Boys & Girls Club of Bay Mills teens learning about all the ingredients that go into homemade breads
Food is deeply important to Native communities – its growth, preparation and how it’s shared as a communal experience. At Boys & Girls Clubs on Native Lands across the country, thousands of Indigenous youth learn Tribal traditions in food preparation so that they can pass on these techniques and recipes for generations to come. Thanks to the Boys & Girls Club of Bay Mills, today we’re sharing that preparation with you.
As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month and consider how we can honor Native people at our Thanksgiving tables, learn how the Anishinaabeg people make their own cornmeal to bake cornbread that is homemade in every sense of the word.
The processing of corn spans generations across all Native American communities, and it is important to Indigenous peoples to pass their cultural traditions on to young people so they continue to live on.
Agricultural practices and food sciences have always been critical to the Anishinaabeg people of the Bay Mills community in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and these processes have been passed down and refined through centuries. For this community, food is deeply embedded in heritage.
So how does corn become cornbread? Recently, Boys & Girls Club of Bay Mills demonstrated a hands-on activity with their youngest members to teach them how to process corn into meal to make cornbread. They started from the very beginning, harvesting fresh corn from a local garden, and ultimately enjoyed the fruits of their labor with fresh-baked bread served with locally harvested honey.
See below for the steps to recreate this tradition with the loved ones in your life.
STEP 1: Harvest fresh corn from your garden (or purchase from your local market or grocery store). Corn must be thoroughly dried out before processing can take place. Simple steps for drying below:
STEP 2: Once corn is dried, it’s time to make cornmeal by grinding it. For Boys & Girls Club of Bay Mills youth, that means peeling or rubbing the kernels from the cob and putting them into the botaagan for grinding. A large mortar and pestle will work as an alternative to a botaagan.
A piece of leather is often draped over the opening of the botaagan to prevent the kernels from jumping out while being pounded by a pestle. Continue using the pestle until the corn is broken down into a grit and begins looking like flour.