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 www.cherokee.org, hickory nuts are gathered in
the fall and allowed to dry for a few weeks before the kanuchi making
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
After tasting the finished product, Owen said, "It's good. I
think you did real good."