A-Maize -ing Corn

When most of us think of corn, we think of fat golden ears or popcorn covered with butter.

When the first colonists came to this country, corn was much different. And Indian crop along with squash, corn had to be ground and cooked to make it palatable. Dishes had names like suppawn and samp as well as the more familiar pone and hominy. Corn had to be steeped or parboiled in water for twelve hours and then ground. Samp is corn pounded to a coarsely ground powder and then made into porridge.

Every household had a mortar and pestle or some approximation of such. The Native Americans also had something called a sweep and mortar mill. The pestle was a heavy block of wood shaped like the inside of the mortar and fitted with a handle. It was attached to a sapling which gave it some spring when it was lifted. The sound could be heard a long distance. One story, maybe apocryphal, says sailors in a fog always knew they were approaching Long Island because they could hear the poundings of the samp mortars.

Suppawn was an Indian dish. It was a thick corn meal porridge made with milk. And of course, it was made into cakes.

After the corn was scraped off, the cobs were used as light wood for the fire and also to smoke hams and bacon. (That’s what cob smoked means.)

Pumpkins (or pompkins to use the colonial spelling) and other forms of squashes were also native crops. The potato known to the Colonists at this time was most likely the sweet potato.


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