I wrote this article 3 years ago, but worth sharing again.
Although I grew up in Ottawa County, I have spent the last almost 15 years working in Delaware County. The last couple of years I have spent a good deal of time around Jay. I have been fortunate to make many new friends from that area, a lot with Native American heritage. Most of my life has been prominent with friends and traditions from the Ottawa and Craig County areas. It has been interesting to me that only 50 miles away from my home, that the culture in an area that close to me has traditions that are new to me. I always enjoy it when I am introduced to something new or different than what I am accustomed to. I have attended what they call Hog Fries and Gigging Tournaments. The people I have friended in that area have been more than happy to teach me some of their traditions and lifestyles different from mine. The art of gigging fish is a Cherokee tradition still practiced frequently in Delaware County. After dark, usually a two man team will take a flat bottomed boat and head up the clear creeks or rivers to gig fish using a long pole with a spearing apparatus on the end. Although I have been invited, I have never been gigging. But, I have attended the meal they prepare after bringing the fish in... The feast usually involves using a propane cooker filled with oil to cook fried onions, potatoes, hot links, fish, and fried biscuits.
Hog fries are another tradition to that area, which I have attended as well. Some of the finest eating I have ever participated in was at a hog fry. Recently at a hog fry I was quizzing the local cooks on their techniques of preparing their fine dining and was amazed at the simplicity to which they prepared things and yet, was producing such flavorful meals. But, I later learned that what made their fare so special was not the ingredients used but the know-how of the process of making things like, perfect fry bread, tender delicious fried hog meat, huckleberry bread, etc.
April is a great time in Delaware County, as it is the time of year that the annual gigging tournament is held at Lake Eucha, the perch fishing gets started, the wild mushrooms are ready for picking, as well as the wild onions, with the huckleberries coming on later in June and July. My only dislike of this area, this time of year is the emergence of the copperhead snakes coming out of hibernation. Oh yes, Delaware County produces lots of those as well! So if you’re like me, I leave the harvesting to others and just purchase my huckleberries and wild onions. If you choose not to get out and pick any these delicious morsels, you CAN usually buy them from individuals who HAVE gotten out and picked, but they are not cheap. As with the wild mushrooms, huckleberries, or other wild growing fruit or vegetable it costs for seasonal delicacies, with the wild onions alone usually costing around $20 for a gallon bag. But it is a once a year tradition with a small timeline for harvesting, and well worth the cost if you have never tried them. A traditional Native American dish, wild onions and eggs, or as some call it Cherokee Eggs and Wild Onions are much sought after meal in the month of April in Delaware County and the most recognized way of enjoying these onions. I’m sure there are other methods of preparing them, but in that part of the country, that would be the traditional way. The first time I was told we were having wild onions and eggs, I said, oh, for breakfast? Well, I quickly learned that they are served at dinner with fried potatoes, beans, etc.
Wild Onions and Eggs
1 cup or 2 Dozen Wild Onions
2 Tablespoons Water
1-2 Tablespoons Bacon Grease or Butter for frying
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Pick or buy young tender wild onions equal around 1 cup.
2. Coarsely chop the onions.
3. Place the onions and the water in a cast iron fryer. Cover and cook until they are limp.
4. Add butter or bacon grease.
5 Add eggs. Scramble and add salt and pepper to taste. Do not overcook.