Citizens, I am always on the lookout for fantastic recipes from the First Nations, aka Native Americans (please for the love of God never refer to this proud group as “Indians” – it’s incredibly rude and demeaning). This recipe from the Mohawk easily fits that description! ☺
This is also the second recipe I am posting on the same day – this one is a First Nation recipe in honor of yesterday’s major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I couldn’t find a Sioux recipe on short notice, but ironically I did have this Mohawk Nation recipe already written and queued up for end of month, so I’ve conveniently moved it here!
The Mohawk people (who identify as Kanien’kehá:ka) are the most easterly tribe of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy. The name means “People of the Flint Place.” They are an Iroquoian-speaking indigenous people of North America.
The Mohawk were historically based in the Mohawk Valley in present-day upstate New York west of the Hudson River; their territory ranged north to the St. Lawrence River, southern Quebec and eastern Ontario; south to greater New Jersey and into Pennsylvania; eastward to the Green Mountains of Vermont; and westward to the border with the Iroquoian Oneida Nation’s traditional homeland territory.
As one of the five original members of the Iroquois League, the Mohawk were known as the Keepers of the Eastern Door. For hundreds of years, they guarded the Iroquois Confederation against invasion from that direction by tribes from the New England and lower New York areas. Their current major settlements include areas around Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River in Canada and New York.
The soup uses hominy, which is field corn (maize) grain that has been dried, then treated by soaking and cooking the mature (hard) grain in a dilute solution of lye, slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) or wood ash, a process termed nixtamalization. Soaking the corn in lime kills the seed’s germ, which keeps it from sprouting while in storage. Also, in addition to providing a source of dietary calcium, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.
The English term hominy is derived from the Powhatan language word for prepared maize. Many other Native American cultures also made hominy and integrated it into their diet. Cherokees, for example, made hominy grits by soaking corn in a weak lye solution obtained by leaching hardwood ash with water and beating it with a kanona (ᎧᏃᎾ), or corn beater. The grits were used to make a traditional hominy soup (gvnohenv amagii ᎬᏃᎮᏅ ᎠᎹᎩᎢ), which this recipe is closely based on.
I am delighted to share this wonderful recipe with you, my citizens – I’ve made only one small change to the original: I’ve added some minced wild ramp leaves or fresh watercress as a garnish. Ramps are only in season for a few weeks in the Spring and have a delicious onion/garlic flavor – Watercress is available year-round, with an admittedly different flavor profile, but one that still complements the soup.
Watercress also happens to be an invasive European species that is now found all over the Mohawk Nations ancestral land and should be removed from the environment to help restore the original flora. First Nation members – note the ironic metaphor for whatever you think it is worth. 😉
Battle on – The Generalissimo