Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Okay so I know what you're thinking, "She's a chef specializing in pre-colonial Indigenous foods and the first recipe she posts has flour and sugar in it?!" I promise you, I have a method to my madness.
First off, Indian Cookies are surprisingly my most asked-for recipe. But my method here is to begin my recipe list with a point; our grandmothers did what they could to fill our bellies and provide happy childhoods despite the uphill challenges they faced as Indigenous women in a white man's world. Indian Cookies, donuts, bannock, scone, fry bread, and every version across Turtle Island is our soul food. Colonizers giving ingredients to displaced peoples not because they were nourishing but because it was non-perishable and cheap. These foods tell a story that needs to be heard.
My best memories of my grandmother, or Mama as we called her, Ellie Brant, included Indian Cookies. A devout Anglican, survivor of the Mohawk Institute residential school and a pregnant wife by age 15, she did the best she could to give a good life to my dad. She was mother of 9 and caretaker to countless others. It was only later in life after rearing children passed their toddler years that she was able to pursue higher education and become a registered nurse. She was not afforded the opportunity to learn our language or culture, but she loved our traditional foods and passed that love on to us. Every year she donated wild game to her church's Elders game dinner, and had a freezer full of moose, deer, elk, and on New Year's Day (Nó:yah in Six Nations), there was always Indian Cookies. She drank buttermilk straight because they did that as kids. While I would be remiss if I didn't say watching her drink a glass of yellowy thickness caused me to gag a little inside; it is that ingredient that gives Indian Cookies its distinct tangy note at the end of each sweet & spicy morsel. Longhouse or Christian; Nó:yah is celebrated by everyone. Our kids every year wait in anticipation for Indian Cookies on New Year's day. We also have Indian Donuts which are an even greater New Year's staple; but I'll leave that story for Nó:yah as it has some amazing history behind it.
Indigenous Food sovereignty isn't just about reclaiming our seeds. It is acknowledging what happened to us and using food to heal. White flour, white sugar, white lard and white salt were both forced onto us and also survival foods, through war, starvation, displacement, removal and residential school. When our crops were burned; our grandparents did what they needed to survive. Who would have thought a soft nutmeg-flavoured pastry coming out of my Mama's oven was a testament to the resilience of Haudenosaunee women in the face of genocide.
With the love of my Mohawk grandmothers in my heart; I share with you our classic Indian Cookie recipe for Six Nations Territory:
1cup Butter 2cups Brown sugar 2 Egg 2tsp Vanilla 4c Flour 2tsp Baking powder 1tsp Salt 1tsp Cinnamon 1/2tsp Nutmeg 1/2tsp Ginger 1cup Buttermilk
1cup add ins*
*Add ins that can be used include raisins, chocolate chips, blueberries (they make pretty purple streaks in the batter) strawberries, apples (cinnamon sugar dusted yum!) Whatever your favorite it is give it a try! What are your favourite Indian cookie flavours? Leave it in the comments below!
1. pre-heat your oven to 350°f.
2. Mix all dry ingredients together flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
3. Cream butter and brown sugar
4. Add vanilla and eggs.
5. Alternate flour and buttermilk into wet ingredients.
6. Turn out on to a floured surface bring together without over kneading.
7. Add flour while kneading if dough is sticky.
8. Roll dough out to 1cm thick.
9. Use a cookie cutter to cut out and place on a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet.
10. Bake 350°f for 12-15 minutes. Until bottoms begin to brown.