Making Ugruk Hash, Also Known as Eskimo Butter…..

Here I am at the home of Roy and Flossie Nageak, who I commonly refer to as my Barrow family.  It was at their home where I ate my first bearded seal and also had the opportunity to make the delicacy known as ugruk hash or eskimo butter.  Their son Ernest got a  bearded seal the previous evening.  Flossie and her sister, Mae are doing the butchering (it is common for women to do the butchering).

Quite frankly, I find the women to be far more efficient than the men at skinning and butchering.  The women are very fussy about the manner in which the animals are skinned.  Today, Flossie and Mae are skinning the seal the “Point Hope” Way.  Note that they are leaving the blubber on the carcass.  This requires a great deal of talent to leave the maximum amount of blubber on the carcass and avoid accidental incisions on the skin!  Once the skin has been removed, then Flossie and Mae will go back and remove the blubber.  These are photos of me using an ulu to make very thin blubber slices.  These slices will go on the inner surface of the skin to keep it soft while the skin is dried and the hair falls off.  Remember this is one of the skins that will be used on the umiaq (skin-covered boat) during spring whaling.

Here are photos of Roy tying up the skin after the blubber slices have been placed on the interior aspect of the skin.  The skin is rolled up tightly, tied and placed in a box.  The skin  is dried  for an extended period of time until the hair falls out.  The blubber slices help prevent drying out of the skin.

What is ugruk hash or eskimo butter you might wonder?  Well in anatomical terms it is a section of jejunum that has been removed from the gastrointestinal tract.  Water is poured into the lumen to wash away the parasites.  Then, in histological terms, the tunica serosa and tunica muscularis are removed using the thumb.  What is left is then chopped over a piece of blubber to add flavor.  This delicacy is served raw with pilot crackers.  Have I eaten it-oh yes I have!  I have provided photos  of Mae making the treat  so the reader can visualize what I have described.

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