I recently was privileged to participate in the pilot run of a Borderlands Heritage Food Tour organized by Dr. Rafael de Grenade. It will eventually be part of a broader tourism attraction initiative. One of the first stops was the San Xavier Coop Farm where we saw their fields and also watched the preparation of the traditional cracked roasted corn product called ga’ivsa. I had purchased some ga’ivsa from Ramona Farms on the Gila River Indian Reservation a few months before, but stuck it in the pantry and waited to learn more about preparation.
Some women were processing the corn into ga’ivsa during our visit and we got a close-up look at their work. First the corn had to be shucked of all the outer leaves, then it is put on a charcoal fire to roast.
It was still very hot on that day, so we all moved into the shade of a barn where Verna Miguel, a Tohono O’odham woman from the San Xavier section of the reservation, explained to us that traditionally the corn was crushed manually. But now they have a machine that cuts processing time dramatically. You can see the machine behind Verna in the photo below. They can feed in the whole cobs that have been roasted and dried and get cracked corn ready for packaging.
Preparing the ga’ivsa begins with simmering it in water to soften it. Put it in a heavy bottom pot, cover with water and cook for about 30 minutes. Watch closely and add water as needed. The kernels will soften and swell. Soon it will begin smelling smoky, sort of like ham. A traditional preparation is corn soup. To add to the deliciousness, add some green chile and cheese and perhaps some chicken or vegetable base or bouillion.
With some cooked ga’ivsa left after the soup, I decided it would be great as a stuffing for a green chile. I roasted a poblano chile I had in my refrigerator, peeled it and cleaned out the seeds inside. If you are new to roasting chiles, don’t be afraid to get the skin well charred so it will peel easily.
I then sauteed some I’itoi onions (you could used green onions), and added those and some herbs to the cooked corn and stuffed it in the chile. I topped it with a little fresh cheese and heated it up. Some ground chicken or leftover meat of any kind could also work well. That became dinner. I should have taken a picture of my husband tucking in. He loved it.
Note: This is the 61st and last issue of Carolyn’s Southwest Kitchen. Starting in October, I will be joining a new blog with three other women, all of them experts in several aspects of Southwest food. I have known each of them for years, and every time I’m with them I learn something new and exciting. I’m thrilled to be sharing their expertise with all of you. We will each post once a month on a Friday in a regular rotation. When we begin again in early October, I will introduce you to each of them — I’m sure you will recognize some of them. I am trying to learn how to migrate subscribers to the new blog which will be titled Savoring the Southwest.)
‘Want more recipes for traditional foods and edible wild desert plants? You’ll find lots of great ideas in The Prickly Pear Cookbook and Cooking the Wild Southwest. You’ll learn how professional chefs incorporate traditional Southwest ingredients into their menus in The New Southwest Cookbook. Ask your local bookstore to order for you or follow the links to order on-line.