Visit a Cherokee home and look somewhere for strawberries, whether it is in the curtains, accessories, or an extra jar of strawberry jam sitting on the cupboard. Because of the Strawberry Story handed down by our ancestors, a Cherokee wife will have strawberries somewhere in her kitchen.
The story of strawberries and marriage is more important than the recipe. Long ago, here in the mountains, a Cherokee man and woman had a disagreement. He was angry because she was picking flowers and not fixing the meal. She was angry because of his hurtful words and left their cabin. He called to her and she didn’t look back. The man asked the Creator/Sun to help him. Raspberries sprung up, but the woman ignored them. The same happened with huckleberries and blackberries. Finally, strawberries appeared. They glowed like fire in the grass. She stopped and knelt down to this low-growing plant and began to eat the sweet fruit, thinking she should take some to her husband. This gave the husband time to catch up to her and she heard his voice. They forgave each other and returned home. Today, when the Cherokee eat strawberries, they are reminded to be as respectful and loving as the strawberry is sweet.
The recipe for Strawberry Bread has been changed over time using flour instead of cornmeal. I have modified it with half flour and half cornmeal to preserve the original flavor of the bread and give it a heartier taste.
At Summer Wolf Farm in Greene County, Tennessee, we grow our own strawberries and freeze them for the off season. Eggs in this recipe are double-yolk brown eggs from our hens. We also churn our own fresh butter and serve it with the bread.
2 ½ cups fresh strawberries, or 2 10-ounce packages frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and drained, or 2 cans strawberries in syrup
4 brown eggs
1 ½ cups oil
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups cornmeal
2 cups raw sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 325° or heat to medium heat in wood stove. Mix strawberries in small bowl. Combine eggs and oil. Sift remaining ingredients into large bowl. Make well in center. Pour in eggs, oil, and strawberries. Blend well using a wooden spoon. Pour into cast iron pot or loaf pan. Bake until broom straw comes out clean—50 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let bread set overnight to let strawberry juices seep into bread.