Cherokee Treasure excels at making kanuchi

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
12/11/2015 08:00 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen and National Treasure Edith Knight crushes hickory nuts in a “kanon” or hollowed out log with an “alstostodi,” the traditional way to make kanuchi. Recipient of the Cherokee National Treasure award for tear dress making in 1992, she is also an expert at making kanuchi, a traditional Cherokee delicacy made from hickory nuts. ROGER J GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Edith Knight gives her husband Owen a bowl of kanuchi she made. She said she made the kanuchi this year from Mockernut hickory nuts. ROGER J GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
STILWELL, Okla. – Since she began making it for her family as a young girl, 1992 Cherokee National Treasure Edith Knight has become an expert at making kanuchi, which is a traditional Cherokee meal made from hickory nuts.

Knight received her National Treasure honor for making tear dresses. As for being an expert kanuchi maker, she said, “After I make it I never have any left.”

Knight also said there are good and bad years for hickory nuts. This year, the hickory trees surrounding her home did not produce at all. So she had to gather nuts from a friend whom she knew had Mockernut hickory trees.

“My mother made it for many years, and I learned to make it just like she did,” Knight said at her Adair County home. “You see there’s different kinds of hickory nuts. I like to use the Mockernut hickory because it has a larger nut-meat and it has a better flavor.”

According to www.cherokee.org, hickory nuts are gathered in the fall and allowed to dry for a few weeks before the kanuchi making begins.

“Begin by cracking, then shelling the hickory nuts by shaking the pieces through a loosely woven basket, or picking them out by hand,” the website states. “Traditionally, a section of log or a tree stump was hollowed out into a bowl-like shape. The shelled hickory nuts are placed in the hollowed log bowl and pounded with a long heavy stick until they are of a consistency that can be formed into a ball that will hold its shape. Kanuchi balls are usually about 3 inches in diameter and must be stored in a cold place. Today kanuchi is usually preserved by freezing.”

In today’s world, kanuchi is considered a delicacy although it is believed to have been used as a filler when food was scarce.

“I believe sometimes in the long past kanuchi might have been all they had to eat. It was one of the few foods they could store because of it coming from the hull,” Knight said.

Knight said kanuchi is sometimes made with corn or hominy and seasoned with salt, although her family has always preferred to mix the hickory solution with rice and add sugar.

She said today most people don’t use the traditional “kanon” or hollowed out log to contain the crushed nuts. “The idea is to keep hammering until the nut meat rises to the top and the oils begin to make it stick together. That’s how you make a kanuchi bowl.”

During the kanuchi-making process, Knight said she advises to start cooking the rice early and to always sift and boil the slurry twice before proceeding. She said that gets rid of all the bacteria.

“Remember we pick these (hickory nuts) up off the ground.”

Portions of the kanuchi ball can be saved and refrozen, depending on the number of those eating.

Once the kanuchi-slurry is mixed with the rice and the proper amount of sugar is added, Edith hands the bowl of kanuchi to her husband Owen, who’s served as her kanuchi tester for almost six decades.

After tasting the finished product, Owen said, “It’s good. I think you did real good.”
ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏍᏗᎵᏪᎵ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎴᏅᎲ ᎪᏢᏍᎬ ᎦᎾᏥ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎠᎨᏳᏣ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎤᎴᏅᎮᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏐᏁᎳᏍᎪ ᏔᎵ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ ᎤᎩᏒ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎬᎾᏕᎾ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎨᏥᎸᏉᏔᏅ ᎠᎨᎳᏕ Edith Knight ᎠᏏᎾᏍᏗ ᎪᏢᏍᎩ ᎦᎾᏥ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎪ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏐᎯ ᎪᏢᏔᏅᎢ.

Knight ᎤᏁᏒ ᎾᎿ ᎬᎾᏕᎾ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎨᏥᎸᏉᏔᏅ ᏥᎨᏥᏁᎰᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏌᏃᎢ ᏗᎪᏢᏍᎩ. ᏃᎴᏍᏊ ᎠᏏᎾᏍᏗ ᎦᎾᏥ ᎤᏬᏢᏗᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ, “ᏯᏉᏢᏂᏃ Ꮭ ᏯᏓᏁᎯᏯᏍᎪ.”

Knight ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏕᎦᎶᏍᎪ ᏓᏕᏘᏱᏍᎪ ᎤᎾᏕᏗ ᏐᎯ. ᎯᎠ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏐᏗ ᏕᏡᎬ ᏧᏪᏅᏒ ᎬᏩᏕᏯᏛ Ꮭ ᏯᎾᏓᏛᎦ ᏐᎢ. ᏃᏊ ᏧᏭᏖᏍᏗ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᎵ ᏧᏪᏅᏒ ᎾᎥ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏁᎲ ᏐᎯ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏐᎢ ᏕᏡᎬᎢ.

“ᎠᏯ ᎠᎩᏥ ᏧᏕᏘᏱᎶᏓ ᎤᏬᏢᎾ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎠᏉᏢᏗ ᎤᏠᏯ ᏄᏛᏁᎸᎢ ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ,” Knight ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᏪᏅᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏫᏍᎦᎵ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎤᏪᏅᏒᎢ. “ᏣᏅᏔᏛ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎨᏒ ᏐᎯ ᏕᏡᎬᎢ. ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏓ ᏗᏮᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏐᎯ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏚᎾᏔᎾ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏤᏟ ᏗᏅᏢᏗᎢ.”

ᏚᎾᏙᎵᏤᎲ ᎾᎿ www.cherokee.org, ᏐᎯ ᏓᏄᏖᏍᎪ ᎤᎳᎪᎲᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎧᏲᏙᏗ ᏯᏛᎾ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᏳᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᎩᎳ ᎠᏃᏢᏍᎪ ᎦᎾᏥ.

“ᎠᎾᎴᏂᏍᎪ ᏓᏅᏍᏆᎶᏍᎬ ᏐᎯ ᏃᎴ ᎠᏂᎴᏍᎪ ᏐᎯ ᎤᏩᏙᏛᎢ ᎠᏅᎫᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎬᏘᏓ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎪ, ᎠᎴ ᏧᏃᏰᎾ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᏂᎴᏍᎪ ᎤᏩᏙᏅᎢ ᏐᎯ,” ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ website. “ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏗ ᎨᏒ, ᎠᏍᏆᎵᏓ ᎠᏓ ᎠᏂᏔᎴᏍᎪ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎾᎿ ᏖᎵᏙ ᎤᏠᏯ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᏐᎢ ᎤᏩᏙᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏓᏂᏢᏍᎪ ᎠᏔᎴᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏍᏙᏍᎪᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎠᏓ ᎠᏂᏍᏙᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎪᎢᎭ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᎾ ᏗᎦᏌᏊᎸ ᏂᏓᏅᏁᎰ ᏧᏂᏍᏆᏂᎪᏙᏗ. ᎦᎾᏥ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏎ ᏦᎢᎭ ᎢᏏᏔᏗᏍᏗ ᏗᎦᏐᏆᎸ ᎨᏐ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏓᏂᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᏁᏌᏴᏢᎢ. ᎪᎯ ᎢᎦ ᏥᎩ ᎦᎾᏥ ᎦᏁᏍᏓᎳᏗᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏍᎪᎢ.”

ᎾᏍᎩ ᎪᎯ ᏥᎩ, ᎦᎾᏥ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏓ ᎤᏃᎯᏳᏐ ᎪᎯᎦ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏗᏔᏍᎦ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᏄᏂᎲᎾ ᏱᎩ. “ᎠᏉᎯᏳᏐ ᎢᏴᏓᎭ ᎪᎯᎩ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᎢᎦ ᎤᏂᎮ ᎤᏂᎩᏍᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏌᏊ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎤᏂᎮ ᎬᏩᏂᏍᏆᎪᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏬᎭᏄᎵ ᎨᏎ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Knight.

Knight ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎢᏴᏓᎭ ᏎᎷ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏃᎮᎾ ᎠᎾᏑᏴᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎹᏅ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎠᏂᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎤᎪᏙ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏙ ᏗᎵᏆ ᎠᎴ ᎧᎵᏎᏥ ᎤᎾᏑᏴᏗᎢ.

ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎪᎯ ᏥᎩ Ꮭ ᎧᏃᏂ ᏯᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᏂᏍᏙᏍᎬ ᏐᎯ ᏧᏅᏍᏆᎸᏗ. “ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎧᏃᏂ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎪᎢ ᎦᎾᏄᎪᎬ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏗᎦᏐᏆᎸ ᎢᏗᎦᎬᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏄᏱᎸᏛᎢ ᎧᏃᎾ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎬᎢ.”

ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏃᏢᏍᎬ ᎦᎾᏥ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Knight ᎢᎬᏱ ᎬᏂᏍᏙᏗ ᏗᎵᏆ ᎠᎴ ᎬᎫᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᎹ ᎠᎵᏢᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎬᎫᏍᏙᏗ. ᏂᎦᏓ ᎬᎫᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᏲᎢ ᎨᏒᎢ. “ᎠᏅᏓᏗ ᏐᎢ ᎦᏙ ᏗᎫᏖᏍᏗ ᎨᏐᎢ.”

ᎢᎦᏓ ᎦᎾᏥ ᎠᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎢᎬᏁᏍᏓᎳᏗᏍᏙᏗ, ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏗ ᏯᏂᎢ ᏛᎾᎵᏍᏓᏴᏂᏒ. Edith ᎠᏁᎭ ᎠᏂᏁᎳ ᎠᏟᏍᏛ ᎦᎾᏥ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎨᏐᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎪᎯᎦ ᎬᏩᎴᏅᏓ.

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏂᎬ ᎠᏍᏆᏙᏛ ᎦᎾᏥ, Owen ᎠᏗᏍᎬ, “ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ, ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎾᏛᎦ.”

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