Moose, Fish And Spruce Hens.
Daniels Lake, North Nikiski, Alaska
In the late 1960’s we lived on shores of Daniels Lake.
We had our freezer full of moose. I had canned salmon to last us all winter, then froze the rest of the salmon along with halibut and clams.
On our hillside and all along the lake shore and in the trees, were bunches of Spruce Hens, Stupid chickens, Tree Chickens – what ever some of our neighbors called them.
At that time we had six kids to cook for and my love of cooking exploded into a challenge, as we were 200 miles from a grocery store. So planning ahead was most important for a big family of 8. During the weekends our friends would get together and we would cook up moose roasts and have fish fries. But most of all I learned how to make Mexican food.
Leatha Earll introduced me to Mexican cooking. We had moose burger tacos – moose enchilada – and moose burrito’s with home made tortillas, after we spent days making millions of flour tortillas. We also made moose tamales. At one time we made 48 dozen – yes dozen! And for variety once in a while, spruce hen burritos.
David was 10 years old and had a BB Gun. He was the Great White Hunter of North Kenai – now North Nikiski. He would shoot the spruce hens and proudly bring them to me so we could skin them. I separated the small breast from the rest of the meat, skinny legs and almost no wing parts went into the soup pot
The breast went into a 9 X 13 pan with my favorite bread dressing in the bottom, placing at least 6 to 8 breast on dressing and cover with more dressing. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for about an hour. Boiled new potatoes “dolled up” with real butter, canned milk, celery, onion and garlic salt, served with a sprinkle of parsley. Peas from Palmer or broccoli picked from the garden, completed this great dinner. Rhubarb cake or pie for dessert.
When we had enough, dark meat and some breast meat added to the soup pot, we strained out meat and bones. Saved and froze the liquid for soups. Picked out the meat, shredded and sautéed in a iron skillet with a small amount of butter. Add onion, 1/2 teaspoon each of chili powder, ground cumin, garlic salt and pepper. Sautee until moisture is gone. Heat one of Leatha’s homemade flour tortillas. Place two tablespoons of meat in middle and sprinkle with chopped onion and shredded cheese. Fold one side half way over, and them roll up as to have one end open, Place rolled tortilla in skillet of melted butter and brown on all sides. Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper and serve with Annie’s M&M Salsa, sour cream and a big “out of the garden” green salad. Next time try cooked moose shredded the same way. Salmon is good in a tortilla too. Just don’t serve it to Bob!!
Anyway, don’t shoot these little spruce hens unless you are starving. You have to have 5 or 6 to make a meal.