Garden & Gun: A Taste of “Cherokee Cooking”

Image result for Cherokee Cooking: From the Mountains and Gardens to the Table

This article is actually an interview with Nancy Plemmons, one of the original authors of “Cherokee Cooking: From the Mountains and the Gardens to the Table.” In this short piece, you get a quick introduction to a number of important ingredients and dishes within Cherokee cuisine, from sochan, ramps, bean dumplings, to the ubiquitous presence of pork in Cherokee cuisine, including hominy dishes. While there’s a lot to highlight from this piece, Nancy’s reply to the following question worth repeating:

White settlers adopted so many ingredients and dishes from the people who were already living in these mountains, from poke sallet to cornbread. What’s a dish you’d still only find on a Cherokee table?

Oh, maybe pig’s feet with hominy. We love hominy, because we love anything to do with corn. I love homemade hominy, but it’s an all-day thing to make in a big pot with hickory ash and nobody does it anymore. Once you’ve eaten homemade hominy, it’s hard to settle for canned.

(Image is taken from Sapelo Island Birdhouses, which currently has Cherokee Cooking for sale through their site.)

New World Thanksgiving (Rancho Gordo)

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This great guide provides a number of recipes for modern-day, New World dishes. (Link included in the text below)


While there is no primary hominy dish to be found in this guide (there is one dish that calls for the addition of hominy, if interested), it is, nonetheless, a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to add dishes more akin to those found in indigenous communities throughout the New World to their Thanksgiving (and even their everyday!) table. Thank you, Rancho Gordo! 

Crimson Popping Corn with Mexican Oregano (Rancho Gordo)

This fantastic recipe from Rancho Gordo’s “New World Thanksgiving” is a great twist on the classic, 21st century, American popcorn snack. They suggest serving it as an appetizer, and I agree–while the crimson kernels are only a slight red/pink when popped, they still make for a beautiful contrast to the green oregano and white cheese (we used Romano). Delicious!

Note that this is not a nixtamalized maize dish, nor is it a hominy dish. Instead, popcorn has a different history from the nixtamalized hominy foodway showcased on this blog. However, many varieties of pop corn (or pops) are not only suitable for making hominy, but make fantastic hominy.

Crimson Popping Corn with Mexican Oregano (Appetizer)
Serves 5-7

  • 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil (used to pop)
  • ½ cup Rancho Gordo Crimson popping corn (of course, another popcorn will do!)
  • 2– 3 tablespoons butter (added after–can easily be subbed for non-dairy options, like olive oil)
  • 2 teaspoons Rancho Gordo Mexican oregano, crushed with your hand
  • Salt to taste
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino romano (optional)

Directly from Rancho Gordo: “Have ready a large serving bowl. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the popcorn and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the popping has slowed down to 1 or 2 pops per second. This should take about 3 minutes. Carefully uncover the pot and transfer the popped corn to the serving bowl. (If you have a popcorn popper, use that instead!) In a small saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Add the crushed oregano to the pan and swirl to incorporate. Drizzle the herb butter over the popcorn and mix gently with your hands. Add salt to taste, and finish with grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.”


Recipe: Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

Blueberry cornmeal cake.

Blueberry cornmeal cake.

While the star relationship of this blog is the one between corn and alkaline substrates, the star pairing in this recipe is between the blueberries and lemon zest. The sweet cornmeal cake makes a great, full-bodied delivery for these two, letting them shine slightly brighter than a regular flour cake would. As always nixtamal makes a wonderful substitute for the regular cornmeal, and also makes for a softer cake.  Continue reading

Recipe: Jonnycake Bread (The Bryant House Restaurant)

I’ve yet to tackle cornbread or jonnycakes on this blog, and for good reason: this is an area of great contention. Everyone has a great cornbread recipe they righteously defend, and the same is true for jonnycakes. For many, love of the latter even extends to the right kind of cornmeal to use. Perhaps one day I’ll have an informed opinion on jonnycakes (while, on the other hand, I’m no exception to the cornbread rule!), but in the meantime, this cake recipe from The Bryant House Restaurant, courtesy of Bon Appetit, will have to do.  Continue reading

Recipe: Sweet Cornmeal Pie

Sweet cornmeal pie, with a homemade crust.

Sweet cornmeal pie, with a homemade crust.

With the days growing shorter, the leaves beginning to change, and the temperature beginning to drop, one of my favorite times of the year approaches: roasting and baking time. This marks the first of what I’m sure will be numerous recipes to follow that deal with various ways hominy and related products can be incorporated within these two culinary methods. This recipe for a simple sweet pie is made with cornmeal, not hominy, but I’ve substituted the 1/2 c. cornmeal for a 1/2 c. finely ground nixtamal and it worked just fine. I also enjoy adding both cinnamon and nutmeg, giving the pie a more seasonal flavor. Continue reading

Homemade Hominy

close up, mexican posole, hulls removed, 3

Whole kernel, nixtamalized hominy.

Let us be clear–this post is about making your own nixtamalized hominy, your own boiled maize kernels that have been soaked in an alkaline substrate, which will not only make processing them easier, but will also enhance their flavor. If you simply want to soak your dried corn in water then grind/cook it, this is not the post for you. You may argue that this is hominy just the same, but I’m taking a historical perspective–for centuries, hominy was nixtamalized, maize and alkaline treatment married in a prolific foodway. This may not be the hominy you know, but this is the hominy you will soon learn to make if you keep reading. Continue reading

Food History and Recipe: Hominy Muffins (Rufus Estes, 1911)

On the left, the cover from the first edition of Estes's book; on the right, a later edition with the misnomer that Rufus was the first African-American cookbook writer.

On the left, the cover from the first edition of Estes’s book; on the right, a later edition with the misnomer that Rufus was the first African-American cookbook writer.

Despite recent misinformation regarding Rufus Estes (he was, in fact not the first African-American cookbook writer, but he was the first African-American railway cookbook writer), this recipe for hominy muffins, as well as the life and occupation of its author, provides a fascinating snapshot of the social and cultural associations attached to hominy during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Continue reading

Soured Corns (1922, 2015): A Tale of Two Fermentations

Sour sweet corn, from Garden & Gun.

Sour sweet corn, from Garden & Gun.

Many people are surprised when they find out that the native groups who lived in the prehistoric and early historic Eastern Woodlands did not make their own fermented, alcoholic beverages. This wasn’t for lack of suitable materials–corn, as many know, makes a fine beer and liquor. History and culture are likely the culprits. Continue reading