Food Preservation

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Told by Maria Scipio
Translated and transcribed by Brian Webb

I’ll talk about how food was handled in the past. Everything was kept. This is what I’ll talk about. This was when the Canada Geese were still abundant.

In September, the geese were plentiful. Even though so much geese were harvested, every part of the goose was still kept and saved. This was before freezers were available. The women still managed to keep and save everything.

The women worked non-stop cleaning geese during the time of plenty. They cleaned and dried the geese in their cooking teepees. This was before freezers were around. When freezers became available for us, we still kept and saved the different parts that were edible.

Even the feathers were not thrown away. We also keep the down feathers to this day. The outer feathers are kept separate.

During the time when geese are fat, we made dried geese. Sometimes, the very fat geese was skinned and sliced so that the fat could be fried and rendered in a cast iron pot. That fried skin tasted delicious and it wasn’t greasy. We rendered a lot of goose grease.

Even the goose intestines were kept and saved and the grease was rendered. Even the intestines that were falling apart, we still boiled them to render the grease. This grease was kept separate. The goose belly fat was fried to render the grease, and the grease from the skin as kept separate as well.

The throats of geese were collected if there were no pellet holes. The lining was peeled and then inflated to dry.  It didn’t take long to dry. These were used to contain grease. Many of these grease casing were made and kept in cold storage so the grease could solidify. When we wanted to eat the grease, the grease incased in the dried esophagus was sliced.

Goose grease was so important and carefully saved. This was because when dry meat was boiled in the winter, the grease was eaten with the dry meat. When dried meat was boiled, the grease was eaten with it. Eating this type of food was delicious and nothing was thrown away.

All the women made dry meat. They even dried the goose wings after cutting away the long bones. The meaty part was kept on the wing and hung over the fire. Dry meat was made so that it could be kept for later.

We also cleaned the goose heads. We cut off the skulls that wasn’t meaty. The neck and the jaw were attached together and hung over the fire. Even this dripped with grease as they smoked over the fire. They hung over the fire for a short time. Before freezers were available, the dry meat was hung in the rafters of the teepee.

Once the meat was totally dry, it couldn’t go bad. These are what people kept and saved. These different parts of geese were packed separately by women. The smoke dried goose skin was stored separately as well.

Today, we don’t totally dry geese anymore. We simply cook the goose parts for a short time. Then we put it in the freezers. The food cannot spoil.

Even the goose gizzards. We slice the gizzards into long thin strips and hang them over the fire. We don’t let them cook too long. Once they’re cooked, we take them away from the fire. We let them sit there. Once they’ve cooled down, we freeze them.

This is how we store and keep geese. This is what everyone does at our camp. Nothing from the goose is thrown away. We were not allowed to be careless with this type of food.

The down feathers that we keep, we make down feather blankets out of them. These are so warm. We used to send out the outer feathers to sell them. We can’t do this today. But these outer feather can still be used. You can make a good mattress out of the outer feathers. It is made the same way as a down feather blanket. These were what we used as mattresses in the past.

Once the fabric was sewn, it was stuffed with feathers. These were used as mattresses. The down feathers were used for making blankets. We still use them today. Nothing is thrown out. Only the flight feathers are not kept.

Every part of the goose is used and kept. When we still dried geese, we even dried the goose feet. They were cut in a certain way to dry. They were rinsed first. We spliced them and hung them on a string. We hung the feet in the teepee to dry. We boiled them for a long time to eat them.

This is what we do with the goose. When geese were still abundant, there was great joy when cleaning the geese. I’ll stop talking about the goose.

We handed the ducks the same way. We cook them over the fire, even if we can’t eat them all right away. We still make dried ducks. The duck is cut into a long sheet and hung over the fire. This is what we do with this type of food.

When we camp out in the bush during springtime, we do the same thing with fish. People keep and save fish. The fish are dried totally also. The suckers are good for making dried fish and pounded to make powdered fish. They are first hung over the fire and then hung in the rafters of the teepee to dry.

Once they are totally dry, that’s when they’re taken down. This is when they’re pounded or kept to be pounded later. A nice smooth round stone was used to make powdered fish. The hammer stone was used to pound the fish. This was also nicely made. This was how people made powdered fish.

When dogs were still in use, fish were also dried for them so they could eat in the summer. The fish for dogs were also dried. Powdered fish for the dogs were kept separately.

The fish heads were skewered on a roasting stick and roasted by the fire. The fish heads were also dried. These were to be used for dog food. People cooked food for the dogs. The powdered fish was boiled for the dogs. During the summer, dried fish was boiled for the summer when we were in the community. When we were out in the bush, we gave them the fish right away after we had checked the fishnets.

Everything from the fish was also kept. All the food was dried, even the food for the dogs. Dry smoked fish were also made.  We don’t do this today because we have freezers. We don’t make dry meat as much. So the fish we keep in the freezer is tender. This is how we keep fish also.

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