For the past several months I've been pouring my blogging energy into a number of posts for the ever-charming, ever-creative Evermine blog, sharing what I can about yummy food, herbalism and how to package it all up as beautiful gifts and favors. It's been a great experience to work with the staff at Evermine, and I suspect my ongoing blog projects for both Evermine and Sweet Allium will reinforce each other.
For example, through my work on a few Evermine blog posts, as well as a cool NPR piece about a Lakota chef reinventing traditional recipes, an old family recipe resurfaced for me--wojape: a delicious sweet berry soup. Wojape is also a perfect example of food as delicious medicine.
At my dad's house growing up, wojape was what we'd make on special occasions to top our waffles, something like a fruit compote, but the original recipe is much more refined--a stand-alone berry pudding made of food foraged on the great plains. I remember that my grandmother, who had grown up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, then in my memory, aged, wheelchair-bound, and without an appetite, came to life when my dad placed a bowl of wojape in front of her at the table.
The original recipe for wojape (or wojapi) calls for chokecherries and used timpsila, a root, as a thickener. These days a common recipe for wojape replaces the chokecherries with dark berries or cherries, adds sugar, and uses cornstarch as a thickener.
I've made my family recipe, akin to the common recipe, too many times to count, but I recently reworked the recipe, with, as usual, an effort to remove sugar and processed foods. Also, because my culinary interests are ever-bending toward diets for diabetes and pre-diabetes, and because so many people in my family and so many Native Americans struggle with diabetes, I couldn't help but lend my herbal knowledge in that direction. The result is a blueberry-based wojape (blueberries are a superfood, for everyone, but also for people with diabetes) that is thickened and sweetened with freshly ground cinnamon (cinnamon reduces insulin resistance and helps to lower blood sugar) with optional powdered maca (maca is an Andean root, food and medicine, known for hormone balancing). Personally, I love the flavor of maca, which is sweet and slightly bitter, and I find it balances out the tartness of the blueberries.
Before a few months ago, I used my frozen blueberries exclusively for smoothies. Smoothies are hot right now, but smoothies are super cold--too cold for me. In these winter months a hot meal is what feels good, so this wojape is exactly what my body seems to want. I love to bring it with me, hot, in a wide-mouth thermos to enjoy it at school or when setting out on weekend travel.
Want to give my revamped wojape a try?
4 cups frozen blueberries (If you have fresh blueberries, don't be silly, just eat them fresh!)
2-4 tablespoons water
2-4 tablespoons freshly ground cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons maca powder (optional)
Combine the first three ingredients in a small pot over low heat, stirring occasionally. After the berries are completely thawed and the liquid boiled down a bit, remove from heat and stir in the maca powder. Makes 2 servings.