: “An old-fashioned gruel of flour is called pop-robin. Mix a tablespoon of flour with milk enough to form a smooth paste and half a salt-spoon of salt; stir into a pint of boiling milk until it is thick and smooth. Ordinarily it is cooked enough in a few minutes, but when in certain diseases this is almost the sole food, it must be boiled fully half an hour and stirred constantly or it will be lumpy. It is sometimes slightly sweetened.
Other places had their own idea of what Pop-Robin was. In more recent years an Iowa newspaper stated that “The first pop-robins were cooked in the maple grove at sugaring-off when dough balls the size of plums were dropped into the syrup can and boiled in the snow.” In Philadelphia PA, pop-robins were (bread) “buns soaked in a flour and egg batter, then dropped into boiling milk” and called a porridge.
Milk Rivvel Soup
milk, 1 quart
flour, 1 cup
butter, 2 Tablespoons
egg, 1 beaten
salt, 1/2 teaspoon (x2)
pepper, to taste
Heat milk in saucepan with butter, salt and pepper. Combine flour, salt and egg. Sift dry mixture into the hot milk. Simmer on low heat, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Originally written July 2008
Updated 9 July 2018