Best-of-the-Midwest Chili (with Oneida White Corn or Hominy)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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