Nikiski, Alaska (formally North Kenai)
1967 to 2015
I arrived in Kenai, Alaska with three kids in July, 1967. I did not know anything about shooting, skinning, gutting moose or how to go fishing for salmon. I learned quickly from the best.
At one time “in my other life’ here in Alaska, there were 8 hungry people in the family. I cooked moose meat and fish for all our main meals. This farm gal from Colorado who had only eaten beef all her life, learned from the friendly homestead women and men how to prepare moose, (and fish) from gutting, skinning, to cutting into meal sized proportions and grinding the tough parts of moose into mooseburger.
Our moose meat grinder was a big hand grinder. Being the creatures of invention to survive in Alaska and save the arm, a big drill was used. Formally used for grinding, sanding and polishing pipe after the welders were through with their part of the job on the platforms. The grinder was nailed to a big stump and the shaft of the drill was used for the handle of the wonderful big meat grinder. It did the job quickly! It was passed around to everyone we knew who needed to grind moose meat. Someone owned it at one time but it eventually became a community moose meat grinder.
Whenever someone shot a moose in our big circle of families, it was a group project and the meat was divided up according to how many helped in the process and how many were in the family. We were never without moose meat in our freezers. This all happened after electricity was provided to the Kenai Peninsula.
The Dad’s did the gutting and skinning, the kids watched so they could be the next generation of moose meat providers for their families. The Mom’s did most of the wrapping as the Dads cut up the big hunks of steaks and roasts for the size of the various families involved.
Then it was up to the Dad’s to grind the tough parts of the moose in the community grinder. Sometimes there were pieces of tough moose that caused the grinder to whirl the stump around it was attached to. Most of the time it took two or three Dad’s to hold down the grinder stump, all with big smiles on their faces. We learned eventually to cut those tough pieces in smaller chunks for easier grinding.
When it came time to prepare the moose, it was treated like a big family gathering. There were 4 to 6 families in our group of moose meat (and fish) preparers. All of us had kids from ages 12 years to 2-3 months. A big bon fire was built and kept blazing through out the night and into the next day. Sometimes there was lots of snow – sometimes it was in the warm fall.
A big group get-together was important to all of us, as we all were away from our relatives and far from home. Those were happy times I will never forget and I formed friends forever from that community effort. I also learned a lot about surviving in Alaska. I would not trade it for anything on earth.
Fishing was the same. At the time snagging was approved and we all did our share of it. We canned fish and moose. We froze fish and moose. We smoked moose and fish. We also shared with older people who were not able to hunt or fish any longer. And we ate very well all winter because of what was provided for us by this wonderful big State of Alaska. Nothing was wasted!
The Grannie Annie series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski.Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.
Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net
The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.