The Pudding Man stands with pride at the Ponoka Farmer’s Market

The Pudding Man stands with pride at the Ponoka Farmer’s Market

The Pudding Man

What do Leif Erikson, Ponoka Farmer’s Market and traditional Icelandic rice pudding have in common?

By Ian Ferguson

What do Leif Erikson, Ponoka Farmer’s Market and traditional Icelandic rice pudding have in common? The answer can be found simply by asking Larry Jonsson (a.k.a. The Pudding Man). Larry is a retired man who has found his passion at the age of 73. Originally from Barhead, Jonsson lives in Ponoka making pudding to sell at various farmers’ markets and stores throughout Alberta. This is not, however, any ordinary pudding, this is traditional Icelandic rice pudding, and very good pudding at that. When Larry started out making the pudding, he never dreamed it would be this popular,

“My wife dared me to sell some at the farmer’s market one year, and neither she nor I expected to sell as much as we did,” said Jonsson.

“I had 19 quarts of pudding all sold in 2 ½ hours,” he explained, “…and well, that was the start.”

Since then, Jonsson’s Icelandic rice pudding has been in high demand. Larry’s pudding will be sold in the coming months at The Green Pantry in Lacombe, and more shops in Red Deer and Camrose also showed interest. However, buckets of sales requires buckets of pudding, many buckets of pudding. To provide pudding for a single farmer’s market Larry must make 20L of pudding to meet the demand. In four farmer’s markets, 80L of pudding is sold.

“I’m busier now that I’ve retired than I was working!” laughed Jonsson.

In order to provide enough product, Larry cooks three to four days a week, often having two cookers on at all times when at home. Each cooker holds up to three gallons of pudding and must be checked on at regular intervals, stirring occasionally. He has three refrigerators reserved entirely for his pudding, while sometimes needing to borrow space in his neighbor’s fridge as well. Preparation for each batch takes around seven hours because pudding has to be cooked at a very low heat. Larry usually starts a batch at 1 a.m., so it is ready by the morning. With business expanding for him at an alarming rate, Jonsson finds himself cooking even more frequently.

“My wife just shakes her head and wonders how I keep this going,” chuckled The Pudding Man.

Larry explained that Icelandic rice pudding is gluten-free and does not use eggs or salt, which are unusual traits for pudding. His recipe, however, is top secret for obvious reasons. This type of pudding originated in Norway around 870 CE and was brought along with settlers who moved to Iceland, where Jonsson’s ancestors were from. The recipe was passed down in his family until it reached him, where Larry put his own special twist on it to make the pudding we can enjoy today.

After doing a bit of family research, Larry Jonsson discovered that he was a direct descendant of the famous Leif Erikson.

“I almost fell over, I was so shocked,” described Jonsson.

Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer around 986 CE and is credited as the first European to land in North America. He settled in Newfoundland over 500 years before Christopher Columbus landed in the early Americas. Icelandic rice pudding is traditionally served at Christmas time and it is probable that Leif Ericson ate a similar pudding to the one Larry serves today.

“I also do Christmas orders”, added Jonsson.

“It gets pretty busy in that season”, “…I usually have orders for 12 litres of pudding at a time before Christmas.”

Larry has multiple flavors for his pudding including almond, vanilla, coconut, maple, maple/vanilla, maple/vanilla/raisin, and of course the original. Jonsson also elaborated on how precise measurements must be in order to reach a good flavor and consistency throughout all of the batches. He has had many years of cooking pudding experience and assures that many more are to follow.

Larry spoke with a smile, “It’s just something I love doing. What more could you ask for?”

Ponoka Farmer’s Market will be open every Wednesday until the end of September, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is located at the Ponoka Recreation Complex, 54 St just off of Highway 53. There are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as many crafts and clothing to purchase. But if your taste buds are itching for an Icelandic treat, just walk inside and ask for “The Pudding Man”.