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Cherokee Treasure Excels At Making Kanuchi
by Roger Graham - Cherokee Phoenix Media Specialist
credits: all photos by Roger J Graham - Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen and National Treasure Edith Knight crushes hickory nuts in a "kanon" or hollowed out log with an "alstostodi," the traditional way to make kanuchi. Recipient of the Cherokee National Treasure award for tear dress making in 1992, she is also an expert at making kanuchi, a traditional Cherokee delicacy made from hickory nuts.

STILWELL, OK – Since she began making it for her family as a young girl, 1992 Cherokee National Treasure Edith Knight has become an expert at making kanuchi, which is a traditional Cherokee meal made from hickory nuts.

Knight received her National Treasure honor for making tear dresses. As for being an expert kanuchi maker, she said, "After I make it I never have any left."

Knight also said there are good and bad years for hickory nuts. This year, the hickory trees surrounding her home did not produce at all. So she had to gather nuts from a friend whom she knew had Mockernut hickory trees.

"My mother made it for many years, and I learned to make it just like she did," Knight said at her Adair County home. "You see there's different kinds of hickory nuts. I like to use the Mockernut hickory because it has a larger nut-meat and it has a better flavor."

According to, hickory nuts are gathered in the fall and allowed to dry for a few weeks before the kanuchi making begins.

Cherokee Nation citizen Edith Knight gives her husband Owen a bowl of kanuchi she made. She said she made the kanuchi this year from Mockernut hickory nuts.

"Begin by cracking, then shelling the hickory nuts by shaking the pieces through a loosely woven basket, or picking them out by hand," the website states. "Traditionally, a section of log or a tree stump was hollowed out into a bowl-like shape. The shelled hickory nuts are placed in the hollowed log bowl and pounded with a long heavy stick until they are of a consistency that can be formed into a ball that will hold its shape. Kanuchi balls are usually about 3 inches in diameter and must be stored in a cold place. Today kanuchi is usually preserved by freezing."

In today's world, kanuchi is considered a delicacy although it is believed to have been used as a filler when food was scarce.

"I believe sometimes in the long past kanuchi might have been all they had to eat. It was one of the few foods they could store because of it coming from the hull," Knight said.

Knight said kanuchi is sometimes made with corn or hominy and seasoned with salt, although her family has always preferred to mix the hickory solution with rice and add sugar.

She said today most people don't use the traditional "kanon" or hollowed out log to contain the crushed nuts. "The idea is to keep hammering until the nut meat rises to the top and the oils begin to make it stick together. That's how you make a kanuchi bowl."

During the kanuchi-making process, Knight said she advises to start cooking the rice early and to always sift and boil the slurry twice before proceeding. She said that gets rid of all the bacteria.

"Remember we pick these (hickory nuts) up off the ground."

Portions of the kanuchi ball can be saved and refrozen, depending on the number of those eating.

Once the kanuchi-slurry is mixed with the rice and the proper amount of sugar is added, Edith hands the bowl of kanuchi to her husband Owen, who's served as her kanuchi tester for almost six decades.

After tasting the finished product, Owen said, "It's good. I think you did real good."

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