Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Last Years Fish

Leftovers.  What do we do when we find a bunch of frozen salmon from last year?  I seriously hid several fillets last year, only to "lose" them in the freezer, and while rummaging through looking for one last gallon of blueberries, FOUND the fish.


It was lost but now it's found.  Back to leftovers.  Leftover sockeye salmon?  We smoke them of course! (and then we tease our dog with the smell of smoked fish!)

Plenty of people ask me how we smoke our fish.  If I knew, I'd do it myself, but I don't know how, so my husband always has to smoke the fish.  He has a smokehouse he built out of a stainless steel freezer, a hot plate, and a cast iron skillet.  We used Peach Wood to smoke this batch, and he has ANOTHER batch going today.  Here's how HE makes smoked salmon...


Gather all your supplies, food trays, knives, and thawed fish.


Wash, dry and cut your fish into strips.


Lay them on the trays with a little bit of space between them.


Salt the fish, and let sit for a while.  (Don't ask me how long, because I don't know!)


Sprinkle tons of brown sugar on them.  Apparently the salt and sugar brine, and draw out the moisture, enough so that they aren't too dry when they come out of the smokehouse.


Here's the tricky part.  You know, when you're watching Diners, Drive-In's and Dives, when Guy asks what ingredients are in the "secret" ingredients... and they say, "And some secret ingredient that I can't tell you..."  Well, this is that part.  Even I don't know what he has in his special tub of secret ingredients.  I mean, I know there is some salt, some garlic, pink peppercorn, maybe some paprika?  I don't know.  Anyway, he generously sprinkles this stuff on too.  If you don't have a tub of super special secret stuff like Dean, then I don't know, use some Garlic Salt or something! 



Then, you let the brine sit on them for a few hours, overnight in the fridge is best.  It looks all amazing and gooey, and smells good too! 


Place your fish in the smokehouse, which has been heated up for an hour or so, and maintains a constant temperature.  Again, I don't know the secret temperature, sorry about that.  He likes to hide it from me!  We used peach wood and some other kind of wood chips, maybe the jack daniels ones.  And I say "we" because I took photos... I helped!

I don't know how long you have to smoke the fish, until they're done I guess!  We hot smoke ours, so I know they're done, and OK to eat without worrying.  He can cold smoke, but I prefer the hot smoked fish, so that's mainly what we do. 


So, when they're done your entire neighborhood smells them and happens to come over to visit!  haha, Dean loves giving fish and other food he makes away, so we package them up and either eat them or give them to people to taste. 

These are my favorite kind of leftovers!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Neglect

If this were my child, I'd be charged with neglect.  Maybe even abandonment!

Good thing it's not though, eh.  And I get to come back when I remember, "HEY! I have a blog too..."  Sorry faithful few readers!  But spring, summer and fall in Alaska is so busy, I can't seem to remember where I left my phone, let alone take the time to write a witty blog post. 

Maybe I don't have to be witty, but I don't want to fill it with the same stuff I post on Facebook and Instagram.  Which, if you're my friend or follower, you know basically all I do is sew and bake. 

Anywho, a quick synopsis of what Finnskimo has been up to for the last month or so...


Baking.  We have made so many cinnamon rolls it's not funny.  But, for a great cause!  My 11 year old (baby) was asked to be a part of the 5th-6th grade team to head over to the Alaska Hoops Tournament in Wasilla this year, only to have it cancelled the DAY BEFORE we all left.  So her and I took a mini-vacation, because we purchased non-refundable tickets.  Boo.  But we did manage to bake and sell enough cinnamon rolls to pay for her ticket, and then pay for her "tuition" to attend a different basketball camp.  She's 5 foot 4, turned eleven in mid April, so we are pushing her to be a basketball player.  Just kidding, we aren't pushing her, I'd be fine if she wanted to be the tallest cheerleader there was, but you know, the scholarships are all in basketball and volleyball!  haha.


We visited my parents self-sustaining cabin in the woods while we were there.  I actually left my daughter and niece in Chickaloon with my parents and went back home.  They spent a week with them and had a blast.  You know, people... I grew up in a shack, and now my parents have this awesome cabin in the woods, powered by wind and solar power, and all I keep thinking is that I lived in a shack and my dad had this ability to build THIS! haha.  I mean, he did eventually build a huge house for us, but man, I can't wait to retire to a place like this.


We went fishing at "twenty-mile" for hooligan.  All of us adults spent the required $48 for a hunting/fishing license and caught FIVE little hooligan.  But, when you're fishing in a place like this, it's OK.  Plus, we needed the license for Kotzebue anyway, because it's fishing season now, and hunting season coming up.  We were able to spend some time with my little sister and the babies.  (Alice turned ONE while the kids visited them, too!)


Rea Sunshine came up to Kotzebue to visit for a week while my mom came by for a summer job she does each year, cooking for a subsistence camp.  She had a grand time, and was a PERFECT KID (Elsa...) so no matter what my sister says, she's always good at aunties house! haha. 


While Rea was with us, my awesome husband smoked most of "last years" salmon.  We ended up finding a few sockeye fillets that I had hidden in the freezer last fall, and tons of chum.  We get the ocean chum up here, so they're super good, firm and dark flesh, with perfect silver scales.  Not the freaky looking river chum that look sorta like alligators. 

Rea smoked the fish with Dean and every time she came in the house, she said, "Mmmm, SMOKE FISH, SMELLS LIKE UNCLE DEANIE WEENO!"  (don't ask us how she came to call him that, we have no idea!)  She gave up dessert several times to have more smoked fish.  Savage little girl.



Dean is busy thawing more fish today.  We need to "get rid" of the fish in our freezer, and there is literally NO better way than to smoke it all.  He's going to smoke it tomorrow while everyone is at work.  Even though the fish is good, I still wish I was cutting Ugruk.  

Unfortunately for me (native) and my husband (non-native), he can not go out to the ocean to provide for us, I have to rely on other people to hunt marine mammals for us.  "Uncle" Junie used to do for us every year, and now that he's gone, it's been hard to find people to get us an ugruk.  Thankfully, Junie's son has been going out to provide for elders, just like his dad used to, and I'm sure we will eventually get one from someone.  Hey... WILL TRADE CINNAMON ROLLS for UGRUK!  Wonder if that tagline would work!  :)

Happy Spring.  (we still have ice and snow, therefore it's still spring here)  I'll try not to neglect you guys anymore.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Who the hell am I?

Quite recently I was asked, "And WHO the hell do you think you are?" by someone who was pretty upset that I hadn't voted in their favor.  At the time I smiled, and walked away.  I wasn't aware that I was "that popular" to sway so many people with my one or two facebook statuses about the need for change.  (I'm not that popular, and I'm pretty sure that person needed a scapegoat, which is why I didn't yell back!)

But it did get me to thinking.  Who am I?  Who do I think I am? 

I know I'm a half-breed.  I know I'm Finnish and Inupiaq Eskimo.  I know my roots, where I come from, where I've been.  But, really, right now, who the hell am I?


Sometimes I'm the one who organizes community Norwegian (Eskimo baseball) games all summer long.


Sometimes I'm a baker, with crazy superhero skills.


Sometimes I'm bloody Mary.  Quite literally.


Sometimes I'm a grave digger, who digs final resting places of the last generation of REAL Inupiaq people.






Sometimes I'm a snowmachine traveler, listening to the sound of pistons burn energy in a vast wilderness untouched by humans.


Sometimes I'm a drama teacher, who marvels at village kids in a play.


Sometimes I'm a sourdough hotcake maker who cooks on a coleman stove for 300 hungry people.


Sometimes I'm a mom who leaves work to take her kids to the Emergency Room, then watches them enjoy their book in footie pajamas, and never wants her kids to grow up.


Sometimes I'm a food hoarder, who hoards Red Salmon, Shiifish, Kotzebue Salmon, Blackberries, Blueberries, and Cranberries like they're going out of style.


Sometimes I'm a world traveler who's advocating for the needs of my people.  On bumpy flights over the entire United States.


Sometime I'm just a berry picker who would rather go in a boat to camp to pick berries than across the country in a plane.


Sometimes I'm the biggest Husky fan you'll ever meet.


Sometimes I'm an observer of traditions past, friendships that have withstood the evolution of time. 


Sometimes I'm a Birthday Party Planner and make kids bring brooms to the party.


Sometimes I'm a doughnut maker who closes her eyes to eat one and savor the sourdough doughnuts her aana used to make as a child.


Sometimes I'm a patron of a tea party with Barbie and horses.


Sometimes I'm a mukluk maker who cries with every single stitch.


Sometimes I'm a teacher who teaches her kids how to bake a proper blueberry coffee cake.


Sometimes I'm a student who watches in earnest as a real professional cuts beaver.


Sometimes I'm a hunter who cuts meat off of bones.


Sometimes I'm a wife of the hottest fireman I've met.  (Even when it's -40 below outside)


Sometimes I'm just me.  :)


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Anchors

A few days ago, my sister asked me to design a tattoo using an anchor, similar to the ones our grandfather, uncles and dad used in their boats and for fishing.  She was simple in the request.  Beach grass, anchor, and longitude and latitude for our Sisualik camp.  Representing us kids being anchored there in roots and culture.

So, I drew.  And drew, and erased, and drew...  and then I burst into tears. 

Because, I want it to be perfect.  I want it to represent my childhood.  My happy, healthy, spoiled by my grandparents childhood.  So buried memories swamped my emotional state and the tears came.  I wanted to remember everything good about Sisualik.  I wanted to draw everything that reminded me of Sisualik.  And I knew I wouldn't do it justice.



When I was a child, I ran around with no socks and shoes on.  I ran through fireweed, away from bumblebees, and picked wild onions.  We stayed up late at night, bright in the midnight sun, running around the tundra playing Norwegian, kick the can, and more.  We hunted mice with swords made of driftwood, in their underground castles made of plywood.

My tatta built Goober, Josie and I a swingset 35 years ago with driftwood, rope and old 2"x10" boards.  It still stands, parts re-built for the other 70 grand children, and 50 great-grandchildren.  But I still retain ownership of the swings, and even in the stormiest weather, it stood, as a beacon calling us home.  Right next to the Inisaq's and the old siglauq.



We fed 40 hungry dogs, and ran around with the puppies.  We got in trouble together, we slept on the floor, and we fought like enemies.  Each one of use was spoiled in our own way.  I never did the dishes.  I never had to wash the oblong rectangular avocado colored plastic bowls that we ate our daily caribou soup in.  I got to stay up late and listen to my grandparents play pinochle and speak their native tongue.  I asked them, "Do you want tea?"  "Do you want coffee?" in Inupiaq. 

We gathered and stored broken seashells like they were diamonds and gold.  We put tiny white clamshells on our fingernails and called them "Devil's Nails."  My grandfather and his brother built a church at camp.  A simple structure, four walls, no insulation, simple benches, and a wooden pulpit.  He donned his best button up shirt and tall mukluks and preached to us.  Kids sat on the floor, and giggled, "Quyaanan Agaiuun, Qaitchuna Ilipnun Agaayun," we learned to say. 



Hotcakes were fried in cast iron skillets with bacon grease or Crisco every.single.morning.  We never got tired of them.  Spam, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash or fried caribou accompanied them, with leftover qayusaaq to dip in.   In the springtime, seagull eggs were boiled for us to eat with breakfast.

The boys got to go out and hunt for birds on the spit, they walked with a shotgun, a couple shells, held across their backs with rope, and came back with ducks and geese in the fall time.  Duck soup was a favorite.  We fought over who ate the brains.  Sometimes I even won.  We said, "Jesus Qaqiaq, Amen" before every meal, and sat outside, on the ground to eat.  Summer birthday's were a treat, because all the kids from all the camps came over and we had DOUBLE decker birthday cake, with frosting from a can. 



We stole gas from people and went joyriding back and forth along the beach, happily oblivious to the wrath we would face when we went home.  And we always went home.  Because even though my grandparents were mad, they still showed they loved us the best.  They took care of us, together.  Quietly allowing us to make mistakes, showing us how to be servants of humanity. 

We visited other camps, and walked to Nuvugurak to see how everyone's ugruk and salmon was drying.  We cut beluga and seals on the beach, and swam with the salmon net.  Sometimes, we checked net, by swimming in the ocean to the buoy and bringing it back to the boat.  Sometimes, we used a qayaq.  My grandfather used a qayaq to check his seal and beluga nets miles offshore.  It was a celebration when he brought one home.  We cut more fish on the beach than I can count.  Hurriedly so we could run around and play afterward.



Us kids fought over who got to stand at the bow of the boat when we went back and forth, or went hunting.  Perfect for the salty spray to barely kiss our faces.  Or who got to sit on the side that got the wettest from the rough waves, and we were never scared with our Tatta.  We had new mukluks every year instead of shoe-packs.  We had new parkys instead of north face coats.  We had new fur hats and mittens, and our old ones went to the younger kids. 

 We HAD to pick berries.  Boys, girls, moms, dads, uncles, aunties, old and young.  Berries, berries, and more berries.  "Fill your aimmaq before you go play out."  The fast kids would steal berries from the slow ones, and run to aana, exclaiming they were done!  We staked claim to berry patches 20 feet wide, and fought like bears if anyone came to our patch. 



There are so many things we did, so many memories that flooded me that my body couldn't hold it in.  I sobbed and shook and cried that my aana was gone.  That my tatta was gone.  That almost all the elders we knew and loved are gone.  Everyone who grew up at Sisualik got cinnamon rolls from aana Katak, they said Good Morning and Good Night on the CB to Aana Carrie.  They got scolded by Aana Dora, and got smiled at by Aana Irene.  We were all scared of Mendenhall's house.  Even though it probably wasn't haunted.  We all walked miles and miles to play with the Noatak kids who came for the summer at Nuvuguraq, we walked to aana Carrie's and gave her our first duck.  We went to Greene's and Wilson's cause they had landing strips. 


We bring our newborn babies to camp to show them where they are from.  The breaths of our ancestors whisper in their ears thousands of memories within.  The tundra speaks to them of the family that once sailed across in the winter, and used a dog team in the winter to get around.  Beach grass dances for the babies as the ocean sings it's sweet song. 

We bury our family there.  To bring them back to the place where they belong.  So their worldly bodies may rest and their souls can breath in the happiness there.  A world untouched by technology, minus the ubiquitous telephone solar panel on the elder's homes.  A world were fish are still hung, ugruk is still cut, berries are still picked, shells are still gathered, and porcupine are still curious.  I, too, will be buried there, because that is where I belong.



Happy tears were shed, I think.  Happy tears for a happy childhood.  One that I am grateful to have shared with Bessie, Josie, Goober, Doccy, Cody, Junior, Stacey, Saima, Charlotte, Bunnik, Andrea, Cathlynn, Johnson, Ethel, Irene, Phyllis, Francine, Mable, Madeline, Joey and Nikki, Saul, Nathan, Eli, Vernon, Vanessa, Ootut, Janet, and more.  And one that I hope my daughter remembers just as well as I do with her grandparents, and all her cousins. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to beat the cold

It's been fa-reeeezing here for the past two weeks or so.  The wind chill gets to about -40 and stays there.  The ambient temperature isn't "too" cold, maybe -20 to -10ish. 

But it's still cold.  I had to pull out my warmer down jacket. 

Because I don't have a parky.  But everyone else in my family does.  Well, I guess technically I do have one, from my aana Katak, but I rarely use it, only to travel with because it's pretty big.  Maybe what I'm saying is I don't have a parky made by me.

But EVERYONE else does.  (PS there's two more being "fixed" so they're not hanging up!)


and now, even Rea has one!  I made this cute little parky with some trim and stretch velvet I got as a gift from a friend who was recently in Korea.  He plopped a big bag of trim, velvet and silky material at my friends house and said, "have fun!" I also used a fox isilgvik (hood trim) one of my friends gave me because it was too small for her daughter.  Perfect.



That's how finnskimo's battle the cold.

Well, that and sauna's!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my parents!  I always know how long they've been married by subtracting three years from my own age.



Cause wasn't I cute!?  (and yes, my mom's first and last time in a dress, too!)

And check out my tatta's awesome mukluks!  That's what I want to make myself.  I NEED THOSE MUKLUKS! 



Coincidentally, my parents were the FIRST couple married at the Kotzebue Senior Center, and Dean and I were the LAST couple married there.  We also flew the pastor in from Noatak (Dean picked him up from Noatak in our plane, and after the ceremony one of our pilot friends flew him back!), the same one who married my parents.  And as an homage to my tatta's awesome mukluks, we also wore mukluks.

Pretty cool, eh?!  I hope my marriage is as long, happy and fulfilling as my parents.  AND I hope Dean and I can retire to a huge cabin in the woods someday too.