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Native American Cooking: Pinole

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 23:57:47 PM PST

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This week in my Kumeyaay cooking class, we made a dish called Pinole. The good things about Pinole: It's tasty, healthy, easy to make at home, great for kids, vegetarian, and can be made vegan.
Jill Richardson :: Native American Cooking: Pinole
As I understand it, you can make pinole with many different kinds of seeds. Strangely enough, when we made pinole in class, we made it with 3 non-native foods: wheat, milk, and honey. (Prior to European colonization, North America lacked honeybees, cows, and wheat. In fact, the only domesticated animals on the continent were turkeys and Muscovy ducks.) Our teacher explained that pinole should be made with a native plant but it's so rare nowadays, they just buy wheat instead. When I find the name of the native plant, I'll update this post with it.

As sad as it is that the native plant is so rare that we used wheat, it's nice to have a recipe that uses easy-to-obtain ingredients. In fact, yesterday, I made it at home with elementary school kids.

To make pinole with wheat, use whole wheat berries. Start by heating the wheat berries on the stove or - as we did it in class - over a campfire. Stir constantly to avoid burning the wheat. You'll begin to see and hear the wheat pop and then you'll smell a nutty aroma. The nutty aroma is what you're aiming for. You can keep cooking it for a bit after you smell the nutty aroma, but be sure to remove it from the heat before it starts to burn.

Next, grind the wheat. You might want to let it cool first. The traditional way to grind it is with stones, but having spent several classes grinding various foods with stones by now, I don't recommend going that route. When I made it at home with the kids, I let the kids grind a bit of it with a mortar and pestle for fun - but I used a coffee grinder for most of it. The older kid (age 10) loved the mortar and pestle. The little one (age 6) found it boring. A Vita-Mix or a grain mill would likely work too. Grind it so it's the consistency of coarse flour.

When I made pinole at home with the kids, I ground some flax seeds and added them to the ground, toasted wheat. I didn't heat or cook the flax seeds first - I just ground them up raw.

Once the wheat - or whatever you're using - is ground, you're done! Now you've got 2 options:

1. Mix it with honey and roll it into a ball.
2. Add milk and sugar or honey.

Then eat it!

I've only had it with milk and a bit of honey, because I fear that a ball of honey and toasted wheat would be too sweet. With milk and honey or sugar, it tastes an awful lot like Frosted Mini Wheats. The kids loved it. I didn't spoil their fun by telling them that it's healthy. Neither of them like eating whole wheat bread, and here they were, gobbling up toasted whole wheat. My picky eater ate 2 bowlfuls!

For next week's class, we're planning to shoot a rabbit with a bow and arrow, skin it, and fry it with an elderberry sauce. I'm feeling very queasy about this activity and I kind of hope that our appointed bunny-killer is a bad shot (although I fear he isn't). Stay tuned for the blog post...

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Pinole (4.00 / 2)
Blue corn in most of Central America and Southern Mexico.

There is also Horchata from Central America:

All of these are subject to local custom, recipes are
very flexible.  I have had both of these in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and did not like any of them.  YMMV  

bunny, eh? (4.00 / 2)
I hope it is at least a wild one and there's some effort made to hunt, rather than a domestic white fur and red eyed rabbit . . .

If only our bunnies understood English, I could threaten them, "If you pee on the floor one more time, I'm gonna give you to the Indians!"

There's a bush around here, white ceanothus AKA Deer brush, that's supposed to make excellent pinole. In the springtime, it really lights up the hills with its flowers. There are pure stands an acre in size or more. Every spring when they're in bloom I promise myself to gather seeds, and every summer after the flowers are long gone I forget to gather some! They're pretty nondescript looking when they're not in flower.

It makes sense to me that people all over the world practiced some sort of pinole making and that's why we discovered agriculture. Instead of hiking up in the hills to gather our favorite pinole, why not clear a space right here where it's flat, save some of the seeds, and put them in the dirt right here. Then we can have as much as we want and won't have to make such a big trip every year to gather.

yes, a wild rabbit (4.00 / 2)
And the ceanothus just bloomed here! It's beautiful!

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Had to look up ceanothus... (4.00 / 1)
Oh duh, I know those.  ;)

Anyway, this is interesting -

The Californian species are sometimes known as California lilac, but species found elsewhere have other common names, such as New Jersey tea for C. americanus (as its leaves were used as a black tea substitute during colonial times).[15] In garden use, most are simply called by their scientific names or an adaptation of the scientific name, such as 'Maritime ceanothus' for C. maritimus.

I never knew that.

Everything is still asleep here, and we're heading back into another week of temps just barely above freezing.  "Wintry mix" forecasted for Friday, yet again. None of our snow here this year has stuck around past noon the next day, though up in New Jersey yesterday they still had a little of their snow from last week on the ground.

When I got back here in the middle of last March, it was hitting 70 already most days.  So I guess we're just around the corner from having colorful things poking out of the ground again...

[ Parent ]
Just bloomed? (4.00 / 2)
Wow, it won't be for quite a while for them to bloom here in the arctic north California.

[ Parent ]
the bunny got a 1-week reprieve (4.00 / 2)
An elder died, the tribe is in mourning, no class this week.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Pinole sounds like couscous (4.00 / 1)
I am very very fond of couscous. Trader Joe sells whole wheat couscous, which is very tasty.

Basic couscous recipe:

You need a pot with a lid

(1) Put together a stew of some sort- tomatoes, your favorite herbs and spices, chunks of vegetables, chunks of tofu, fish or meat, OR do a stir fry and add 1/3 cup of water for each person.

(2) Get your stew boiling and sprinkle 1/3 cup of couscous over the top of your stew for each person. DO NOT STIR. Immediately clap on the lid and turn off the heat.

(3) Wait 10 minutes

(4) Uncover pot and stir ingredients together. Immediately turn out on plate and eat.

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