Bert Christensen's Weird & Different Recipes
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Household Hints from The Northern Cookbook
The _Northern Cookbook_ edited by Eleanor A. Ellis and delightfully illustrated by James Simpkins was first published in 1967 by the Canadian Federal Governments Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It was reprinted several times (my copy is from 1973) but is now , according to Information Canada, out of print.

From the preface by Ms. Ellis:

"The purpose of this book is to record facts about some of the wild game, game birds, fish, fruit and vegetables available in Canada's north (which includes not only the Arctic and sub-Arctic, but the northern lake and forest regions of all the provinces), and to suggest methods by which these foods may be prepared and served. To include recipes for all of the indigenous foods would be a mammoth task, but I have tried to include enough to be representative of a cross section of this vast land. Some basic information on nutrition and family meal planning has been included for the benefit of young homemakers, and I have drawn on the experience of those who pioneered the north for a section which offers advice to wilderness wives."

From the preface to Chapter XI, _Pointers from Pioneers_

"....I would like to make it very clear that the north is not just a land of ice and snow, populated by hunters and trappers and husky dogs, with primitive plumbing and none of the niceties of civilization. Many northerners live in modern homes with picture windows, wall-to-wall broadloom, and daily mail service. There are beautiful schools, hospitals, churches and museums, large supermarkets, and more skidoos than dog teams. There are prospectors and miners, lumbermen and oilmen, teachers and preachers, boat builders and stone carvers, stenographers and storekeepers, doctors and nurses and newspaper editors. Many of these people would be at home in the salons of New York or Paris or Rome, but most of them are living in the north because they like it. The north is experiencing a period of rapid development and booming economy, and the smokestacks of industry are etching new silhouettes on the skyline.

"But the north covers an area of a million and a half square miles, and, in spite of the expansion of the airlines and the telecommunication systems, there are still some settlements that have very little traffic. In these smaller places, travel is difficult for many months of the year, being subject to the whims and vagaries of the weather. Their residents quite often are forced to rely on their own ingenuity for entertainment, and, sometimes, their very existence.

"A few old time recipes have also been included in this chapter, not as items of curiosity or amusement but because the directions for preparing food are so delightfully direct. They have an honesty and forthrightness about them that is a true reflection of the people who originated them"

The following excerpts are from, "Pointers from Pioneers", (chapter XI):

Use aluminum foil as a blind to foil the midnight sun if you can't sleep in sunshine. Fasten it to the window frame with strips of adhesive tape.

If a small amount of board, some clear plastic and a little mud (from under the moss) are available, one need not be without fresh lettuce, radishes, onions and turnip greens from July 15 to September 15. Cabbage, carrots and potatoes will also grow well.

If you are lost on a sunny day, put a short stick upright in the ground. Every few minutes as the sun travels across the sky, mark the end of the shadow cast by the stick. The shortest shadow will indicate north. If the day is cloudy, you may tell direction from the thickness of the bark on the willow. On the south side the bark is thick and smooth; on the north side it is thin with spiny projections. You may also check direction by the depth of moss on a knoll; it is thickest on the north side.

Add a spoon of salt to your last rinse water and your laundry won't freeze to the clothesline.

If you don't have a bent straw for a sick-in-bed patient to use, the spout of a teapot substitutes nicely.

Run rows in your garden East and West if possible.

The flavour of safe but unpalatable water my be improved by adding charcoal from a campfire and allowing to stand overnight.


Cut frozen fish up with a saw or an axe. Peel the skin off and cut up with a knife. This is good to eat with salt and blubber.


Take fish eggs out and freeze them. They are good to eat like this.


Cut off the muskrat's legs and dip in a bowl of flour with salt, pepper and other strong seasoning. Mix with a small amount of water. Put grease into a large frying pan and put in the muskrat legs which have been dipped in the flour mixture. Cover tightly and cook for a long time as they take long to become tender. The strong seasoning takes away the actual taste of the muskrat and turns into gravy as it steams.
Bertha Allen


Clean the rats well. Put in a roaster and put bread stuffing on top of it. Roast in an oven until the muskrats are soft.


Cut off the tails and dip them into very hot water. Pull off the fur. One can either cook them on top of the stove, turning them after a few minutes, or boil them. This is the same method as for beaver tails. Both are very sticky to eat.


Make a fire outside and put porcupine in the fire to burn off the quills. Wash and clean well. Cut up and boil until done.


Clean, skin, wash. Bake in oven with salt and pepper. Tastes like rabbit (no smell). Skunk fat very good for whooping cough.


Cut up fresh meat in thin slices. Dry above stove in tent. Keep turning once a day. Do not have the fire too hot or the meat to close too stove. When it is dried well, one may eat pounded bone grease with it.


Pound up dry meat for meat balls. One may pound all day to get it soft. Add bone grease and sugar, and mix up. Roll into meat balls with hands. Keep in a cool place to keep from drying out. One may take this out camping.
Rowena Edwards


Cut up meat as for frying and fry in deep grease in frying pan.


Fry the meat and when done add left-over porridge. Cook a little longer.


Skin and wash the head well. Then chop it in quarters, splitting it between the eyes with an axe. Cover with cold water and boil until soft. One can also roast in an open pan in an oven very slowly.


Pound dried moose or deer meat on a piece of clean canvas or stone, to fine crumbs. Pour hot melted moose fat over in pan. Let freeze. Serve cold. Very rich.


Wash and clean the hind legs of the lynx and roast it in a roaster with lard and a little water.


Cut up the lynx and boil it until it is soft and well cooked.
This is good to eat with muktuk.


Put tongues in boiling water and boil until thoroughly cooked. Potatoes and vegetables are good with this.


Smoke the beaver for a day or so. Then cut up the meat and boil it with salted water until it is done.


Put the hoofs with skin still on them in a large pot. Cover with hot water and boil for a couple of hours. The skin peels off easily then. The muscles are soft and very good to eat. The toe nails also have some soft sweet meat inside them.
Bertha Allen


Boil all the legs and whatever bones are left after all the meat has been cut off. Boil them all in a big pot for two hours. Then let the grease get cold in the pot. It is easy to pick the grease off. Put the grease in a pot and keep to eat with dry meat or add to pounded dry meat.


Cut black whale meat into thin strips, about 8 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches long by 1/2 inch thick. Hang the strips over poles to dry in the sun, or cure the strips over a driftwood fire in a log smoke house. When the meat is ready it is hard and brittle. Break it off in small pieces and chew well. You must have strong teeth.


Cut up the meat and some fat of a freshly cut whale. Add onions, salt and pepper. Roast in an oven for a long period of time.

MUKTUK (meat inside skin and fat of whale)

After taken from whale leave 2 days hanging up to dry. Cut into pieces 6" X 6". Have water ready to boil. Cook until tender with fork. Keep in oil in a 45 gal. drum after cooked, in a cool place, in order to have muktuk all year.
Rosie Peeloolook


Cut up cabbage and put with blubber fat in a pot. Cook. This is good to eat with meat or fish.


First we pick the salmonberries in dippers or pots. After the pot or dipper is full, put them into amouk (Eskimo bag for carrying berries made of seal skin). When the amouk is full of salmonberries, take home and put in a big pan ready for putting in a seal poke. When the poke is full, tie the poke with string. Save for winter in any cold place.


Grind up cooked meat. Melt tallow and while still warm mix well by hand. Keep adding meat until not able to stir anymore. This is good to eat with meat and bread.
Sadie Simon
ESKIMO ICE CREAM   Whip a can of Crisco until it is light and fluffy.  Flavor it with seal oil and wild blueberries. 

Sent by: Ann Brown, Belen, NM, USA, who writes, "My husband and I started the first high school in an Alaskan Eskimo village in the late 1980s.  The kids made Eskimo ice cream for us and this is the three-ingredient recipe.  We were told to keep it refrigerated, which was no problem, there was an inch of ice on the INSIDE of the windows."

Cook 1 fish by cutting it up into boiling water with salt added. After fish is cooked, take all the bones from it and the skin. Mix this with blueberries. Stir, and it is ready to eat.
Bertha Allen


Pound up 5 to 6 dry fish and throw away the skin. Add sugar to taste, a small amount of grease, and cranberries.
Bertha Allen


1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/3 cup bear fat (from a little black bear that was eating berries). Makes rich white pastry.


Make in the fall when the acorns are ripe. Grind the acorns between rocks. Fan the acorns with a fanning basket. The fine parts will stick to the basket. Put the fine meal into a wooden bin. Pour warm water over it three or four times to take out the bitter taste. Put acorn meal and water in a cooking basket (made with roots). Drop in a very hot rock. Keep turning the rock with a wooden spoon. Sometimes one rock will cook the soup.

Collected by Bert Christensen
Toronto, Ontario