1950s Recipes + Menus

The Way Eskimo Cooked Seal Meat

The Way We Cooked: Vintage Gourmet

July 1955
Sirs: I am one of the dietitians at this four-hundred bed hospital for Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts. Our patients come from all over Alaska, but particularly from the Artic villages. Many of them speak little or no English, are homesick at first, and miss native foods such as fish head soup, and squaw candy (smoked salmon sticks). A couple of days ago I bought a few seal. One very intelligent patient offered to “write out how to do seal.” I’m sending you the recipe, and defy you to duplicate it—or serve it!

First thing cutting up seal

First thing, see if your knife is sharp. You lay the seal from the back on the floor, and cut it open on front and take the skin off with blubber from the meat and cut the seal meat with bone and all.

About the blubber

You clean the blubber (fat) from the skin and cut the blubber in strips about 2 by 6 inches and put them in clean barrel and put loose cover on barrel and put the barrel with blubber in dry place where no heat. Pretty soon that blubber will dissolve and become oil and then it will be ready to use with meat or diced fish or green leaves.

Cooked seal meat

Now you put lukewarm water in pot, add salt so the taste will be okay not over salted, and put the meat in pot with water and let the meat stand in pot till it come to boil. After it boil for while, see if the meat is cook. Get one of the meat in pot with fork and tested the meat, cut the meat with knife and see if it cooked. Put the seal liver in boiling water and let it stand for few minutes. The liver will be half done (just like you order half done steak) also you have to cook seal gut in boiling water and stir it up once a while, you have to clean inside the seal gut first before you cooked the seal gut. The water you use for cooking seal meat it's good. And we like to have seal meat with raw onions. There no waste in seal for the Eskimo that know how to use it. The skin they use it for rope, mukluk pants, and mittens.
As I write, the first week in April, spring is coming: the days are long. Plenty of snow yet—we had ten feet this winter. The moose have gone back of the timber line, and the bears are out of hibernation. I make this sound like a lumber camp area, while actually it is a big city. Ten minutes’ drive in any direction, though, takes one into real country.
Do you know what I'm doing right now? I'm cooking some seal oil!
Very nice, we’re sure, but we really prefer our seal à la Fifth Avenue, wrapped around a lady!
This exclusive recipe is pulled directly from Gourmet’s archive. It has not been re-tested by our food editors since it was published in the magazine, but it’s a pretty good indication of the kinds of things we once ate and drank with great pleasure.
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