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Native Cooking

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Looking out my window at the barren trees, the snow and the ice crust on top always bring ;'the old ones'' to mind. I can almost see them slowly trudging along wrapped in skins, heads forward with an arm up to protect their face from the sharp, biting wind, searching for food just to survive another day, and later huddled under a rock outcropping around a small fire. It is hard to think of these scenes; it's easier to go along our merry way.

It's sad to think of, yet today there are many who are in similar straits - the homeless sleeping in boxes, begging for any offering. I really admire the folks who keep shelters ready and provide warm meals for these lost souls. Lots of good works are being done every day that go unsung: stores that provide daily boxes of food, those who transport it to be distributed and those who cook and serve it, every single day. In these times, I thought, how ironic it might be if you provided some of the homeless with pouches full of yo'keag, pemmican or other forms of journey food. I do hope those who live in hard-to-reach places - or easy-to-reach places with no way to access food, let alone cook it - are taken care of by the kindness of others.

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Warming Winter Soup

This soup can be called many names: minestrone, vegetable, stockpot luck, even ''garbage'' soup. Whatever it is called, it is different every time you make it because it starts with the basics and then, by the use of varied additions, you get something delicious every time.

Start with a large pot and some oil or butter. Add chopped onions, a little garlic and some diced pepper or crushed red pepper. Now add a can or two of tomatoes with their juice, some celery, carrots and a can or two of beans. (Any kind of beans will work, like kidney, cut green beans or limas - whatever you have on hand.) Then add a few cups of chicken stock, some oregano, parsley and thyme. To this you may want to add some kind of small pasta, cubed potatoes or squash. Top with cheese before serving.

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Slow Cooker Venison

1-1/2 pounds venison, boneless, cut in 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon dehydrated onion

1 teaspoon horseradish

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup water

Put venison cubes into a smallish slow cooker. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over meat. Stir to coat. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours. Check occasionally and stir, adding a tad of water if necessary. (You can freeze any leftovers.) This recipe is good over cooked pasta of any sort.

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Carrot Soup

6 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter (or corn oil)

3 cups chicken broth

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2 teaspoons sugar (or substitute)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Put carrots, onion and butter (or oil) in a heavy saucepan and cover. Cook, covered, on low heat until carrots are tender. Keep lid on tight to create condensation. If you think it may need more moisture, add a little chicken broth. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes.

Cool slightly and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Pour into a blender and puree on low for 1 minute, then on high for 30 seconds. Return to saucepan and add remaining chicken broth and sugar (or substitute). Season with salt and pepper. Use the lemon rind and parsley as garnish. You can also garnish with a dollop of low-fat or regular sour cream.

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Wild Rice Soup Deluxe

4 cups cooked wild rice (approximately 1 cup raw uncooked)

3 strips cooked bacon, drained and set aside

1 cup cooked chicken, cut in small cubes

1 large onion, chopped

1 large stalk celery with leaves, chopped

3 fresh tomatoes or 1 can, diced

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 pinch of basil and/or thyme

4 cups chicken broth

3 - 4 cups water

Add everything except the cooked bacon to a large pot and simmer for about 30 minutes on low. Crumble the bacon over the top during the last 10 minutes or so. Serve with crusty bread, bannock or cornbread.

Notes and Tips

-- With maybe a few ''inside'' days coming up, it might be a good time to start a project you can use next year. Start a family cookbook. Another phase of this might be to write a daily menu of what you made and served. It is a shortcut that you can go back to in a few months and write out the recipes. Make copies, and make a pretty binder for gift-giving.