There are some unhealthy, sugary candies out there vying for your attention with colorful coatings and cute advertisements. All they really do is up your dentist’s bank accounts. Remember, less is more.
When set to the task of finding Native American alternatives to the convenience store, preservative-filled offerings I found a few winners. First up, the ever-popular, light and airy as well as versatile popcorn. When lightly salted, not cheesed and sugared to death, it is a close to perfect snack food.
Dried apricots, raisins, and other dried fruits are also great if no sugar is added.
I love natural honey drops and maple sugar candy leaves. Tanka bars are nice natural energy bars made with buffalo meat, dried fruit and smoked herbs, and are even Native-made. Premade sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers are always ready for you to plunk your money down on, but wouldn’t you rather have a fresh made taco, burrito or bison burger?
To wash this down all kinds of delicious liquid refreshment come to mind. Sassafras root beer, cranberry juice, hot chocolate and a million herbal iced and hot teas are all part of the Native repertoire.
This makes me think of the powwows of the 1980-90s when the best of all liquid refreshments had a champion. Here in New England, Donny Hopkins, would offer up fresh-made lemonade. Once the lemons were cut and put into a squeezing press the lines would start forming. Two sizes, small or large, lots of ice and sweetness. Long lines, but worth the wait!
4-1/2 ounces popped corn (about 8 cups)
Cook together: 1 cup molasses, 1 cup corn syrup, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, stir to coat and cool.
Butter hands slightly and shape into baseball-sized balls, set onto waxed paper to harden up, then wrap in waxed paper.
Popcorn balls are a quick and healthier alternative.
A natural way to remove moisture from food is by slowly drying it. Place slices on a screen and leave in sun all day, ventilated on both top and bottom so the air can circulate. Bring in at night. Repeat until all moisture is gone.
Maple Sugar Candy
You will need 2 cups of REAL maple syrup and ½ cup of chopped walnuts
Bring the maple syrup to a boil in a heavy bottomed pot.
Use a candy thermometer and remove syrup from heat when it reaches 235 degrees F,
Stir quickly with a wooden spoon until color lightens and mixture is thick and creamy, then stir in chopped nuts.
Put in molds if using them, or you can drop mixture by the teaspoon onto buttered wax paper. Cool thoroughly, store in airtight container.
Maple sugar candy has less preservatives than candy bought in stores.
Check out the Tanka Bar website for retail outlets or mail order information.
Native American Natural Foods
Grab the original Tanka Bar if you want a Native-made energy bar.
My grandmother used a wooden mallet to crush the lemons one half at a time with a cup of sugar into a large brown crockery pitcher on her lap until there was about two inches of sugary lemon juice. Then she poured enough water in the pitcher to fill it. This was then poured into individual ice-filled glasses to serve. It’s summer in a glass!
Fresh lemonade has very few ingredients, make some today!
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.