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Cherokee Indian Bean Bread

America, North: American Indian

Bean Bread is a tradional dish of the Cherokee. It is often served at community meals or during the Annual Fall Festival in October to celebrate both the native culture as well as the harvest. The recipe is most often handed down from generation to generation with slight differences among families.


1/2 pound dried pinto beans (cooked in unseasoned water until nearly done)
2-4 cups ground cornmeal
1/2 pound salted fat back fried until crisp (reserving grease in the skillet)
salt (to taste)


Look beans over carefully to avoid small stones or faulty beans. Wash in warm water, then cook in a large saucepan in unseasoned water until nearly done (about 2 hours). In a large bowl mix the cornmeal with the beans and some of the very hot cooking water. Blend until the mixture is stiff and can be made into hand-sized patties. The patties may be rolled in corn shucks or hickory leaves (which adds extra flavor). Carefully place patties into a large kettle of boiling water (unseasoned) and cook until done (about 30 minutes). Carefully lift each patty out of the water to serve (if rolled in leaves they should be removed at this time). Serve with fried fat back slices (or bacon) and about 2 teaspoons of the grease poured over each piece with salt added to taste.
NOTE: All waters must be left unseasoned before the cooking process or the patties will fall apart and make soup!

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