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The Traditional Way to Ferment Choctaw Perique / Hakchuma


New Member
Mar 6, 2022
Hi all!

I have searched countless hours through archives in scholarly article databases, google, etc. to find the actual traditional way that the Choctaw fermented their Perique and still have come up with only the following piece of knowledge:

"They put the tobacco leaves into hollow tree trunks and pressed them with long poles, held down by weights. The pressure made the juice come out of the leaves, and they were left in this position long enough to ferment. Today’s Perique is grown in the unique soils"

I was wondering if anyone can eximplify this, as I know about natural yeast for fermentation process, pressure for lack of oxygen exposure, but I dont know if there is a specific type of wood, etc. It's hard to find out the traditional way, as this has now been commoditized, and fermented in whiskey barrels.
I am mostly just wondering if anyone has any insight on the clinical / traditional way the Choctaw used to ferment "Perique" also known as "Hakchuma."


Staff member
May 25, 2011
near Blacksburg, VA
Welcome to the forum. Feel free to introduce yourself in the Introduce Yourself forum, linked in the menu bar.

"The traditional way" is always a thin slice in time. A snapshot of how we have chosen to view an idealized past. If any variety of color-cured tobacco is crushed by pressure, and kept submerged in water and the expressed tobacco juices (from the physically disrupted, laminar cells) and water, it is always colonized by ambient microbes, regardless of the container material. A typical microbiome of E. coli (bacteria), Pichia anomala (yeast), and likely a large number of other ubiquitous organisms colonizes the brew. Over a period of months, the Pichia anomala becomes dominant, and lends Perique its distinctive aroma and high pH.

A "hollow tree" in every setting that I have witnessed is always littered with insects, rotted wood, bird and mammal nesting materials and their excrement, as well as random debris. So I don't envision the lovely interior of a manufactured, wooden barrel.

@GreenDragon has created Perique by intentionally using a pure culture of brewers' yeast (that for beer and for red wine). It has a softer, gentler aroma than "natural" Perique. But the process is the same.

I would also assume that the cited Choctaw people were utilizing the cultivated Nicotiana rustica, widely dispersed from Central America into the Southeast and Northeast. Perhaps this eventually used Nicotiana tabacum, brought into the Southeast by European colonizers. (Even the early Virginia attempts at commercializing tobacco sale to Europe began with N. rustica—a commercial failure, before transitioning to the Orinoco types of N. tabacum brought up from South America.)

So far as I can determine, "Hakchuma" was simply the Choctaw name for tobacco.