When I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I attended Navajo ceremonies, festivals and art shows and fell in love with the Native American Indian culture and food.
While growing up in Rochester, NY, the local tribes had little public representation and information was scarce. Now, they have a comprehensive cultural center in Victor on the spot my family bought cider from decades ago. The state purchased the land for the center and for growing heritage white corn along with other heritage crops.
Learning about the tribes and their history is documented and displayed at the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan.
I met with Peter Jemison (Seneca), a leader and director for the Iroquois White Corn Project. The Iroquois White Corn Project is traditionally managed and protected to bring nutritious corn products from heirloom seeds dating back at least 1,400 years in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) communities. Hand-grown, hand-picked, and hand-processed, Iroquois White Corn products are nutritious, non-GMO, gluten-free, and have a low glycemic index.
With 569 acres, their goal is to restore the farming, consumption, and distribution of traditional Iroquois White Corn to Native American communities and to offer Iroquois White Corn products to the community at large.
What caught my attention was the white corn flours and kernels they produce for sale to the public. Since the corn is from heirloom seeds from native growers, their integrity has been sustained for centuries. This is a pure product grown without pesticides or genetic modification, and that can’t be stressed enough, in this era of toxic corn products.
Peter explained that each year, they painstakingly hand-plant the seeds, and when the ears are ready, pick and trim leaving 3 husks on each ear. Using those 3 husks, they braid 30 heavy ears together to hang in their drying facility for at least six months. After drying, there are different processes for each of the products: Roasted White Corn Flour, White Corn Flour and White Corn Kernels. For the Roasted White Corn Flour, the ears are roasted in a unit similar to roasting coffee until the caps crack, and then the kernels are ground. For the White Corn Flour and Kernels, the hulls are soaked in a lime bath, washed, dried on screens for months and then either ground for the flour or the kernels are packaged whole. Last year, they sold 2500 pounds of flour and kernels which are available online with nationwide shipping.
I bought the Roasted White Corn Flour and when opened, the aroma was unlike any other flour I have used. Nutty, robust, deeply concentrated and luscious. I immediately thought of cornbread but also pudding so I modified a recipe using a smaller baking pan. The cornbread baked to around 3 inches deep with a soft gooey interior. If you want traditional cornbread, use the larger baking pan. Since New Mexico hatch chilis are in season, reminding me of my time there, I added them after roasting under the broiler. This is a hearty bread that can easily be a meal with a salad. Serve warm for savoring all the flavor profiles.
Iroquois White Corn Bread with Hatch Chilis
- 1 cup Iroquois Roasted White Corn Flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 1 cup of chopped, roasted New Mexico green chiles or (2 7-ounce cans of diced green chiles, drained)
- 1 cup fresh corn (frozen works thawed)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 In a large bowl mix the Iroquois Roasted White Corn flour, AP flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar. Beat the sour cream and eggs and add to the butter sugar mixture. Alternate adding the wet and the dry ingredients. Mix in the green chiles, corn, and shredded cheese. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
3 For the soft center, bake for 60 minutes or 35 minutes (in larger baking dish) until top is browned. Let cool before serving but still warm.
There’s so much to learn at the center plus they have special events. Information can be found here.
I can’t wait to go back and learn more!
Opinions of the author are her own and products were purchased for discussion. I welcome your comments and suggestions for food and specialty items from upstate New York and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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