White Corn (Onenon’gan’) – This corn is NOT LYED!!! Comes in a 2 pound bag, approx. 1 quart.
One of the Deohako (Three Sisters) along with beans and squash. The corn provides support for the beans to climb on; the beans provide nitrogen to the soil for the other plants to absorb; the squash provides ground cover to inhibit the growth of weeds.
Corn soup (Oneñhohgwa’) in the Haudenosaunee culture is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, from the large stock pot simmering on the back burner in home kitchens to gala banquets featuring haute cuisine.
To not serve corn soup at a gathered meal is like an entirely missing course. Part soup, part stew, part snack, part meal, corn soup has been a mainstay of the Haudenosaunee diet for centuries. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, corn soup can be a side dish or the main meal. With protein, minerals, vitamins and fibre, corn soup is a satisfying, healthy and versatile meal.
Warm and nutritious, corn soup starts with the basic ingredients – lyed corn, beans, salt pork and water – but as with most food, each chef adds their own unique impression and level of mastery that sets the final preparation apart from the others.
Preparing corn soup is best when it’s approached as a labour of love, as it takes a remarkable amount of time and work to arrive at the final product. Multiple steps, each with their own degree of complexity, are needed.
The main ingredient, corn, isn’t found in supermarkets or mass-produced packaging. The process to create this unique ingredient has origins dating back hundreds of years and isn’t an option for most homeowners without access to the proper types of firewood or the means to burn it. The corn itself is a special variety, harvested and dried in vast quantities in barns in a communal effort.
“It takes a village to make a bowl of corn soup” isn’t too far off the mark. But the rewards of enjoying this delicious food with those who helped create it are as timeless as the dish itself.
Loren (Lolly) Greene (1928 – 1999)
Before Indian Corn can be used for Corn Soup it must be thoroughly dried. The corn is picked in the late fall, the husk pulled back, then braided into three foot long bunches and hung up in the barn so the crows can’t get at it.
Before Indian Corn (which is white :-) can be cooked into corn soup, it must first be put through a process called “lying”. Lye is an extremely strong acid found in hardwood ashes. This is what the traditional Indians used as it was abundant from their campfires. This lying process softens the outer shell somewhat and allows the two black eyes found on each kernel of corn to be washed off after cooking. There are very few Indians adept at preparing the dried white corn in this manner. The amount of wood ashes to be boiled with the corn is a very tricky task to accomplish properly. Too much lye will destroy the corn and too little will not do the job.
Therefore we leave this to the “lyers” of the tribe. The corn is boiled with the hardwood ashes and water for about two hours. Then it is washed to remove the eyes or hulls and to rinse the corn free of lye. The Tuscarora reservation has three or four “lyers” who perform the difficult and messy task of “lying”. A “lyer” will do a large amount of corn in a day depending on how many orders she has to do for the tribal members. I get my “lyed” corn from Mrs. Norton Rickard of Blacknose Spring Road. Usually I order five quarts at $3.00 per quart. I then divide it into three parts. I will freeze two of them and cook one part…about a quart and one half.
Traditional Indian Corn Soup
- Wash and put 1 1/2 quarts of “lyed” Indian White Corn in an 8 quart pot. Fill with water 3/4 full and cover. Bring to a boil and keep at a rolling boil for 1 1/2 hours, corn should open full. You may want to cook corn a while longer . If the corn is not fully open, stir occasionally. Do not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.
- While the corn is cooking, cut up 1 1/2 lbs of pork shoulder butt steaks into 3/4″ square pieces. Do the same with 3/4 lbs of salt pork. Place meat in a separate pan and boil for 1 hour. Water should cover pork 4″ or so. Add if necessary…you will need this for stock.
- After the corn opens to your satisfaction or two hours maximum, remove from stove and pour through strainer. Do not rinse corn. Rinse out pot and put corn back into pot. Add the cooked pork along with the stock.
- Open three 1 lb cans of dark red kidney beans and add.
- Rinse cans, add water to cover mixture 3 inches or so. Boil mixture for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding water in necessary. Stir occasionally, do not let it stick to the bottom of the pot.
Serve in individual bowls, season with salt and pepper after serving. Best if eaten with homemade, warm yeast bread and freshly churned butter.