mupitara

Kuka´s Kubús

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Kuka Siú

Quote Originally Posted by Just Plain John Wayne View Post
Here most of the cooking and making of charcoal is done with the Nancite fruit wood......

Nobody here in Alamikamba or surrounding communities utilizes carbón instead of leña. The extra effort involved in converting firewood to charcoal is simply not justified. It is much easier and cheaper to bring fallen timber or sawmill waste home for cooking. Charcoal is a suitable choice where transportation costs and control of smoke are considerations.

Kuka´s Kubús

Actually, Kuka does virtually all of our cooking on a kubús (Indian style wood stove) formed over a wooden stand using a wet mixture of clay and ashes. To build the kubús, she put a one to two inch base of the clay/ash mixture on the bottom. Then she built-up three sides about six inches taller to support a pair of iron bars on which she balances pans or places a metal mesh for grilling. Each morning the kubús is cleared of the previous day´s loose ash then inspected and chips and cracks are repaired with a mixture of ash and water before the morning fire is started. Kuka has been utilizing the same kubús now for over four years!

Remaining ash is placed in a bucket next to the kubús for later use. This ash can be used as a substitute for lime to boil, soak and dissolve the hard external shell on corn seed prior to grinding it into masa for tortillas or tamales. The ash is also used as a treatment for a latrine that is starting to produce strong odors. And, here where our soils are typically quite acid, the ash is frequently applied as a soil conditioner and fertilizer.


Axe-split Firewood

Firewood is cut about 14-18¨ in length then fed into the open end of the cooking area as the wood burns and turns to ash. Each species of wood burns with a different flame, produces a different temperature, and imparts a different flavor to the food. Moisture content of the firewood also affects cooking time and burn temperature. Thickness of the split wood is also a factor. Very large pieces mean reduced exposed surface area and limited air access to the portions which are burning. Very thin pieces cause the fire to burn very hot and material to burn up quickly.

I once asked why do I never see firewood which has been previously charred on one end burned from the other end. I was told that the Indians believe that if you burn your firewood from both ends, you will never be able to keep a mate!


Krabu Dusa (Nancite)

Kuka is very clear about the fact that she prefers to cook with krabu dusa (nancite wood). While it does impart an excellent flavor to food, I suspect that her preference is due to the fact that the burning properties of nancite are most familiar to her. Other woods that we occasionally use include santa maria, guayabo de charco, roble, comenegro, kerosene, coyote, cedro macho, and even mahogany. About the only woods that she will not use for cooking are balsa wood because it burns poorly and pine because it imparts a strong and astringent flavor and leaves resins on the pots.

I have also observed that it is usually easy to determine where a Miskito Indian woman originally comes from by simply observing how she lights a cooking fire. If she looks for a piece of pine pitchwood for kindling, she grew up on the pine savannah. If she carries around a ball of gum from a rubber tree, she came from the jungle. If she uses dried coconut husk fibers, she´s from the coastline. If she rolls up and lights a plastic bag, she´s from the city. And, if she looks for the gas valve next to your kubús, you´re in trouble!

Kuka´s late husband was a very productive hunter. And, her many sons are also excellent hunters and fishermen. Kuka uses her kubús to prepare a great deal of smoked meats and fish. When more meat or fish arrives at one time than we can consume before it spoils, she will separate a portion from the rest and smoke it. Candidates for smoking include sula (venison), warí (white-lipped peccary), buksa (collared peccary), tilba (tapir), Ihbina (guardatinaja aka givenut), kiaki (guatusa), tahira (armadillo), kusu (currasow), bip (beef), kwirku (pork), kalila (chicken), and inska (fish).

Kuka will also use other techniques such as frying, grilling, boiling, drying and salting in order to preserve meats for later use. We have lived in Alamikamba for nearly seven years now, and, we do not use a refrigerator or freezer! Personally, I believe that using native american methods to preserve our foods are delicious and makes life more interesting for me than foods which are stored in the refrigerator or freezer!


Sula Kiasma Dinkan (Smoked Venison)


Kuamu (Guan or Pava Loca)


Kusu (Currasow or Pavón)

Smoking is accomplished right over Kuka´s kubús. She has strung several wires about four feet above the kubús and directly in the path of the smoke and heat generated by the cooking fire. Once the wood from the cooking fire is lit and the initial flames subside, the meat to be smoked is strung on the wires above the kubús. They remain there during the entire day while cooking takes place. At night the meat is stored in a metal container to prevent theft by two, four, or six-legged creatures.


Dried Coconut Husks

When foods are not actually being cooked on the kubús, a handfull of nancite chips or dried coconut husks are usually applied to the embers and allowed to slowly smoulder in order to impart a smoked flavor to the meats hanging above. Meats usually take two to three days to complete the process. Smoked meats can last many days, but, they tend to dry out and lose flavor with time. In reality, smoked meats don´t last long around here because they tend to get quickly devoured by clandestine raiders - I plead the fifth!

Aisabe,
Papatara

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Updated 05-09-2010 at 10:55 AM by mupitara (Added photo of venison, guan, and currasow being smoked)

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Comments

  1. Daddy-YO's Avatar
    Fascinating. An excellent detailed description. I noticed that in the midst of a list of other woods, you name kerosene & coyote. Coyote somehow sounds right to me (though I can't be sure), but is 'kerosene' actually the name of a type of wood?

    Do people there also use the ash to make soap by boiling with fat or oil?
  2. mupitara's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Daddy-YO
    I noticed that in the midst of a list of other woods, you name kerosene & coyote. Coyote somehow sounds right to me (though I can't be sure), but is 'kerosene' actually the name of a type of wood?

    Do people there also use the ash to make soap by boiling with fat or oil?
    Coyote is the common name in spanish for about three different species found here. The darkest of these is arguably one of the most beautiful woods found in the region.

    Kerosene is the common name in spanish and sahkal in miskitu for another hardwood common to the area. Its scientific name is Tetragastris panamensis. Kerosene apparently got that name because it smells very much like kerosene when it is green. Kerosene is frequently used for firewood and burns very hot. Kerosene has beautiful coloration and mottling and displays distinctive v-shaped reflections due to undulating grain throughout its length. While I personally consider kerosene one of the most beautiful woods in existence for use in interior panelling, it is generally relegated to use only for firewood!

    I have not seen soap made here. We do have the american oil palm or ujum (Elaeis olifera) in great quantity in our area. The people know how to extract a type of grease from the inner nut. This grease has very high gliserine and gliserol content (over 55%) which should lend itself well to soap production. However, I´ve never seen anyone use it for that.

    What the american oil palm is used for here is to produce a product called ujum batana which is used as a hair treatment among other things. Take a look at OJON® - ¨wildcrafted beauty¨ if you want to learn how a canadian has capitalized on ujum batana on the world market.

    Aisabe,
    Papatara
  3. Daddy-YO's Avatar
    Tinki pali Papatara. Very interesting stuff!
  4. Just Plain John Wayne's Avatar
    That was an extremely interesting read along with your observations ......

    But I think you been in the jungle too long, gone to kissin' Robalo..

    But he is a pretty fish and I love 'em any way they are fixed.....

    One question, I have found the larger ones spoil quicker than from that size down unless they are taken care of rather fast, has that been your experience?
  5. mupitara's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Just Plain John Wayne

    But I think you been in the jungle too long, gone to kissin' Robalo..
    Well, it was the freshest smelling fish that I ever kissed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Just Plain John Wayne

    One question, I have found the larger ones spoil quicker than from that size down unless they are taken care of rather fast, has that been your experience?
    I agree. I think that smaller fish tend to dry out and get mushy if mishandled. Bigger fish stay moister and taste spoiled if not dressed right away. In either case, its best to immediately gut and get your catch on ice. I don´t scale them until I they get home with them.

    Aisabe,
    Papatara
  6. mupitara's Avatar
    I´ve added photos to the blog of smoking venison, guan, and currasow on Kuka´s Kubus.

    Aisabe,
    Papatara
  7. Just Plain John Wayne's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mupitara
    I´ve added photos to the blog of smoking venison, guan, and currasow on Kuka´s Kubus.

    Aisabe,
    Papatara
    Hey, good job, you are turning this into a beautiful presentation, keep on with in man...
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