Haudenosaunee Corn Soup


   Corn soup in the Haudenosaunee culture is ubiquitous.  It's everywhere, from the large stock pot simmering on the back burner in home kitchens to gala banquets featuring haute cuisine.

   To not serve corn soup at a gathered meal is like an entirely missing course.  Part soup, part stew, part snack, part meal, corn soup has been a mainstay of the Haudenosaunee diet for centuries.  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, corn soup can be a side dish or the main meal.  With protein, minerals, vitamins and fibre, corn soup is a satisfying, healthy and versatile meal.

   Warm and nutritious, corn soup starts with the basic ingredients - lyed corn, beans, salt pork and water - but as with most food, each chef adds their own unique impression and level of mastery that sets the final preparation apart from the others.

   Preparing corn soup is best when it's approached as a labour of love, as it takes a remarkable amount of time and work to arrive at the final product.  Multiple steps, each with their own degree of complexity, are needed.

   The main ingredient, corn, isn't found in supermarkets or mass-produced packaging.  The process to create this unique ingredient has origins dating back hundreds of years and isn't an option for most homeowners without access to the proper types of firewood or the means to burn it.  The corn itself is a special variety, harvested and dried in vast quantities in barns in a communal effort.

   "It takes a village to make a bowl of corn soup" isn't too far off the mark.  But the rewards of enjoying this delicious food with those who helped create it are as timeless as the dish itself.


Corn Soup and Haudenosaunee Culture

From www.torrymendoza.com : "One�hohgwa' (Corn Soup) is a short Native American documentary regarding the importance of maintaining tradition as it evolves, challenging and rejecting the dominant society's notion and understanding of time as linear. One�hohgwa' examines the cultural and spiritual significance of corn soup for the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), specifically the Onondaga Nation."

  Opens a 20-minute documentary in a separate window


   The equally standard scone (pronounced "skon", the Haudenosaunee version of fry bread) is the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of corn soup.  Fresh 'scone 'n ham' is a real crowd pleaser.

   Here's one recipe for Haudenosaunee scone.


There are as many variations on the original recipe for corn soup as there are cooks who make it.  The following list show a variety of recipes, with the one closest to the original listed first.

This isn't to say the other methods are any less valid.  For purposes of speed and convenience, shortcuts are often taken.  Sometimes, an imitation is better than none at all.

Traditional Indian Corn Soup

Recipe by:
Loren (Lolly) Greene  (1928 - 1999)

(The Webmaster's Dad)

Before Indian Corn can be used for Corn Soup it must be thoroughly dried.  The corn is picked in the late fall, the husk pulled back, then braided into three foot long bunches and hung up in the barn so the crows can't get at it.

Before Indian Corn (which is white :-) can be cooked into corn soup, it must first be put through a process called "lying".  Lye is an extremely strong acid found in hardwood ashes.  This is what the traditional Indians used as it was abundant from their campfires.  This lying process softens the outer shell somewhat and allows the two black eyes found on each kernel of corn to be washed off after cooking.  There are very few Indians adept at preparing the dried white corn in this manner.  The amount of wood ashes to be boiled with the corn is a very tricky task to accomplish properly.  Too much lye will destroy the corn and too little will not do the job.

Therefore we leave this to the "lyers" of the tribe.  The corn is boiled with the hardwood ashes and water for about two hours.  Then it is washed to remove the eyes or hulls and to rinse the corn free of lye.  The Tuscarora reservation has three or four "lyers" who perform the difficult and messy task of "lying".  A "lyer" will do a large amount of corn in a day depending on how many orders she has to do for the tribal members.  I get my "lyed" corn from Mrs. Norton Rickard of Blacknose Spring Road.  Usually I order five quarts at $3.00 per quart.  I then divide it into three parts.  I will freeze two of them and cook one part...about a quart and one half.

Traditional Indian Corn Soup
  • Wash and put 1 1/2 quarts of "lyed" Indian White Corn in an 8 quart pot.  Fill with water 3/4 full and cover.  Bring to a boil and keep at a rolling boil for 1 1/2 hours, corn should open full.  You may want to cook corn a while longer . If the corn is not fully open, stir occasionally.  Do not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • While the corn is cooking, cut up 1 1/2 lbs of pork shoulder butt steaks into 3/4" square pieces. Do the same with 3/4 lbs of salt pork.  Place meat in a separate pan and boil for 1 hour.  Water should cover pork 4" or so. Add if necessary...you will need this for stock.
  • After the corn opens to your satisfaction or two hours maximum, remove from stove and pour through strainer.  Do not rinse corn.  Rinse out pot and put corn back into pot.  Add the cooked pork along with the stock.
  • Open three 1 lb cans of dark red kidney beans and add.
  • Rinse cans, add water to cover mixture 3 inches or so.  Boil mixture for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding water in necessary. Stir occasionally, do not let it stick to the bottom of the pot.

Serve in individual bowls, season with salt and pepper after serving.  Best if eaten with homemade, warm yeast bread and freshly churned butter.


Iroquois Hominy Corn Soup (Onenhsto)

November 30, 2010 at 2:47 am

I thought I had posted this here before but I can�t find it. Since this is on the menu for this evening, I thought I would post it.

 Click to enlarge : Opens a new window

4 large ham hocks [gwis-gwis]
(or 12-16 chicken thighs with the skin left on [git-git])
1 package of salt pork (optional)
1 cup of wild rice
2 cans White Hominy corn* [o:nenhste] (or yellow, if white is not available)
1 can each of red and white kidney beans

* Available at Mexican, African or South American food stores and some grocery stores. Also available in dried form. Make sure if it is in the dried form, it has been shelled, or lyed. *

The day before:

In a large deep pot of salted water, bring the ham hocks or chicken to a boil. Cook until the skin and meat fall from the bones, adding water as needed. Let cool until room temperature.

Remove the meat and bones from the pot and break the meat apart, separating the meat from the fat, bones, and gristle. Place the large bones and meat back into the pot and refrigerate. When the fat has set on the top of the water, skim it off and remove and remaining pieces of fat that come to the surface.

Open the package of salt pork, cube the meat, and place in a bowl of cold water. Soak and rinse at least 3 times over the day, to remove the salty taste. Keep in a bowl of water until the next day.

The next day:

Put the pot of meat and bones back onto the stove and continue cooking.

In a small pot of salted water, boil the rice skimming off any foam that comes to the surface of the water. Boil until tender, but not soft. Rinse in clear cold water.

Remove the bones from the soup pot.

Add the salt pork, rice, corn and beans and cook gently for another 1/2 hour.

Serve with cornbread or scone (pron. skon).


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 cup milk or water
3 tbsp. cooking oil

Preheat the oven to 425 deg. F.

Pour the oil into a large iron skillet and swirl the pan around until the bottom and sides are well coated. Place in the oven to heat.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Add the milk or water and stir. The mixture should be thick and sticky.

Remove the pan from the oven and pour the batter into the pan and smooth to fill the pan evenly.

Place back into the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until the top is set. Remove the pan from the oven.

Slip the scone out, cooked side down, onto a plate and flip back into the pan (if the scone is still too undercooked to slip easily from the pan put it back into the oven for a few minutes and try again).

Place the pan back into the oven and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanish (the scone should be moist but not wet and will continue to cook for a few minutes after it is removed from the oven).

Note: you can also add berries, leftover squash, zuccini, cheese, etc, to scone and it is excellent toasted with jam.

If you don�t have an oven or are cooking over a campfire, scone can be made in the skillet on the stove or over the fire.


Mohawk Corn Soup

1 l (4 cups) lyed white corn or canned white hominy
300 ml White navy beans
1 kg (2 lb) side pork or 1/2 kg Side pork and salt pork each
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the beans in a pot.  If using canned white hominy corn, rinse corn several times to remove excess salt.  Cover beans with 2 inches (5 cm) water and soak overnight.  In the morning cook the beans and corn in the same water until tender.  Set aside.  Cut up pork into small 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) pieces.  Place meat in a soup pot and cover with 2 inches (5 cm) of water and bring to a complete boil.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer in a covered put for 2 hours or until meat is tender.  Drain meat, saving the broth in a separate container.  Place both meat and broth in the refrigerator until cool.  Skim off fat from the broth.  Add meat and broth to the beans.

(For thicker soup, mash half of the beans before adding the meat and broth.)  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a mild boil and serve.   6-8 servings


Mohawk Corn Soup

Tribal Affiliation : Akwesasne Mohawk

Orgin of Recipe : Offered by Iako-Nikohn-Rio .. who learned this from family recipe with Seneca help

Type of Dish : Contemporary & Traditional


  • 4 Smoke pork chops chopped
  • 1 Can or 4 lg. Carrots
  • 1 Rutabaga to taste
  • 2 Turnips to taste
  • 1/4 Cabbage
  • 2 Cups Hulled Hominy - Iroquois White Corn
  • 1/2 lb. Chopped venison
  • 1 Large can kidney beans or navy beans


Cook in slow cooker the hulled hominy over night on low.
Rinse corn.
Brown and chop meat.
Chop cabbage, turnips, rutabagas and carrots to bite size.
In a large soup pot pour all ingredients don�t drain the beans.
Fill with water 1" over all ingredients adding as needed.
Cook until all veggies are tender.

Note: making corn soup the traditional way of lying the corn is the easiest task. Thanks to John�s efforts I can make my family soup in my apartment. Its really great.

Hulled Hominy the Iroquois white corn can be found at SUNY Buffalo ask for John Mohawk. They grow and process the corn. NO CHEMICALS!!!



4 qts. dry Indian corn kernels
1 lb. dry red kidney beans
3 lbs. salt pork
1 qt. hardwood ashes

Put enough water in an old kettle to cover the corn. Bring to a boil; add corn and ashes. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. This loosens the hulls or shells on the corn. When the hulls slip off the kernels by working between the fingers, drain the water and rinse corn in cold water, working corn with the fingers to remove the hulls. drain and parboil; drain, rinse and parboil again. Repeat several times until the parboiled water looks clean and clear. (A handmade basket is traditionally used for this purpose.)

When corn is good and clean, place it in a large kettle or canner with clean water. parboil washed beans separately until water is colored; add both water and beans to the corn mixture. Cut salt pork into small pieces; add to the corn and beans. Be sure to use plenty of water because the corn will swell as it cooks. Cook 3 or 4 hours, or until corn is tender, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed. Makes 16 quarts of soup.

Seneca Sweet Corn Soup (from "Midge" Dean Stock)

3 cans whole kernel corn (undrained)
3 cans cream corn (undrained)
3 cans kidney beans (undrained)
1 lb slab bacon

1) Cut bacon into small slices and put in large pot with about � gallon of water.  Cook on medium heat to boiling. 

2) Let bacon & water boil together for a while, so bacon will cook.

3) Reduce heat.  Add kidney beans with their liquid & cook with bacon for about  20 - 30 minutes.

4) Add cream corn with liquid & repeat step 3.

5) Add whole kernel corn with liquid & cook all together for another 20 minutes or longer.

Ready to eat!  If soup seems too thick during cooking, add more water. 


"Accept no substitutes" is important maxim to follow when searching for recipes or a meal of authentic corn soup.  The following is an example of something that bears absolutely no resemblance to the real thing.

Iroquois Corn Soup    (in name only)

4 large white mushrooms -- sliced
2 cans beef consomm� -- (13.5 oz each)
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
2 cloves garlic -- crushed
2 tablespoons fresh basil -- chopped
1 medium yellow onion -- peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt (to taste)
10 ounces frozen lima beans
1/3 cup sherry

In a large 12-inch saucepan, place the mushrooms, consomm�, cornmeal, cilantro, garlic, basil, onion, pepper and a pinch of salt. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Add lima beans and sherry, and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve piping hot.

(Somehow, canned beef consomm� and frozen lima beans don't make much of an attempt at authenticity.)