In the winter, all food may be conveniently preserved by freezing. In
this way, surplus fresh meat, especially if a large supply from a hunt is
on hand, is preserved for later use.
Hunting game and catching fish - and preserving fish and meat - has the
practical purpose not only of replenishing supply but of fulfilling a
social need. Thus, a traditional native cultural event is to set up spring
camp and to fish, hunt and cure the harvest, and at the same time enjoy
visiting with family and friends.
Most people are able to look after curing their own food supplies, but
each community seems to have some people who are especially skilled at
making cured food. Cured dried meat is given to special friends and
especially to older people who are no longer able to cure their own meat.
In addition, cured fish and dried meat are traded among friends and other
Fish is cured both for human consumption and dog food. Fish caught in
warm weather must be cured within hours to prevent spoiling. The procedure
is basically catch, cure and store. Different processes are used for fish
as human food than as dog food.
A fish for human consumption is first cleaned and split down the centre
of the back but left joined at the tail. The skin, head and fins are
removed, with only the meat remaining, as a fillet. The larger bones are
removed and sometimes the small bones are removed also, by plucking them
out individually. Then to prepare the fillet for drying, it is cut to
about half the depth of the meat, from one side to the other. These cuts
are repeated every 25 mm along the fillet, giving a lattice appearance.
This is done to expose more of the flesh to the curing process and to give
a uniform cure throughout the thickness of the meat.
The latticed fillets are then hung on a pole a metre or so above a low
smoky fire for drying and curing. The smoking may be done in the open air
and sun or in a smoke tent. In both cases smoke from the wood fire on the
ground is directed to the meat by hanging a hide or canvas in the right
spot or by locating the smoking operation close to the bush that shelters
Smoke tents are typically conical in shape, resembling a traditional
teepee. Curing tents are common in rural areas of the North, even in
modern communities of the 1990s.
Most people have a favorite recipe for smoking fish. The object of
dry-curing is to preserve the fish for later consumption within days or
weeks. Cured fish and meat are eaten dry or may be boiled or baked before
Reprinted from Bush
Land People with the permission of the
author. Copyright Terry Garvin, 1992-2002.