Sometimes you just don't realize what a cool childhood you had. Things that we feel are “normal and every day” are foreign to others. Let me tell you of one of those ah-ha moments.
Last evening we had a neighborhood get-together where everyone brings a crockpot of soup. We share the soup and eat like kings! I made a wild rice/ham soup using the wild rice that my parents had picked in Minnesota.
When I mentioned that it was hand-picked and processed, people were a bit mystified……rice? Did you grow up near a rice pattie? How do you pick it?
Well, “ricing” was an actual season in Minnesota – the same as fishing season and hunting season. The wild rice (which is actually an aquatic grass) grows in shallow water in lakes or slow-flowing streams and rivers. My family would rice in the area lakes and slow-moving waters of the Mississippi River where the plants grew in areas of slow or no current. Ricing season was during the last part of August and first part of September. The Division of Natural Resources controlled the season and you had to purchase a license to be able to rice. You were not allowed to rice with any motorized boat – the vessel had to be propelled by muscle power only. My parents used a canoe and my Dad pushed the canoe through the water with a big pole that had “feet” on the bottom of it. As he pushed, my Mom sat in the middle of the canoe with two 3-foot sticks. She would reach out to the right with one stick pulling the rice stalks over the boat and then would knock the heads off with the second stick. Then she would repeat the process with the same sticks, only working on the left side of the canoe. They worked back and forth, in this way, through the wild rice patch. You certainly ran the risk of losing all of your rice if you tipped the canoe over, so many would unload mid-day just in case!
There were always buyers on the shore to buy your “green” rice, or you could take it in to be processed for your own use. My family always had a burlap bag of processed rice and we ate it often. One of our family favorites was wild rice pancakes where my Mom added cooked wild rice to our pancake batter. (You want to talk about a flapjack that would stick with ya – that was it! Try it!)
So, here is the recipe for the Wild Rice Ham Soup that we enjoyed last night. It's hearty and delicious!
Since I was preparing for a lot of people, this recipe will serve 12 and fill a good-sized crockpot. First, bring 2 cups of rice and six cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Your rice will pop open when it is done – taste it to be sure.
Then in a separate pot, melt 3/4 cup of butter and sauté a small diced onion in the butter. After the onion is done, blend in one cup of flour until smooth and then gradually add six cups of chicken broth. Stir this mixture constantly as it thickens until it comes to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir in your cooked wild rice, 1 and 1/2 cups of diced ham, a cup of shredded carrots, 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. Cook for an additional few minutes and then add 2 cups of half and half just before serving.