Most people have heard about the forced Cherokee Removal called "The Trail of Tears". What isn't widely known…before the removal, Cherokees were forced to live in illegal forts that were built on Indian land. These were called Removal Forts. Their purpose was to gather the Cherokees together so the removal could be accomplished.
From that time until the Trail of Tears when they arrived in Oklahoma, the Cherokees had very little to eat with a huge number of them dying from disease or starving to death. They learned to make food from what little commodities they received. One thing that originated at this time was the Cherokee Fry Bread, which had to be made with what little was available, flour, salt, water and lard. Later when powdered milk became available, they would use some of that instead of plain water. I basically use the traditional way of making Cherokee Fry Bread with one exception. I use self-rising flour instead of all purpose because it's easier.
A friend, Patricia Thompson, uses a recipe she says is more of a Mexican fry bread or Sopapilla. However, this method of making Indian fry bread is prevalent in western states. The Navajos sometimes use buttermilk in their fry bread.
Keep in mind I never said Indian fry bread was healthy. It's not. But it's one of the most delicious things you'll ever eat. Most Cherokees would rather die than give it up. But since it's being blamed for causing type 2 diabetes in the Indian population, some are making it an occasional treat instead of a 3 times a day staple. And you can always switch to Corn oil instead of lard.
TRADITIONAL CHEROKEE FRY BREAD
3 cups white self-rising flour
About 1 cup water.
Add the water until dough is formed about same consistency as biscuit dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let dough rest for 15 minutes. (Don't skip this step. It makes a difference)
Heat lard to 350 degrees. Lard needs to be about 2 inches deep.
Dump dough out onto a floured surface. Knead a few time so it's not sticky. Pull off an egg sized piece of dough. Pat it and gently pull it out making it flat and thin in the middle. Put pieces in hot lard, turning over when dough begins to brown around edges. Bread will puff up. It will cook in 1-2 minutes depending on size of pieces.
Drain pieces on paper and eat with honey or roll in sugar and cinnamon.
If using fry bread to make Indian tacos, pull off larger pieces of dough and flatten with your hands until size of a saucer, making sure to pull thin in the middle so bread will cook all the way through. Indian Tacos recipes below.
PATRICIA'S FRY BREAD
3/4 c milk
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg beaten
3 cups flour
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water to dissolve yeast in
Soften yeast in lukewarm water
Combine milk, sugar and salt. Bring to boil.
Remove from heat and stir in butter.
Allow to cool to lukewarm.
Stir in beaten egg and yeast mixture.
Gradually add flour.
If mix becomes too stiff to stir, work with hands.
Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rise until double in size. (About 1 1/2 hours)
Punch down and turn onto lightly floured board.
Knead briefly until dough is smooth.
Cover and let rest for about 15 minutes.
The recipe says to roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut with 2 inch cookie cutter. I just tear off chunks and work them with my fingers to about this size. Be sure and put a small hole with your finger in the middle of the piece so it cooks all the way through.
Oil needs to be one and a half - 2 inches deep and about 350 degrees. Brown on one side and then flip to brown the other side. Only cook a few at a time because they puff up quite a bit. Serve with Honey or jam.
CHEROKEE INDIAN TACOS
If you go to the Cherokee Nation holiday in Talequah, Oklahoma, and order an Indian Taco, here's what you're going to get: a large flat piece of Cherokee fry bread, covered with something like my basic pinto bean recipe. It will have lettuce and diced tomato on top of the beans and topped with shredded cheese. Everyone raves about them and you have to stand in line to buy one.
PATRICIA'S INDIAN TACOS
I don't have a recipe per se for Indian tacos. I use red beans, ground beef, all the normal veggies and cheese. To the beef, I add crushed red peppers (it only takes about a teaspoon per pound.
OTHER USES FOR CHEROKEE FRY BREAD
Take dough, flatten with your fingers. Take a heaping teaspoon of a filling, fold over and seal edges well with your fingers.
Just make sure the filling you use has cooled off before using or dough will fall apart before you can fry it.
1. You can use cooked fruit. Mix a little powdered sugar with a little water and drizzle over the fried pie.
2. Make some spicy taco filling. Just cool before using.
3. Fill with a little cheese of your choice
4. Use your imagination.