Abenaki Three Sisters Soup
Like many cultures around the world, the Abenaki celebrated a harvest festival in the fall and the “Three Sisters” were often part of the celebratory feast. Much has been documented about the planting and importance of this famous companion planting of corn, beans, and squash and the importance of their cultivation. This particular recipe comes to us from Shelburne Farms, who collaborated with Abenaki Scholar and Paleoethnobotanist Fred Wiseman and Anna Roy-Wiseman, to create a harvest dinner in celebration of the traditional Abenaki agricultural year. Three sisters soup is almost a universal dish throughout Indigenous North America. To develop this particular recipe, Roy-Wiseman tasted several traditional recipes from various Native cooks in the region and experimented with adding various spices and Native American additions such as tomatoes, peppers, and onions, to fit a more modern palette. You can find many of the ingredients needed for this hearty soup in our weekly sale from October 8th – 14th in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Soak the beans overnight. Drain in the morning, rinse, and put in a pot. Fill the pot with fresh water, approximately two inches above the level of the beans. Bring to a boil and then let gently simmer until beans are tender (about 2 hours, depending on the type of beans used). Reserve the bean water. In a separate pot, heat butter and olive oil, then sauté the onions, celery, garlic, corn, and squash. Add allspice, chili powder, plus remaining ingredients along with salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth plus three cups of reserved bean water. Cover and slow simmer for two hours. Add the cooked beans once they are cooked and tender. Stir and season to taste as the soup cooks. Optional: Use a hand blender to slightly thicken the soup once the squash is cooked.