Foods | Cooking
Hints & Tips
The native people of Alaska have a distinct version of ice cream. It's not creamy
ice cream as we know it, but a concoction made from
reindeer fat or tallow, seal oil, freshly fallen snow or
water, fresh berries, and sometimes ground fish. Air is
whipped in by hand so that it slowly cools into foam.
They call this Arctic treat akutaq (ah-goo-duck), aqutuk, ackutuk, or
Eskimo ice cream. Akutaq is a Yupik word that means mix
This is a delicacy that
Alaska Natives have thrived on for thousands of years. This recipe was made by Natives a long, long time ago
for survival and was used as a special traveling food. When hunters went out to go hunting, they
brought along akutaq.
The women traditionally made Eskimo ice cream after the
first catch of a polar bear or seal. The woman
(grandmother or mother of the hunter) would prepare the
akutaq and share it with the community members
during special ceremonies.
Akutaq can also be made with moose
meat and fat, caribou meat and fat, fish, seal oil,
berries and other Alaskan things. Women traditionally
made akutaq after the first catch of a polar bear or
seal. Traditionally it was always made for funerals,
potlatches, celebrations of a boy's first hunt, or
almost any other celebration. It is eaten as a dessert, a
meal, a snack, or a spread.
Today, Eskimo ice cream is
usually made with Crisco shortening instead of tallow
and with raisins and sugar sometimes added. The region
of Alaska lived in usually determines what berry is
used, and each family usually has their favorite recipe
for Eskimo ice cream. It is said that your choice of
berries used in making Eskimo ice cream is a lifetime
decision. It is okay to eat any flavor made by others,
but if you are caught making more than one kind, you
will lose all social standing.
The people of the Arctic
love to serve their favorite dish to cheechakos
(newcomers in Alaska). When guests are willing to try
their favorite foods, the Inuits feel pride at sharing
their culture. At first, the host might be shy to offer
any of their food for fear of rejection. If you are a
guest and are offered some (you will probably be served
first as a guest), at least try a small amount. Please
do not express any "yucks" or other words of ridicule.
If you really cannot bring yourself to eat this unusual
food, accept the serving and find the oldest person in
the room and offer the food to him or her. This will
show that you have good manners, if not good taste, and
that you respect your elders. Then quickly grab a plate
and fill it with things that you can eat. Most people
who try Eskimo ice cream say it is delicious!
This was a very hard recipe to
record, as each family usually has its own version and usually has never
written it down in an actual recipe. They generally just make it
from memory and feel. After reading several descriptions on how
to make Akutaq, I came up the the following recipe. I have
never, personally, made the following recipe.
1 cup reindeer, caribou, or moose fat (back fat)*
1 cup animal oil (seal, walrus, or whale), divided
1/2 cup water or 2 cups loose snow
4 1/2 cups fresh berries (blueberries, cloudberries,
cranberries, salmonberries, or blackberries)
* The type of fat used determines
how the Akutaq will taste and feel, as each animal has a
different type of fat. Well-aged yellow fat is usually preferred
because it has more flavor and whips up fluffier than does fresh
fat. The ice cream can also be
sweetened with sweetener or with fruits. Meat and fish Akutaq
are not usually sweetened.
Grate or grind fat into small
pieces. In a large pot over low heat, add fat and stir until it
becomes a liquid (the fat should never get hotter than it is
comfortable to your hand). Add 1/3 cup seal oil, mixing until it
is all liquid. Remove from heat and continue stirring the fat in
While continuing to stir at a
steady rate, add 1/4 cup water or 1 cup snow and another 1/3 cup
seal oil. As fat slowly cools and starts to get fluffy and
white, add remaining 1/4 cup water or 1 cup snow and remaining
1/3 cup seal oil, continuing to stir.
When the Akutaq is as
white and fluffy as you can make it, fold in berries. Form into
Cover and freeze to firm up.
Modern Eskimo Ice Cream
Yields: serves many
Prep time: 15 min
1 cup solid vegetable shortening*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water, berry juice, or 2 cups loose snow (optional)
4 cups fresh berries, (blueberries, cloudberries, cranberries,
salmon berries, or blackberries)**
* Crisco solid vegetable shortening is preferred.
** Use one or more different types of berries.
In a large bowl, cream vegetable
shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add water, berry juice, or
snow and beat until well combined.
Fold in berries, 1 cup at a time, until blended.
Place in freezer to firm up before serving.