I have read that the Woodland Indians travelled with just corn to sustain them on their long journeys, & I have often wondered, knowing a little about the properties of corn or the lack there of, how they managed to survive. Then recently one of my sons happened to mention to me the advantages of cooking corn in a lye solution. Apparently the action of the lye on the corn releases nutrients in the corn that otherwise could not be accessed. Now of course I had read about the Indians boiling & soaking corn in a solution of lye, but I had not realised the full potential of this process. So I started researching to see if the parched corn that these woodland travelers carried & ate, was first treated with a lye solution, & found that it was!
Now I don't recall when reading about parched & dried corn used as trail food the mention anywhere about treating first with a lye solution. Now of course this makes perfect sense, no wonder they were able to travel long distances on just dried corn. Of course the lye solution can only release those nutrients that are in the corn, so it does have its limitations. As daily meals under normal circumstances other foods such as meat would have to be included to keep one fit & healthy, but as a trail food for a limited time, this maize or corn was indeed quite adequate.
It is interesting to note that the Europeans did not take this knowledge of treating corn with lye back home with them, so the many recipes we use today lack the nutrition that is locked away inside the corn kernel!
The author's brass trade kettle.
Indians cooking & drying meat.