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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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If it were 50 to two or three hundred years ago, there would be no time for writing like this. This would be the time of year to get it all together and preserve every bit of food possible. The drying, smoking and storing of food was on everyone's mind, as all joined in to help with the work. An important aspect of Native culture is the mentality of shared goods and shared work for the good of all. In all parts of Indian country, people are gathered in communal kitchens preparing large amounts of food to be stored - foods like smoked turkey, beef, buffalo, and venison.

Other things such as potatoes, squash, timsila, pumpkin, and corn get processed in loving ways. It is also time to harvest and dry herbs which enhance the flavors of all these other foods. There is something almost magical about this coming together to help everyone survive. Camaraderie amongst both men and women in these endeavors is the strength which holds us all together with respect for ourselves and each other.

Cranberry Chutney

4 cups of cranberries

1 1/2 cups of water

3 1/2 cups of sugar

2 large apples, cored and chopped

1/2 cup of golden raisins

1 lemon, chopped in processor, reserve juice

1 orange, chopped in processor, reserve juice

2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped

1 1/2 cup walnut meats, chopped coarse

Use a large pot, about 6 - 8 quart size and cook the cranberries in the water until they pop. Now add all the other ingredients except the ginger and the walnuts.

Bring to a boil and stir frequently, then reduce heat and continue to cook over medium heat until the mix starts to thicken. Now add the ginger and the walnuts and stir to mix. Let the chutney cool in the pot a bit. Now put the chutney into 8-ounce jelly glasses which have been washed in hot water. You will have about four to six jelly glasses full.

The chutney keeps well in the fridge and makes an excellent gift around the holidays.

Many Algonquin speaking people call cranberries sassamanesh. In the Abenaki language the word for cranberries is popokwamozial. In fall, the Wampanoag people of Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard and also of Mashpee, Mass. celebrate the tart, yet beautiful cranberry. They contain quite a bit of vitamin C as well as a property that makes them excellent fighters of urinary tract infections. In everyday cooking, they can lend color to any recipe where raisins or some other dried fruits are called for. "Craisins" dried cranberries resembling raisins, were exotic just a few years ago. Now they are available at most supermarkets. They make a nice addition to trail mixes, pemmican, quick breads and are pretty delicious by themselves.

Cranberry Quick Bread

1 orange (grate the rind) squeeze enough juice to make 3/4 cup of liquid, add the grated rind to this

2 tablespoons butter

1 egg

1 cup sugar

1 cup cranberries, chopped

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1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 5x9-inch loaf pan. Heat the rind, juice and butter enough to melt butter. Beat together egg and sugar in a large bowl. Add the cranberries, nuts, egg and sugar to the orange mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and mix well. Add this to the orange mixture in the large bowl and mix well. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for one hour.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole cranberries

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

2 cups pureed pumpkin (or 1 can)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin pan or use those little paper baking holders. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and spices. Add butter, eggs and pumpkin. Mix all together well. Stir in cranberries which you might want to cut in half first so they don't explode. Fill the muffin cups a little more than half full. You may need half of another muffin pan to contain excess. Bake for 35 minutes. Makes 15 - 18 muffins.

I just made these muffins to be sure about the recipe. I do this quite often if I haven't made something for awhile. Then, like this recipe, I try to improve it. This time I added a topping. Mix a half cup of brown sugar with a tablespoon of flour and add about 1/2 cup of chopped nuts, sprinkle over muffin batter before baking.

Notes & Tips

*Another reason to have a garden - most of the fresh produce in the U.S. travels more than 1,000 miles before being eaten. That is shocking. These delays in getting produce to the markets results in less nutritional value. Vitamins C and A are lost more quickly than other nutrients.

*Winter squash stores very well if you keep it around 50 degrees in a dry spot. If you put them in a basement or other place with humidity, it may be too moist and they will rot. Cooked squash freezes beautifully and is easy to use all peeled and ready to add to recipes.