How Native Food and Agriculture Shaped Kentucky Cuisine: Podcast HWC-2016-11-15

Chef Ouita has worked this year to learn about and cook foods that have deep, explicit roots in what native people grew, preserved and cooked for hundreds of years on the land that is now Kentucky. Versions of some of these foods continue to be part of Kentucky cuisine today. Here are her unedited notes for today's show. She wants to share them with you. (And we thank our sweet guest observer for this show, Rona's niece Anne Wilson Roberts, visiting from San Francisco.)

Native American Heritage Month is November

Started as a single Day in 1915-1916- George HW Bush declared November Native American Heritage Month in 1990

Kentucky's Native American Tribes: Cherokee, Chicasaw, Shawnee and Yuchi

Their food traditions are the basis of KY food culture: Native Americans gave rise to the cultivation of corn. Their Cuisine is a celebration of corn. Where would KY be without corn- no bourbon distilling in this area. Think how greatly corn influences us!

Corn contributions of Native Americans: First to cultivate it. The Cherokee Tribe was especially good at cultivation- perhaps explaining the expansion of cultivation of corn through early settlement of KY. Corn was dried, ground and used for fried corn pones, corn puddings, and a tamale style corn bread from the chickasaw called bananaha -- steamed in fresh corn husks. The whole kerneals after drying were soaked in water mixed with pounded ash- making a lye solution. When the kernals soaked long enough that they burst their skins- they were peeled and boiled, or fried. This was the first hominy- and ground became corn grits.

Making Hominy with Ashes: Use dried white corn- remove it from the cob, rinse it to remove all the string etc, then comine a quart of rotted ashes from hickory or oak, but no cedar, with 6 cups of dried corn kernals and 1 gallon of water, cook together stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the outside of the kernals have softened enough to slip off. Rinse in several changes of water- outside is best. How do you Ferment ashes? sift your ash- place in a porcelein bowl, dampen with water and let stand about a week. In the old days, folks used an ash hopper for their lye. Once the corn is rinsed and peeled it is ready for boiling and eating.

Gathered and hunted foods: Wild onion Ramps and otherwise, Eggs, poke, Huckleberry, watercress, crawdads, wild green beans, black berries, venison, rabbit, bear, turkey, wild fowl like quail, dove, acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, mushrooms, honey,

Native Americans in our area especially loved hickory nuts and walnuts and combined them with cornmeal in cakes and breads. Also found Kanuchi- hickory nut meats were pounded into a meal and pressed into balls and preserved. Periodicalls, they were dissolved in water and cooked until they had a cream like consistency, used in baking and sweetend for a drink.

Often the roots of the bamboo plant were chopped and pounded, then rinsed and dried into a flour. the flour was used to thicken water, made a sort of jelly or porrage that was sweetened with honey and drunk. Sometimes used to make a fritter.

Native Americans in our area hunted and gathered but they also farmed: watermelon, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, grapes

The work of Chef Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation, to launch the first all Indigenous Native American restaurant in MN, which just completed one of the most successful kickstarter campaigns in history: "unmodernist cuisine" that includes chokecherry, amaranth, rabbit, bergamot, milkweed pods, cedar, juniper, wild sage, and so much more. See the slide show with NYT article, posted on fb page

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