Reclaiming the Mvskoke Plum

Food is a necessity for human survival and a focal point of cultural tradition, as in Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods. The endless variety of local sustenance can serve as the basis for charting the territories on Planet Earth, including our own remarkable continent.

A noteworthy effort to reconceive “America” on the basis of culinary geography is documented in the book Renewing America’s Food Traditions.  Edited by ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan, this lavishly illustrated volume grew from the timely collaboration of seven major organizations committed to “saving and savoring the continent’s most endangered foods.”

Nabhan and his colleagues have mapped North America—including Northwest Mexico and most of Canada—by identifying thirteen regional “food nations” distinguished by place-based foodways.  Each food nation is named for an iconic dish, and anyone familiar with Mvskoke tastes will be gratified to learn that Mvskoke country, both before and after Removal, is encompassed by “Cornbread Nation.”  Back east, this region borders “Chestnut Nation” and “Gumbo Nation” in the Mvskoke homeland; out west, this agricultural complex shares a boundary with “Bison Nation” running across the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The RAFT collaborative has inventoried more than a thousand heirloom varieties and heritage breeds that are currently threatened, endangered, or functionally extinct.  Nearly a hundred are profiled in the book, at least half of which were—or still are—indigenous staples.  The ten plants and animals detailed in a chapter on Cornbread Nation are as colorfully named as they are appetizing:  Yellow Hickory King Dent corn, Mulefoot hog, Southern Queen yam, Early Golden persimmon.

But the most intriguing story here, from a Mvskoke perspective, is surely the so-called Chickasaw plum.

Early European colonists coveted the different “wild Plums of America,” the trees as well as their fruit, which was “considered to be of extraordinary excellence in flavor.” The English common name was coined in 1773 by botanist William Bartram, who mistakenly believed this particular species had been brought to Mvskoke country “from the S. W. beyond the Missisippi, by the Chicasaws.”  This mis-identification was codified in 1785 when the plum was assigned a Latin scientific name:  “Prunus angustifolia, Chickasaw Plumb.”

George Washington planted three long rows of P. angustifolia behind the garden at Mount Vernon.  Thomas Jefferson established the species at eight different locations on his plantation, and “of all the tree fruits grown at Monticello today,” the estate’s gardener wrote in 1998, “the Chickasaw plum is the healthiest and most vigorous with its clean, shiny, pest-free foliage and abundant fruit production.”

The plot thickened during the Creek War, over two centuries ago, when frontier militia and their Cherokee allies massacred Mvskoke residents of the Helvpe villages near the Tallapoosa River on November 18, 1813.  Having also chanced upon a patch of fruit trees, one settler returned home with a supply of native plum pits, which he cultivated in Knox County, Tennessee.

Locals loved the new plum and took to calling it “General Jackson” and “Old Hickory,” commemorating the spoils of war at Horseshoe Bend.  The looted fruit later made its way to Illinois, where it was propagated under the name “Chickasaw Chief,” and to Wisconsin, where it came to be known as the “Miner” plum, now the Chickasaw’s best-known cultivar.

Writing in 1911, horticulturalist U. P. Hedrick described this species as “one of the most distinct of plums” and “the first of the native plums to be named,” of which there were already more than forty named cultivars.  “The fruits are good in quality, attractive in appearance, comparatively curculio-proof [pest-resistant],” and “especially suited for culinary uses.”  But industrial agriculture had little use for this indigenous commodity, and over the past century P. angustifolia was nearly lost and forgotten.

Recent discoveries near Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, however, have shed new light on both the plum and its history.

Most nonnative writers have assumed this indigenous fruit to be wild.  Yet Bartram saw plenty of Chickasaw plums during his travels in Mvskoke country, and he “never saw it wild in the forests, but always in old deserted Indian” settlements. Hedrick also noted that “it is usually found near human habitations and on the margins of fields,” and that “a careful study of recent botanical works indicates that the species is indigenous to the southeastern United States.”

Finally, in 2004, botanists working at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park found six cross-compatible species of native Prunus—including P. angustifolia—near the site of the Mvskoke fortification.  It now seems clear that the original specimens taken from Helvpe, a few miles to the west, had been carefully cultivated by Mvskoke growers.

Nabhan and his RAFT colleagues extol this plum for its “primacy among the continent’s great fruits,” concluding that “perhaps the Creek were more accomplished horticulturalists than anyone has given them credit for.”

Two months in the Mvskoke calendar are named for indigenous fruits:  Kē-Hvse (Mulberry Month) and Kvco-Hvse (Blackberry Month).  Perhaps someday the dominant culture will acknowledge that the “Chickasaw” plum should be renamed for its Mvskoke cultivators.


[Mvskoke] Plum / Prunus Angustifolia

[Mvskoke] plum . . . is a native shrub or low tree.  It has a wide geographic area of distribution ranging from Maryland to Florida and westward to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  It is found most commonly on sandy soils in pastures or open woods. . . .

Its white flowers are attractive and fragrant in the spring, producing a beautiful flower show.  It should be part of any native landscape planting. . . . The blooms are attractive to honey bees and other pollinator species. . . . The fruits are small, thin-skinned, red, orange-red or yellow, . . . fruiting in June-August. . . . Native Americans regularly consumed fresh fruits of [Mvskoke] plum or dried them for winter. . . .

One-year-old, bare-root seedlings, 18 to 24 inches tall, are used in plantings.  Control of weed and grass competition during the first and second years is important for survival, early growth, and final establishment of the plants.  [Mvskoke] plums are drought tolerant. . . . Once established, the plums should be able to fend for themselves.  If fruit/seed production is the goal, then annual maintenance is required. . . .

[Mvskoke] plum is a popular plant for use in developing wildlife habitat on sandy soils. The thorny thicket is valuable for songbird and game bird nesting, loafing, and roosting.  Various other animals also use it for loafing, bedding, and escape cover.  Numerous species of birds and other animals consume the fruit.  The plums provide nesting cover for northern bobwhites, brown thrashers, northern mockingbirds, and gray catbirds in the southeastern U.S. . . . Rabbits may chew on the bark, but new sprouts will form to replace injured stems. . . .

[Mvskoke] plum is very effective in stabilizing blowing soil.  It may be used in the outside row of windbreaks for ground level protection.  It is also used to stabilize stream banks and gullies. . . . It occurs naturally in sandy soil, but will perform well when planted on heavier clay-loam soils. Although partially shade tolerant, it performs best in full sun. . . .

The search for agricultural diversification has rekindled interest in the domestication and utilization of [Mvskoke] plums as a high value, specialty crop. . . .

United States Department of Agriculture
National Resources Conservation Service

POME Magazine, Spring 2019

Welcome to Mvskoke Country

hoktiLike many people in Mvskoke country (and many more in the American South), I grew up eating corn on the cob, white and yellow hominy, homemade cornbread, and the occasional boiled or fried hominy grits.  Vce, which the Europeans called “maize” or simply “Indian corn,” is the quintessential staple of Mvskoke cuisine.  It may also be Native North America’s greatest contribution to the world’s domesticated food supply.

Having spent most of my adult life as a university professor, I enjoyed the academic freedom to study the cultural and ecological traditions of my Mvskoke forebears.  In 2009 I began writing a monthly column for the Muscogee Nation News titled “Mvskoke Country,” which is archived on the internet at MvskokeCountry.online.  Each installment offered a topical perspective on enduring themes in human ecology; I tried to connect local concerns with global realities and to reconnect Mvskoke traditions with the natural world.  Many columns incorporated insights gained from a close study of the Mvskoke language, which bears evidence of ecological decline in the historical period.

One of my earlier pieces, written in response to a reader’s query about traditional Mvskoke recipes, posed the question “What Is Mvskoke Food?”  That’s a slippery word, “traditional,” pointing back in time toward the dim corners of collective memory, like a flickering flashlight aimed into a very deep cave.  How far do you have to go?  How long does it take to make a tradition?  These are tough questions in a modern world where things are always changing, and people are more interested in the latest gadgets for sale than the timeless truths of their ancestors.

Over the years I’ve tracked down more than two dozen publications containing instructions for processing and preparing traditional Mvskoke dishes—foods and drinks that were popular before the rise of industrial technology and that are named in the Mvskoke language.  The most informative of these printed sources is Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods, written by Beulah Simms and published by Ben Chaney in 1970.

Hoktē, you may know, is the Mvskoke word for “woman”; here it refers to Beulah’s mother, who gave her these ancient recipes.  “She is typical,” Beulah writes, of those Mvskoke matriarchs “whose greatest concerns were the patient and loving preparation of food for generations of families,” and who “will be remembered with much appreciation by all those who have feasted at church gatherings, stomp dances, family get-togethers, or just plain daily living.”

Beulah dedicated her book to the next generation of Mvskokvlke, hoping “to inspire a revival of interest in the old methods of preparing food,” particularly among “those hardy individuals who have the initiative, curiosity, and fortitude to try these recipes.”  Preserved here are the ingredients, utensils, and preparations used by Mvskoke cooks for countless generations, before the advent of “modern kitchen conveniences.”  Practicing “the old Creek Indian ways of cookery” involves handmade implements fashioned from wood and other natural materials; Hokti’s recipes are prefaced by a survey of several such utensils.

Not surprisingly, many of the twenty recipes collected here include vce.  As Beulah points out, the survival of Green Corn and other observances rooted in agriculture demonstrates the importance of both crop and ceremony in Mvskoke life.  Other ingredients listed in these recipes may be harder to find at your local grocer—wood ash lye, possum grapes, sassafras root bark, and squirrel, for example.  You’ll probably have better luck if you know your way around “Nature’s Super Market,” as Beulah terms it.

Some of these recipes call for flour, eggs, pork, or beef—foods that have become common, if not necessarily healthy, elements of the modern diet.  Wheat, chickens, pigs, and cattle are not native to Mvskoke country; they were domesticated in the Eastern Hemisphere and transplanted to the Americas as part of the European invasion.  So Hokti’s Recipe Book documents Mvskoke culinary traditions during a particular period of our history, after the onset of colonial trade but before we got hooked on mega-marts and drive-thrus.

For example, the recipe for tafvmpuce [see below] consists of wild onions, which are still gathered in the wild today by este Mvskoke; bacon grease, which is a substitute for wild game fat obtained through hunting; eggs (from chickens), which replace eggs produced by domesticated turkeys or gathered from wild bird nests; and water and salt, which are still available in the wild but more commonly purchased from public or private sources.  The wild onion dinners held throughout Mvskoke country every spring are serving up a tasty dish that embodies the entire history of Mvskoke subsistence practices—gathering, hunting, domestication, trade, and modern commerce.

In 2010 I caught up with Ben Chaney, who was then managing the Department of Transportation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation after an eclectic career in art, education, and business.  He told me about drawing the illustrations for Hokti’s Recipe Book and printing it in his Okmulgee garage as a young man, and he gave me permission to publish an electronic version of the book on the “Mvskoke Country” website.  In February 2018, at the venerable age of 76, Ben returned to work for the Nation as Secretary of Interior Affairs, overseeing thirteen departments serving MCN citizens and area residents.  Unfortunately, his tenure was cut short by his unexpected death six months later.  Beulah had died many years earlier, in 1987, and her mother “Hokti”—Peggie Berryhill King, an original allottee—died in 1996; both were buried in the Tallahassee Church Cemetery in Okmulgee alongside many of their Mvskoke relatives.

The public response to the online republication of Hokti’s Recipe Book has been truly remarkable.  Over the past decade, I have posted more than a hundred columns, field notes, found poems, vintage recipes, book reviews, and other writings related to Mvskoke cultural and ecological traditions.  Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods is the most popular content ever published on the website, having been accessed over ten times as often as the second most popular page—the column in which I discussed this very source in response to a reader’s query about traditional Mvskoke recipes.  Who would have guessed that Mvskoke people and their friends like to eat?!  MVTO, Peggie, Beulah, and Ben.

What is Mvskoke food?  There are no simple answers in a complex, modern world.  But it’s worth reflecting on this question because, as the saying goes, you are what you eat.  Mvskoke people have survived by eating Mvskoke foods—and our foods survive by being eaten, just as our words survive by being spoken.

Hompaks cē.  (You all eat now!)

cooking tools
This 1923 photograph depicts several of the Mvskoke cooking tools described in Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods, like those Peggie Berryhill King used as a young woman:  three large keco (mortars) made from sections of tree trunk that have been hollowed out at one end; three kecvpe (pestles) carved from long, straight logs, shown here with their weighted tops on the ground; three woven containers—a large ‘senweskv (fanner) at top, a perforated svlahwv (riddle) at bottom, and a square svmpv (basket); and an upturned le-hayv (three-legged cast iron kettle).  (15022.4, Jennie Elrod Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Hokti’s Recipe for Tafvmpuce

wild onions — 4 bunches
water — 1/2 cup
bacon grease — 2 tablespoons
salt — 1 teaspoon
eggs — 6 beaten

Wild onions can best be found in early springtime or even late winter, as soon as the winter snows have melted and the ground has thawed.  The onions have long, slender leaves and onion smell and are found on creek banks or in shaded, wooded areas.

(The flowers of the wild onion are rose, reddish-purple and white in color.  The leaves of the wild onion are two to four inches or more high.  “Crow’s Poison” looks very much like the wild onion but has flat leaves and does not have the onion smell.)

Dig up sufficient quantities; about four hands full.

Clean and wash thoroughly, making certain all the soil is washed out of the leaves.  Cut into one-inch lengths.  Place the onions in a skillet with the water and simmer until the onions are tender.  (If the onions are old, simmer in salt water.)

Pour off the water and add the bacon grease and cook until the onions are wilted.  Add salt and the eggs and stir until the eggs are completely cooked.

A Creek Indian has not fully prepared for the advent of summer until he has eaten his fill of wild onions in the spring, and it is even better if the meal has been shared with good friends.

POME Magazine, January-March 2019

Taklik-Tokse / Taklik-Kvmokse

Dictionary le-hayvtaklik-tokse / taklik-kvmokse
“bread-sour”
sour cornbread

Charles Gibson, 1918

It takes three days to prepare this bread according to the old way.

A peck or even more of clean, shelled flint corn is prepared for making a quantity of this bread to have on hand for several meals. The shelled corn is placed in a large vessel, covered with luke warm water and soaked over night.

The soaked corn, a portion at a time, is pounded lightly in the wooden mortar so as not to crush the grain yet loosen the hulls. Then the grain is put into a fanner and the hulls cleaned out. The clean corn is soaked another night as before.

The next step in the preparation is to pound the soaked corn in a mortar to fine meal, in which there is always a small portion of fine grits. Sift out the meal, and boil the grits down in water to a gruel thoroughly done. Mix the meal with the gruel, and place the mixture in an earthen jar holding anywhere from two to ten gallons. The jar should be placed near a fire where it can be kept warm.

The third morning the dough will be fermented a little, and ready to put into a Dutch oven to be baked very slowly, an hour or longer until done. This bread, by adding a little salt and soda to the dough before baking, will be whiter than any flour bread when cooked done, having a delicious taste actually sweet without sugar.

Lilah D. Lindsey, 1933

Take one gallon of sofkey grits, soak overnight.

Next morning drip dry in a riddle or sugar sack, pound or grind into meal, mix as for corn bread with salt, soda, baking powder, and one cup of flour, pour in a jar, set in a warm place to ferment for twelve hours.

Then pour into hot greased iron kettle and bake same as corn bread.

Beulah Simms, 1970

Soak about one pound vce-cvlvtwe (flint corn) or vce-hvtke (white corn) in water until soft. It may require overnight soaking.

Hokti's taklik-toksePound in a keco with a kecvpe. Separate the coarser grains of corn from the fine powder. (The coarser grains may be dried and stored for later use.) Cook a thin gruel of two cups rice and while the mixture is still hot, mix with the powdered corn. Put the mixture into an earthenware crock which is large enough to allow for expansion and let set overnight in a warm room.

When you are ready to bake the bread, add one tablespoon baking powder and two tablespoons sugar and mix thoroughly. The sugar which is added gives the bread added flavor. Bake in oven as you would corn bread. 

Taklike-tokse is served with meat dishes.

American Indian Recipes, 1970

Soak two gallons of cracked corn in three or four gallons of hot water over night.

Drain water from corn and beat into fine meal, the last of which will form into a coarse meal. Save as much as two quarts coarse meal and cook with the water which it was soaked in. Combine one-half cup baking soda and a little water, enough to make a thin paste, then stir into the coarse meal. When the course meal is cooked thick enough to work with, add the fine meal and stir until its a little thicker than cornbread. Put into a stone jar for it to turn sour.

Then next day add a little flour and bake as cornbread.

Native American Recipes, 1996

Combine two cups cornmeal, two cups flour, one pinch baking soda, and one pinch baking powder. Add two cups water. Let mixture stand in a warm place until it becomes bubbly, usually overnight.

Pour into a greased cast iron skillet and cook on top of the stove under low to medium heat. Serve hot.

Some batter may be saved as a starter for the next batch of bread.

Bertha Tilkens, 2004

Cornmeal, made by pounding dried corn into powder, is used to make sour cornbread. Cornmeal is mixed with water and left to sit for several days until the mixture becomes sour. This mixture is then used to make cornbread, which tastes tangy and rather sour. This bread is delicious when served with soup or meat.

“Mvskoke Traditional Foods,” 2006

Combine two cups plain white corn meal, one-and-three-quarters cups flour, one teaspoon salt, one-quarter cup sugar, one cup cooked rice, and two cups warm water. Stir together until it looks fluffy and has some bubbles in it. Then let it set in a window or  somewhere for two days.

Add one tablespoon baking powder and one teaspoon baking soda, and a little water if it is too thick. Preheat oven to three-hundred-seventy-five degrees. Bake three cups of mixture in a greased skillet.

HardRidge 1996

Sources

Sakkonepke

factorsakkonepke
“in-a-liquid-cooked-thing”
meat and corn stew

James H. Hill, ca. 1936-40

You pour water in a small pot, put the osafke corn in, add meat, cook it, and it’s called sakkonepke.

Acee Blue Eagle, 1956

Prepare one squirrel, place in pot, cover with water and cook until tender. Add four cups sofkey grits, cook together until consistency is like hominy.

Rice is sometimes used in place of sofkey grits.

Indian Recipes, 1975

Cook sofkey grits until three-fourths done. Add short ribs of beef that have been baked or browned. Let simmer until meat and sofkey grits are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lois Neal, 1992

Cook cracked corn about two hours. Clean raw squirrel and cut into serving pieces. Add to hominy and cook until done. Cook about four hours, stirring often. Add salt when done.

Bertha Tilkens, 2009

Brown pig feet before placing them in a crock pot. Add two cups of hominy corn and fill  the crock pot about three-quarters full with water to cover the pig feet and corn and cook until the corn is soft. To add flavor, use bacon drippings and salt to taste.

stew

Sources

Vce-Sokv

black aztecvce-sokv
“corn-whole-grain”
hominy

James H. Hill, ca. 1936-40

Shell black or white corn, put water in a pot to boil, set it over the fire, put in a small amount of strong ashes without any charcoal, and when it boils, put in the shelled corn, and after it boils, take out the corn, and wash it off until all the corn skin is removed.

When the same corn was boiled and cooked without grinding, grease was added, and it was called sokv and eaten.

Beulah Simms, 1970

Hokti's vce-sokvFrom a wood fire, pull out one gallon of hot ashes and some small glowing embers. Put one quart white corn and the ashes into a large iron kettle. Arrange the kettle so that it is tilted to one side. It is easier to stir this way. Stir the corn and ashes over a low fire until the corn turns light tan in color. Separate the corn in a colander or a can with holes punched in the bottom. Pour water through the corn until the corn turns white and all trace of the ashes has been removed. Dry the corn and store for later use.

Boil the desired amount of corn in water for approximately one hour until thoroughly cooked. Season with lard or pieces of pork for flavor (hogshead can be used for this).

American Indian Recipes, 1970

Take a half bushel bucket of squaw corn and half bushel bucket of strong ashes, about three buckets full of water heated in wash pot and bring to a boil. Add the sifted ashes and boil briskly, adding the corn and stirring it until it’s skinned, then wash until it’s clean.

This is a large amount and can be used in different ways. Soak this overnight and cook very similar to beans. Also can be cooked together with hogshead. Another way it has been used is to cook hominy with salt pork and wild greens that Indians eat. These are the greens that are ready to eat right after the wild onions are gone.

Native American Recipes, 1996

Add enough water to cover one quart wood ashes and bring to boil. Add one gallon shelled corn and bring back to boil. Boil for one-half hour stirring often. Pour out ashes and water. Rinse corn thoroughly four to five times in different water each time.

Pour corn into clean pot, cover with water or broth from soup bone and cook until corn is done. Serve warm.

Indian Territory: A Cookbook of the Early Years, 1998

Boil two quarts dried shelled corn, two gallons water, and two ounces lye in iron cooking pot for thirty minutes. Set off and let sit for thirty minutes to cool.

Rinse in cold water and remove skin and eyes. Put back in clean pot, add clean water and bring to boil, cook for five minutes. Empty. Repeat this two more times to remove all the lye.

After last bath, cook again for thirty minutes.

Creek Muscogee Recipes, Cooking Tips and Lore, 1999

A traditional method for preparing hominy is to take clean wood ashes (hardwoods such as oak or hickory are best) sifted and put into an iron kettle (aluminum is never used for making hominy). Cover wood ashes and dried corn, removed from the cob, with water and boil until the skin slips off the corn. Wash the skins and ashes away with plenty of fresh water.

The kernels are then boiled in fresh water until tender.

hominy

Sources

Vhv-Cvmpv Taklike

thorntonvhv-cvmpv taklike
“potato-sweet bread”
sweet potato bread

Lilah D. Lindsey, 1902

After paring, grate three raw potatoes. To one quart of grated potatoes, add one-and-a-half tablespoons flour, teaspoon of sugar, pinch of black pepper, mix and make into small cakes. Bake as biscuits, but more slowly.

The Indian Cook Book, 1933

This bread is made by boiling sweet potatoes, then mixing with corn meal, seasoned with salt, and baking powder, if desired. Baked in a hot oven.

Beulah Simms, 1970

Hokti's vhv-cvmpv taklikeSelect four or five medium-sized potatoes. Wash and peel. Boil in water until soft. Mash as you would in making mashed potatoes. About two tablespoons of flour may be added to hold the patties together. Cinnamon may be added for extra flavor. Add two tablespoons butter or shortening, and two tablespoons sugar. Make into small patties or biscuits. Bake as you would bake biscuits until cooked.

American Indian Recipes, 1970

Take any amount of sweet potatoes that are gritted, put in a little sugar and a little flour and roll into a biscuit from the palm of the hand. Bake in an oven.

Indian and Pioneer Cookbook, 1971

Grate two big sweet potatoes. Mix with about one-quarter cup of butter, one cup of corn meal, one tablespoon of flour, one-half cup of sugar, one teaspoon of nutmeg, and two egg yolks. Fold in two beaten egg whites. Form into pones and bake on sheets of shallow pan, an iron pan is best. Bake in a slow oven, three-hundred-fifty degrees, until done.

Cookbook of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, 1976

Scrape or peel about four medium-size potatoes. Grate and add three-quarters cup sugar, one-half teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix and form into patties and place in greased pan. Bake in oven three-hundred-seventy-five degrees for thirty minutes.

Gifts of the Earth, 1982

Cook and mash three medium-sized sweet potatoes. Combine with one-half cup hot water, one-quarter cup whole-germ cornmeal, and one tablespoon wildflower honey. Add more cornmeal if the batter is too thin to make into cakes. Heat one-half cup beef or pork fat until it sizzles. Lightly roll cakes in cornmeal and fry in the hot fat, about two minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Seminole Indian Recipes, 1996

Preheat oven to four-hundred-twenty-five degrees. Place one-and-one-quarter cups cooked and mashed yams into a bowl and set aside. In another bowl mix together two cups all-purpose flour, two teaspoons sugar, one teaspoon salt, and three teaspoons double-acting baking powder. In a measuring cup combine one-half cup vegetable oil and one-half cup milk; add to yams and blend well with a fork. Add the flour mixture and mix lightly with the fork just until the mixture holds together.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for about one minute, or until the pastry is smooth and holds together. On a floured surface roll out the pastry to one-quarter inch thickness and cut with a floured biscuit cutter. Butter lightly and sprinkle baking sheet with flour. Tap baking sheet on edge of sink to get rid of excess flour. Place the rounds on the baking sheet and bake in oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. Serve hot with butter on the side. Cold cakes may be split and toasted. Makes about seventeen three-inch cakes.

Indian Territory: A Cookbook of the Early Years, 1998

Parboil four large sweet potatoes until tender; peel and mash them. Mix in three eggs, one cup flour, one-and-one-half teaspoon salt, and one-eighth teaspoon fresh ground pepper. Heat two tablespoons cooking oil. Take a scoop of potato and pat between your hands to make a patty. Put patty in oil and fry.

Creek Muscogee Recipes, Cooking Tips and Lore, 1999

Boil four large sweet potatoes until tender. When cool, peel potatoes and mash them in mixing bowl. Add three eggs, one teaspoon soda, one-and-one-half teaspoon salt, and one-eighth teaspoon fresh ground pepper, mixing into a smooth batter. Heat oiled griddle. Drop batter onto hot griddle from large spoon. Brown on both sides, flattening with spatula, to make cakes about three to four inches in diameter. Serve hot with butter.

bisquits

“Sweet Potato Cakes” by Juli Spencer Trapp, in Gifts of the Earth: 55 Authentic Indian Recipes from 15 American Indian Tribes (Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Co., 1982).

Other Sources

Vpvske

totcornvpvske
“parched”
cold flour

Lilah D. Lindsey, 1902

Three quarts of hard corn, boiled half done, drain. Have a pot on the fire with two quarts of ashes, hot, put corn in and stir with wooden paddle until brown. Remove corn to a riddle and sift off all ashes, put this in mortar and pound into meal. It is then ready for use.

Two tablespoons to a cup of cold water with one teaspoon of sugar makes a delightful drink, especially for summer.

James H. Hill, ca. 1936-40

When flint corn gets ripe, before it hardens, they shell it, put ashes in a big kettle, put it on the fire with the shelled corn, parch it, dry it in a sunny place, and keep lots of it stored away.

And when they went hunting, they parched that corn again and kept it and made lots of it without grinding it and called it hockvtē (flour) and took it with them hunting. When making that kind of osafke, they called it vpvsk-osafke (parched corn osafke), or tak-vpvsk-onepke (coarse cold flour) and ate it.

They kept this same parched corn and when they passed it through a fine riddle, they sifted it and kept it very fine, mixing in water, and called it vpvske wvpaksv (swollen parched corn), mixed in lots of liquid, and if they liked it that way, they sweetened it with honey and drank it.

Acee Blue Eagle, 1956

Use roasting ears just before hardening. Break a grain to see if kernel is moist. Gather as much corn as you desire to parch. Shell corn in large pan.

Sift one-and-one-half gallons dry wood ashes into large iron kettle. Build a fire of medium heat, place kettle over it tilted at a forty-five degree angle, pour corn into the ashes and stir continually with wooden paddle until corn is brown. Remove corn and ashes, sift ashes from corn and put back into pot. Continue process until all corn is parched. Pound or grind corn into fine meal.

Take two heaping teaspoons to one glass of water, sweeten to taste, and you will have the delicious Creek Indian drink called vpvske.

Hokti's vpvske

Beulah Simms, 1970

Place one-half gallon vce-cvlvtwe (flint corn) into a large iron kettle and place the kettle so that it is tilted to one side. From a wood fire, remove ashes and smoldering coals and place in the kettle with the corn. With an vtapv, stir until the corn turns a toasted brown in color. Cool.

Place in a svlahwv and sift out the ashes. Wash the remaining ashes out of the corn in clear water and dry out the corn.

You may now place the corn in a clean cloth bag for storage, or, place the toasted corn in a keco and with a kecvpe pound the corn into a fine powder. Using a svlahwv, sift the fine powder from the coarser grains (vpvske nerve or vpvske wa pvkscv).

Use the powdered corn for an instant drink. Add one teaspoon of powdered corn to glass of cold water. Add sugar to taste as in a glass of iced tea. Very tasty with meat dishes. Very easy to mail to friends in distant parts of the country as a gift.

American Indian Recipes, 1970

Need half bushel bucket of half-green and dry yellow corn. A half bushel bucket of strong dry ashes sifted and put into a heated wash pot that is hot enough to scorch, adding the corn and stirring with a paddle until parched done.

Next remove the corn sifted from the ashes and then beat lightly in a mortar, removing the burned skin by putting in a pan and tossing up and down and getting it clean, and beating it while it is hot and sifted.

This makes about three pounds of fine meal and about a quart-and-a-half of coarse meal. The fine meal can be eaten with sugar and water or milk like dry cereal.

Melissa Seigfried, 1971

Parch dry yellow corn in ashes over open fire, in a big black pot. Pound or grind into fine pieces or powder. Put into large utensil. Cover with water. Stir good. Serve to drink with sugar to sweeten to taste.

Cookbook of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, 1976

Cook semi-hard roasting corn in ashes until it is brown. Beat corn til fine.

Add an eight-ounce glass of water, two tablespoons vpvske, three teaspoons sugar and mix. Add ice and it is ready to drink.

Native American Recipes, 1996

Boil ten to fifteen young corn (a bit too hard for roasting ears) for about ten minutes. Cut corn off the cob and spread in the sun to dry. You can use cookie sheets for this or some other large flat utensil like pizza pans. Make sure it is protected from wind or animals while drying in the sun.

Put clean wood ashes in kettle and heat until they sizzle if a drop of water is added. Add dried corn and stir until the corn is browned. Sift to separate corn from ashes. Using keco and kecvpe grind until corn is desired consistency.

If more finely ground, add water or milk to make into a drink. Sweeten to taste if you wish, but most prefer it plain. Very nutritious.

Bertha Tilkens, 2004

To make vpvske, corn is put in a big kettle over an open fire. The corn is stirred constantly so that it does not burn but is instead parched to a brown color. The parched corn is then pounded into a very fine meal, resembling cornmeal. The pounded corn is put into an airtight container for storage. To make a drink, the vpvske meal is combined with water and a little sugar.

pinole

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