Spirit of the Harvest: Hidatsa Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin

February 04, 2010

Spirit of the Harvest: Hidatsa Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin

Renowned food author Beverly Cox, winner of the James Beard cookbook award, a Julia Child award and a IACP cookbook award, and food editor for Native Peoples Magazine, contributes a monthly column and weekly recipes to TankaBar.com. The Spirit of the Harvest columns are published the second Wednesday of every month. Recipes from Beverly run on intervening Wednesdays.

The Hidatsa lived in permanent villages along the Missouri River in North Dakota. The village tribes of the upper Missouri River Valley, such as the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, were farming people who raised corn, beans, sunflowers, tobacco, pumpkins, and squash. These tribes produced not only enough agricultural products for their own use, but also a substantial surplus which was traded to other tribes, and later to the Europeans and Americans.

Sensitive to the ecological demands of the Northern Plains, they established fields in the fertile bottomlands where the tillable soil was renewed annually by flooding. The brush which was cleared for the planting was spread over the fields and burned. This practice softened the soil and added nutrients. Hidatsa elder Buffalo Bird Woman, speaking about 1910, says: "It was well known in my tribe that burning over new ground left the soil soft and easy to work, and for this reason we thought it a wise thing to do." In addition, fields were taken out of production and allowed to lay fallow for two years in order to let the land rejuvenate.

Yield: 6 servings


1 sugar pumpkin (also called a pie pumpkin) 4-5 pounds - do not use a regular pumpkin! Sugar/pie pumpkins are sweeter and less stringy than regular ones
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cooked wild rice (you can substitute brown rice if you wish)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 eggs, beaten (I used six egg whites instead to lower the fat content)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed, dried sage (I used 1 tablespoon fresh sage from our garden.)
1 lb ground buffalo, venison, or beef (I used ground venison. You could try ground turkey or meat substitute, too.)
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Cook the wild rice per the instructions on the package. This can take up to an hour. Prepare the rest of the ingredients while it's cooking.
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. when the rice is nearly done.
Cut the top off the pumpkin and remove strings and seeds. Put top aside. Reserve the seeds for another use. Prick the cavity with a fork and rub with 1 teaspoon salt and the mustard.
Heat oil in a large skillet, add meat and onion and saute over medium-high heat until browned. Remove from the stove top and stir in cooked wild rice, eggs, remaining salt, sage and pepper.
Stuff pumpkin with the meat mixture and cover with the lid to keep the rice moist.
Place 1/2″ water in the bottom of a shallow baking pan. Put pumpkin in the pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. Add more water to the pan as necessary to avoid sticking.
To serve, cut pumpkin into wedges, giving each person pumpkin and stuffing.

Beverly Cox is the food editor of Native Peoples Magazine and a former food editor and director of food styling for Cook's Magazine. She holds a Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and apprenticed with Gaston LeNotre.

Beverly has written 13 cookbooks, including Spirit of the Harvest, North American Indian Cooking, winner of the James Beard and IACP cookbook awards in 1992, and Spirit of the West, Cooking from Ranch House and Range, winner of a Julia Child award in 1997, and Spirit of the Earth, Native Cooking from Latin America, an IACP cookbook award finalist in 2002, all co-authored with food photographer Martin Jacobs. Their most recent book is Eating Cuban, 120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores.

Beverly and her husband, Gordon Black, an architect turned rancher, live on the historic Eagle Rock Ranch in Northern Colorado where her great grandfather homesteaded in 1872. Beverly teaches hands-on cooking classes for small groups who want to combine cooking with the experience of visiting a working cattle ranch.

You can contact Beverly at BeverlyCox@TankaBar.com

For more information about Beverly's cookbooks featuring Native American recipes:

Body, Mind and Spirit: Native Cooking of the Americas

Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking

Spirit of the Earth: Native Cooking from Latin America

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