Kirby Metoxen, tourism coordinator for the Oneida Nation in Oneida, WI, spends a lot of time talking about Oneida white corn. One of the three sisters, corn figures prominently in the Oneida creation story, as well as the nation’s history.
Jeff Metoxen, director of the Tsyunkehkwa (joon-hey-qwa) agricultural site where the corn is grown, harvested and dried on the Oneida reservation near Green Bay, WI, says the heirloom variety–sometimes called “110-Day Corn”– is planted each year, producing 8 to 10,000 pounds of corn for the community every season.
Everything about this corn is a labor of love: Each corn plant produces only one cob. Because the corn has such a high moisture content, it has traditionally been harvested by hand and then braided into bundles for drying.
Processing the corn is equally labor intensive. First, the dried corn is boiled with hardwood ash, or, baking soda to remove the hulls, and then rinsed and dehydrated to make it shelf stable, or, is boiled again until tender and sold refrigerated in fresh-packs. Betters says most of the community still uses the corn in traditional non-spicy recipes. But she herself uses the corn inposole and to make tamales and says, “more people are broadening their perspective on what you can put Oneida corn in.”
Chili, for example! With a more pronounced roasty-corn flavor than hominy , Oneida white corn is really nice mix-in to my favorite Midwestern-style chili made with a rich meaty-bone stock, ground beef, onion, chili peppers, cumin and chili powder. You can buy the corn fresh from the Oneida Market next time you’re in Green Bay, or, they will ship it to you dehydrated. In a pinch, you can also make this chili substituting hominy for the Oneida white corn.
Makes 10 servings
Best-of-the-Midwest Chili Ingredients
- 1 pound bag of red kidney beans
- 3 lbs soup bones, mixture of beef shank, pork neck and lamb soup bones is good
- 2 qts. beef stock
- 1 large onion, peeled, cored, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch slivers
- 2 chili peppers–your choice of “heat” :banana or cubanelle for mild; poblano, medium; ancho, a little hotter, cored seeds removed and roughly chopped
- 6 tomatoes, cored and cut into medium-sized chunks
- 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oi
- 3 green (bell) pepper, cored, seeded and chopped into medium dice
- 1 large onion, peeled, chopped into medium dice
- 2 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 lbs ground chuck
- 1/2 cup chili powder
- 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- 2 cups prepared hominy, or fresh hulled Oneida white corn
- Soak beans in cold water overnight according to instructions on bean package.
- Preheat oven to 400. In a Dutch oven, brown bones with onions, for 20 minutes. Turn heat down to 325. Add chili peppers and beef stock to bones and roast uncovered for 2 1/2 hours.
- At the same time the stock is roasting, combine fresh chopped tomatoes with chopped garlic and olive oil in a large ovenproof pie dish and roast next to the stock.
- While the stock and tomatoes roast, prepare the kidney beans according to package directions. Cook until tender, but not mushy. Drain bean cooking water and discard. Set cooked beans aside.
- Pick over hulled white corn to ensure there are no black “eyes” or hulls. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute onion and green pepper in 2 Tbsp oil. Scoop out to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out skillet to clean. Toast cumin seed until fragrant. Grind cumin seed to a powder using a spice mill or coffee grinder. In the same skillet, add remaining 1/2 Tbsp oil, the ground toasted cumin and the chili powder. Whisk and heat until fragrant. Add ground beef, breaking up. Saute until cooked through and crumbly. Mix onion and green pepper back with beef. Set aside.
- Remove stock and tomatoes from oven. Drain stock, reserving. Discard bones. Place Dutch oven on stove top. Add stock. Reduce liquid until you have about 2 1/2 cups. Add ground beef/onion/green pepper mixture. Stir in the roasted tomato and garlic with liquid. Stir in reserved kidney beans. Stir in fresh white hulled corn. (Or, hominy, if substituting.) Heat over very low heat until simmering for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve hot with finely diced white onion and grated sharp cheddar cheese.