NIKISKI, ALASKA (formally North Kenai)
1967 TO 2018
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 eight 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 and skinning to cutting into meal-sized proportions and grinding the tough parts of moose into moose burger.
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 to turn the crank. This is where the welder friends came in handy! Formerly 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 drill shaft was used for the handle of the wonderful big meat grinder. It did the job quickly! The grinder 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 dads did the gutting and skinning; the kids watched so they could be the next generation of moose meat providers for their families. The moms 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 dads 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 around the stump that it was attached to. Most of the time it took two or three dads 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 four to six 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 bonfire was built and kept blazing through out the night and into the next day. Sometimes there was lots of snow — sometimes it was in a nice warm fall day.
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!
Tips for moose meat:
When grinding your own moose meat: For every 4 to 5 pounds of moose, grind 1/4 pound (one cube) frozen butter or Oleo margarine. I do not recommend the tallow that you can buy at the store — or could. It is old; it will taste old and has who knows what in it. It will ruin your great moose burger. The very best moose burger in the world is pure ground moose with frozen butter ground in it. Wrap the meat tightly and then wrap again. Seal it if you have a sealer. Freezer burnt moose meat is terrible! AND wasteful.
My daughter Gail and her husband lived on a homestead and moose and fish was there main meal also.
MOOSE MEAT MEAT LOAF
Gail has wonderful tips on using moose meat and this great Moose Meat Meat Loaf is just one of them.
2/3 ground moose to 1 pound of Jimmy Dean sausage
3 Alaskan potatoes grated and liquid squeezed out
1 large onion-grated — or a big heap of dry onions
3 to 4 celery stalks, sliced fine. If you do not have celery, which was often the case, Gail grated a parsnip as they are similar in taste
1 green pepper if you have it
A sprinkle or two of Montreal Steak Seasoning — or a shake each of garlic salt, pepper and cayenne.
Put baggies on hands to knead and mix well.
Shape three loaves in a lasagna pan. Put on top of four jar rings on hot wood stove and put another lasagna pan over top or double foil tent to form an oven. Make sure the fire is hot — if you can’t hold you hand over stove very long — it’s hot.
Put in the oven at 350 degrees for one hour or more.
Call the kids and the neighbors. Pass the ketchup and the fried Alaskan tators. Serve with garden-grown steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Shredded cabbage from the big head of cabbage in the garden for coleslaw. Now that is truly an Alaskan meal. Thanks Gail!
THREE HOLE CAKE
In a bowl put the following:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Mix with a fork until well blended. Place the flour mixture in a 9 x 13 cake pan. Smooth out.
Make three holes in flour mixture
Put 2 teaspoons vinegar in first hole
Put 1 cup vegetable oil in second hole
Put 1 teaspoon vanilla in third hole
2 cups warm — not hot — water over top
Mix slowly together with fork until blended.
You can bake this on top of wood stove, but just put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Test to see if done.
Fudge frosting from the can goes over the top after cooled. Or maybe just Cool Whip.
OLD FASHION HOT MILK CAKE
I looked for a long time for this old recipe. I heard this from my first mother-in-law Mary Bateman. We had wonderful discussions about “Old recipes.”
1 1/4 cups milk — keep it hot but do not boil
10 tablespoons oleo or butter in milk to melt.
In the mixer boil, beat:
4 eggs until thick — about 5 minutes of beating
2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
Add to eggs and sugar gradually. Slowly pour milk into mixer bowl and mix until combined.
Pour batter into buttered 9 x 13 cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Test to see if middle is done. This is an old recipe and many ovens are very different.
No need to frost, but whipped cream with canned peaches is very good on it.