MAKING A KORONAE
Before the introduction of wire-netting into this country the koronae was invariably used to enclose a hangi (earth oven) and hold the food together over the hot stones. The koronae was clean, and could be very quickly made out of a few strands of rough flax. It was used only once.
It has become the practice in some villages to use wire-netting in place of the flax koronae. Now, wire-netting was never intended for cooking purposes. Something put around a fowl house is hardly suitable to put around food which hundreds of people must eat. Because of the lead which is used for joining the wires together, and the zinc paint covering them, to say nothing of the rust, it is a wonder no one has died of food poisoning. Add to this, the further dangerous practice of using the same wire-netting over and over again, and leaving it to the elements when not in use.
One rather amusing incident comes to my mind here. This might happen to your household.
The family went to a big gathering at the local marae. As usual everyone enjoyed the food from the hangi. ‘How lovely!’ all our pakeha visitors exclaimed, ‘that pork was just right.’ Arrived home, the man of the house immediately complained of stomach disorders and was soon in bed. Two hours later the lady of the house suffered from the same trouble. By nightfall the third victim fell, leaving only one. At midnight, ‘the last of the Mohicans’ ran swiftly out of his room! Each one blamed the wire-netting of the hangi.
Maori communities with flax bushes near by will be well advised to resort again to the old custom of using the time-proven koronae. The flax also acts like a spice, and gives the food a peculiar flavour which cannot be described. It does, however, improve the taste of the food. This is especially noticeable with hangi-cooked eels wrapped around with flax.
Method of Making Koronae
Doubled flax blades are required, and any number of these can be used, depending on the width required.
For this sample we shall use three doubled blades:
Open these out and cut off any extra butt.
Plait these as shown in the diagram for beginning.
Fold No. 1 in direction of arrow, and plait as far as possible to the left.
Likewise plait No. 2 in the same direction.
Fold (b) in direction of arrow, and plait to the right as far as possible.
Plait (a) in the same way.
Now repeat the whole process again, plaiting two from the right side to the left, and two from the left to the right, and so on until the koronae is completed.
As each strand becomes too short, add another single strand by overlapping. The normal width of each strand will be from ½ inches to 2 inches, gradually tapering off to the end. Therefore, to keep a uniform width, add the fresh strand before the other tapers off.
Four double strands have been used in the diagram showing a section of a koronae without any joins. A study of this illustration will reveal the fact that you still plait two from the right followed by two from the left. A koronae is really very simple to make. When you have plaited the length of the circumference of the hangi, join the two ends together to form a cylinder. This can be accomplished by merely tying the two ends of the koronae together, or, to make a neater finish, plait the ends into the first section.