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Harvest Succotash

Jonathan Townsend

Posted on October 26 2016

This is a traditional Native American soup that would have been enjoyed by the early pioneers. The Native Americans often called this dish the three sisters, because it contained corn, beans, and squash.

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For most of the year fresh ingredients were not available, and so they would have used dried corn and dried beans. In this recipe, we are going to be using dried hominy and dried beans.

  • Hominy
  • Beans
  • Meat
  • Butter
  • Onions
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1-2 Bay Leaves
  • Stock
  • Rutabaga
  • Carrot
  • Parsnip
  • Squash

Hominy is mature corn, usually dried and soaked in a caustic solution of hardwood ashes and water to remove the outer hull. The corn that we have today is generally of the soft kind called dent corn that was developed in the 19th century. In the 18th century, corn was typically of the flint variety, which was very hard.

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For this recipe, we are using a heritage corn that has its origins in corn over 2000 years old called Iroquois white corn available at the Iroquois whit corn project. They have also treated this corn exactly how the Native Americans in the 18th century would have done, so all the work of turning the corn into hominy has been done for us.

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First thing you need to do is soak your hominy and dried beans separately overnight. Be sure not to use your bean soaking water in the cooking of this dish.

Succotash is a dish that allows for a lot of variety. Some of the old travel journals mention these types of soup having wild game meat in them, and actually traditionally you’ll hear about bear meat being used in this type of dish. Bear meat is exceedingly good and tastes a lot like a fine beef. Since bear meat isn’t very popular anymore, I recommend using a fine chuck roast.

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Cube your meat into 1 inch squares and brown it in a little bit of butter along with some onions. Season it with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf or two. Next, add some stock. You can use chicken stock, beef broth, or just water. To this we’ll add the corn and beans, the first two sisters. Place the lid on this and let it simmer about 3 hours.

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Next, it’s time to add our vegetables. Add in the rutabaga, carrot, parsnip, and of course the third sister, squash. Drop them in and cook for another half hour or so until these are nice and tender.

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Our wonderful three sisters soup, or I might even call this a stew, is so rich and thick and the smell is wonderful. It’s full of a lot of different flavors and textures. I really recommend you give this a try.

Transcript of Video:

A few weeks ago we made a centuries-old summertime succotash recipe using fresh sweet corn and baby lima beans. If you haven’t seen that episode, I encourage you to go and see that now. Today I’m going to be making yet another traditional Native American soup that would have likewise been enjoyed by the early pioneers. The Native Americans often called this dish the three sisters because it contained corn, beans and squash. Thank you for joining me today on 18th Century Cooking.

As I mentioned earlier, in a previous episode we made a summertime succotash using fresh corn and fresh beans, but for most of the year, these fresh ingredients were not available, and so they would have used dried corn and dried beans. Today in this episode, we are going to be using dried hominy and dried beans as well.

Now, we hope to have an episode in the not too distant future about making hominy and hominy is mature corn. Usually it’s dried and soaked in a caustic solution of hardwood ashes and water to remove the outer hull. The hominy that we’re using today is of a very special variety. In the 18th century, corn was typically of the flint variety and the corn that we have today is generally of the soft kind which is a dent corn. It was developed in the mid-19th century. The other varieties of flint corn that we’ll have today are generally popcorn and some kinds of Indian corn that hasn’t been hybridized.

The flint corn we’re using today is a very special kind of corn. It’s a heritage corn that has its origins in corn that’s over 2000 years old. It’s called Iroquois white corn and its available online at the Iroquois white corn project. In addition to this being a heritage variety of flint corn, it’s already been turned into hominy for us and dried, so they’ve done a lot of the work already for us. It’s treated just exactly the way the Native Americans in the 18th century and before that would have done it as well as the early settlers.

To make this ready for us to use, all we need to do is soak it overnight the same way we need to do with our dried beans. You’ll want to soak these in their water until right before you use them. Be sure not to use your bean soaking water in the cooking of this dish. So let’s get started.

Some of the old travel journals mention these types of soup having wild game meat in them, and actually traditionally you’ll hear about bear meat being used in this type of dish and bear meat’s exceedingly good and tastes a lot like, say, a fine beef. Now, I don’t have bear meat today to use in this recipe, so I’m going to be using a fine chuck roast that I’ve already cubed into 1 inch squares.

Let’s brown this meat in a little bit of butter along with some onions and then I’ll season it with salt and pepper and a bay leaf or two. Next, I’m going to add some stock. Now, I’ve got some chicken stock here. You could use just water instead or even beef broth.

To this we’ll add the corn and the beans, the first two sisters.

I’m going to put the lid on this and let it simmer about 3 hours.

Our soup has been simmering for 2 ½ – 3 hours and now it’s time to add our vegetables to it and I’ve got 4 vegetables here. I’ve got rutabaga, I’ve got carrot, I’ve got some parsnip, and of course the third sister, which is the squash. These I’ll drop in and this will cook for another half hour or so until these are nice and tender.

Well, here is our wonderful three sisters soup, or I might even call this a stew. It’s so rich and thick and the smell is wonderful. Let’s find out what it tastes like.

Mmm

Now this is full of a lot of different flavors. I mean obviously we’ve got the meat and the wonderful broth flavors, but the interesting textures are what really, I think, sets this apart, and the corn is something totally different than you’re probably expecting. This corn is much larger in its size than a standard piece of corn and it’s got a really good texture. It’s not hard but it keeps holding its texture whereas the beans have almost broken down. They’re very soft, but the corn really is still holding its own in there so we have some really interesting texture with it, but we also have all these different flavors, so you get a piece of parsnip and you’re going to get a totally different flavor. You get a piece of rutabaga you get another flavor. You get the meat, you get the corn, you get the beans, it is really a wonderful medley of flavors. Each bite is almost just a little bit different. This is such a wonderful recipe and I hope you get a chance to try it.

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