Akutaq / Eskimo Ice Cream
I have to admit I had no clue what Alaska’s State Sweet would be - until I consulted my friend Mr. Google. After a good bit of “googling”, I discovered Akutaq (pronounced “a-goo-duk”) which has been a favorite among Alaskans for generations! Just what I was looking for!
Akutaq means “mix them together” in Yup’ik which is one of the native languages spoken in Alaska. The traditional version of Akutaq is a mixture of tallow (rendered fat from arctic animals like elk, moose, whale), seal oil, cooked fish and berries. Natives developed this recipe as something they could carry with them on the hunt for nourishment and a good way to use readily available ingredients.
Akutaq in Alaska Today
Alaskan’s make Akutaq for ceremonies, memorial services, celebrations of a boys first hunt, and for potlucks. Each family has their own way of making Akutaq and their “recipe” is passed down from generation to generation.
It is difficult to find an exact recipe for Akutaq, but I did find this description and step-by-step on a website for one of the school systems in Alaska - I thought you might enjoy reading this!
“Each family makes akutaq a little differently. This is how my family makes our akutaq. There aren’t any real instructions on how to make this recipe because we make it the way we were taught and we pass it down to our kids that way.
The traditional way to teach people to make akutaq is to let them watch and learn. And when we are done making it, we draw a shape of a cross in the middle of the akutaq with our finger. Then we take each type of berry from the akutaq (unless there is only one type of berry) and a pinch of the mixture, and throw it into the fire. When I do that, I have to say, “Tamarpeci nerluci.” That’s in Yupik, but in English it means, “All of you eat.”
Fish (white fish, pike, or any kind of salmon) 3 to 4 pounds
Berries (blueberries, salmonberries, cranberries, etc.) 1/2 gallon to a gallon
Step 1 Gut the fish.
Step 2 Chop the fish into four to five pieces (depending on the fish size). If you bought from the store, that’s fine.
Step 3 You can throw away the head, tail, and guts from the fish.
Step 4 Place the fish into a large or medium size pot.
Step 5 Fill the pot of fish with plenty of water so it covers all the fish. (The Fish must be thawed.)
Step 6 After the water starts to boil, reduce the heat so it won’t boil too hard.
Step 7 Let the fish simmer for about 20 minutes or until it’s done.
Step 8 Cool in the pot so the flavor remains in the fish.
Step 9 After the fish is cool use a large basin (bowl) to put the fish in after you clean it.
Step 10 The way you clean the fish is take off the skin, take out the bones, and squeeze out all the water from the fish with your hands.
Step 11 After you do that to the whole fish, break up the squeezed fish.
Step 12 Look for bones that got left behind, and take them out if you found some.
Step 13 By the time your done with that, the fish should be all crumbled up.
Step 14 Take at least two large scoops of Crisco with your hand and add it to the fish.
Step 15 Stir it up with your hand for at least three to five minutes, or until the fish is mixed well with the Crisco.
Step 16 If the Crisco and the fish do not blend together, add a little more Crisco until it does.
Step 17 Take the vegetable oil and pour in about a cup. You don’t need to measure (estimate).
Step 18 Stir it up until it’s almost creamy.
Step 19 If it’s not getting creamy, add a little more vegetable oil.
Step 20 Whip it up with your hand until it gets fluffy.
Step 21 Pour at least a cup of sugar into the mixture (estimate).
Step 22 Stir it up until the sugar dissolves.
Step 23 Add about another cup of sugar to the mixture.
Step 24 Stir it up until the sugar dissolves.
Step 25 Add more sugar if it tastes like it needs more.
Step 26 Add plenty of berries to the mixture.
Step 27 Mix it up.
Step 28 Add more berries to the mixture if you want more. The akutaq should have
a lot of berries in it, but not too much.
Step 29 The akutaq is ready to eat.
Step 30 Always keep the akutaq refrigerated.”
I really loved the way that was written because I could just hear her saying those steps while teaching her daughter or granddaughter to make Akutaq!
Big Question - Did I really make a dessert with FISH?????
I did not. Fortunately, I found that some Alaskans make “Coastal” style Akutaq which has no fish - so I opted for that version! : )
So my ingredients were...
1 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water, berry juice or 2 cups loose snow
4 cups berries
❉ common berries used are blueberries, cloudberries, cranberries, salmonberries or blackberries.
My (virtual) Berry Hunt
In the spirit of the Last Frontier, I set out on my own Hunt. A Berry Hunt. On the internet. I was so excited when I heard about Salmonberries and Cloudberries, and just knew I could find some frozen berries on the world wide web and make my Akutaq really authentic!
I soon discovered that to get my hands on these berries, I would need to fly to Alaska in July or August, go hiking, and pick one of the 50 varieties of berries that grow in the wild, all while wearing bear bells - since bears enjoy fresh berries too!
Frozen berries it is! I used a combination of Blackberries (mostly), Raspberries and Blueberries.
30 Steps down to 3
“Coastal” akutaq is much easier to make than Traditional! Just three simple steps!
❉ Cream together shortening & sugar
❉ Mix in berry juice, water, or snow
❉ Fold in berries 1 cup at a time, by hand. Place in freezer to firm up.
There really isn’t anything “ice cream like” about Akutaq, but I would imagine that making this dish with loads of fresh picked, wild berries would be a yummy treat! The shortening texture and mouth feel were hard for me to enjoy, but I absolutely love the tradition of Akutaq in Alaska and am so glad I discovered this special “recipe”.