Native Cooking

Many celebrations are happening at this time of year. It’s a busy ceremonial time in most pueblos with a variety of katsina dancing and honoring. Here in the East there is Nikommoh with the Narragansett and Wampanoag. It is a giveaway and thanksgiving. The Canadian Blackfoot hold a huge Indian art show, as do many other nations at this time. So, we can all take part in some form of this joy by attending local events. There is always food to prepare for any kind of social event like these.

Food must always be prepared for winter preservation as well. It is a great opportunity to honor the Creator for the gift of life and this food which sustains it. As we do this, those in need are to be remembered. I realize we try to do this all year, but some who are the most needy try to hide in plain site until we find them. Now is also a good time to teach children the value of tradition so they do not think fast food is traditional just because it’s available. Let them be hands-on with the preparations even if it takes a little longer to get done. They will remember.


<b>Salmon Chowder</b>

3 pounds salmon, diced

8 large potatoes

1 stick (1/4 pound) butter (or substitute)

2 large onions, chopped

1 large can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour or cornmeal

Put the potatoes and onions in a large soup pot and cover with cold water up to half an inch over vegetables. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the diced salmon and simmer another 15 minutes. Now add the butter, herbs, salt, pepper and milk. (At this time, you may want to thicken all with flour or cornmeal. Thick or thin chowder is a personal preference.)

When the butter has melted into the pot, the chowder is done. Do not let it boil.



1/2 pound large sea scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy or cast-iron frying pan. When hot, add the garlic and saute it for just a few seconds, then add the scallops. They do not need much time. They will turn white; then let them get a little bit browned. Salt and pepper them and stir them around in the pan for a few more seconds to finish up.


Practically every cookbook has a different version of what they call “Indian pudding.” Restaurants, fancy or not, feature it as something very special. Truth is, it isn’t a Native dish at all like many assume. The Europeans referred to cornmeal as “Indian corn” so they would not confuse it with wheat flour or other grains, hence the name. This is a good pudding though. It is basically a corn mush made with molasses, milk and cornmeal. Later versions added eggs, sugar, butter and spices.

<b>Corn Meal Pudding (aka Indian Pudding)</b>

1-1/2 cups raisins

3 cups scalded milk (milk brought to the boiling point, then removed from heat)

1-1/2 cups cold milk

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar (brown or white, or substitute)

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup butter

Add raisins to hot milk. Mix cornmeal into cold milk and add slowly to hot mixture. Heat slowly until mixture thickens, 10 – 15 minutes. Now add molasses, salt, sugar, ginger, nutmeg and butter. Pour into a two-quart baking dish and add the remaining half-cup of cold milk into center of pudding. Do not stir.

Set the baking dish in a pan of cold water (about 1 inch) and bake at 300 degrees for 2-1/2 hours. Cool at least 2 hours before serving.


<b>Sweet Sweet Potatoes</b>

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 firm apple, chopped

1 cup apple juice, cider or orange juice

1/2 cup dried cranberries or gold raisins

1/2 cup maple syrup or brown sugar

Heat apple juice (cider or orange juice) in a large skillet and add the sweet potatoes evenly. Cook covered for 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Then stir in apple, cranberries (or raisins) and syrup (or brown sugar). Cover again until apple is soft. Uncover and boil gently until the liquid is syrupy. Great served with pork, ham or chicken, with wild rice as another vegetable side.


<b>Notes and Tips</b>

* I like to make things in bulk sometimes, so there will definitely be leftovers from which to start another meal. Wild rice, potatoes, pasta and beans of all sorts make great meal starters and even lunch-type snacks.

* I love slow cookers more than ever. When having a buffet dinner with lots of people they keep everything warm: even gravy. They are super good this time of year for soups, chowders, cocoa and even mulled cider.