Monday, October 7, 2013

Pawcohiccora (Shagbark) Hickory Soup




The word pawcohiccora (sometimes spelled powcohicora) is an Algonquin word that refers to both the Shagbark Hickory, and is in fact the word from which the loan word hickory in English derives from, and a kind of soup/nut milk made from several types of native nuts.  Shagbarks are one of the stars of harvest season--they taste a bit like very sharp maple syrup.  Commercial nut milks have become all the rage, and more and more home cooks are making the stuff at home.  If you have ever made homemade coconut milk, then you will be familiar with the process. For the most part, Shagbark hickory nuts are not available commercially, so they either have to be harvested in the wild or grown.  But pecans or walnuts can always be substituted, in fact any nut will work.  


Pawcohiccora (Modernized)

You will need a couple of pounds of hickory nuts.  Crack them and extract the nut meat, don't worry about clinging shell.  Pound this lightly, and boil/simmer in 3 quarts of water for a couple of hours, remove from heat and let rest.  The shells should come to the surface, to be skimmed off.  After skimming, pour the mixture through damp cheesecloth and squeeze all the moisture out of the nut pulp.  Spread the pulp on a baking sheet and dehydrate in a slow oven for use elsewhere.  Be sure to also save all the husks and shells as well (in native kitchens NOTHING gets wasted!  What is left is the simplest of Pawcohiccora.  You can drink this as is or use it as a base for a soup, either sweet or savory.  I few things to add if you go savory would included fiddleheads (which are mostly a spring thing, unless you live in the Everglades, but they can be roasted and frozen), chopped wild or domestic asparagus, herbs that you like, boiled pureed sunroots (sunchokes), leeks, etc.  If you want a sweet soup, the obvious thing to add would be maple syrup, add in also cooked wild rice and you have one of Native America's true taste treats, and it's completely traditional!  Fruit purees can also be added.


What To Do With The Pulp

There are many uses for dried nut meal or flour.  The obvious choice is to use it in baking of all sorts, but you are also make another type of soup with it.  Pretty simple stuff.  In the native kitchen, these soups are usually made with a meat stock base, but you make it vegetarian by using some type of vegetable stock.  A Meatless Monday Idea.

Hickory Nut Soup

2 quarts game stock, chicken stock, beef stock, or veggie stock
1 onion left whole
The dried nut meal
Salt to taste
Dried crushed spicebush (or use allspice)

1.  Heat the stock and boil the onion in it. Simmer for 1 hour.

2.  While the onion is boiling, pound the nut meal or place it in a blender or food processor and process until it is the consistency of flour.

3.  After boiling the onion, remove it and puree it, add it back to the stock, add in the nut meal and stir well.  Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.  Season to taste, ladle and serve.

Of course, this is a basic recipe and it can be a spring board for any number of embellishments.  Making it spicy is quite a good variation.  Southeast meets Southwest.


What To Do With The Hulls And Husks

Homemade Dye

This makes a light brown dye.  This particular recipe comes from a little book entitled Natural Dyes And Home Dyeing by Rita J. Adrosko, which has been reprinted by Dover Books.  The recipe calls for a peck of hickory hulls, but a smaller amount can be made, the amount of the other ingredients does not change.  Instead of cutting up the hulls, as the book asks, throw them into a food processor and let 'er rip (obviously, when the book was written, there were no food processors).

Light Brown Wool:  alum mordant
Colofastness:  good

1 lb. wool
1 peck green hickory hulls (husks)
1/6 oz. potassium dicromate
1/6 oz. acetic acid or 6 to 7 tbsp. vinegar

Use alum mordant (see below)

1.  Place hulls in large pot and cover with water, let soak overnight.

2.  Next morning add the true reserved nut hulls and bring to a boil, boil vigorously for 45 minutes.  Strain with liquid, and add to 4 gallons of fresh water.  Bring to boil.

3.  Dampen the wool and squeeze out all the moisture.  Immerse the wool and boil for 30 minutes.  While boiling, prepare the other ingredients.  Add the potassium and acid to another pot of water and bring to a boil.  After the 30 minutes are up, transfer the wool to the second boiling pot, boil for 10 minutes, then rinse and dry.  


Alum Mordant

This can be purchased through mail order, just Google it. But here's the recipe anyway.

For 1 pound of wool

4 oz. alum (pharmacies often have this)
1 oz. cream of tartar

Dissolve the alum and cream of tartar in 4 gallons of cold water.  Immerse the wool after wetting it and squeezing out excess moisture.  Gradually heat the mordant bath to boiling point, reduce heat a slowly boil for 1 hour, stirring every so often; add water as needed to keep the water level consistent.  Soak overnight.  Next morning remove wool and squeeze out the moister, roll in the towel and store in a cool place.

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