June 30, 2016

Rankin Inlet caribou leaves state dinner guests 'speechless'

Original story on the states dinner can be found on cbc but from my experience many stories and links go dead and we eventually loose access to many wonderful stories. So I am preserving this story, because smoked infused caribou meet like this meal is definately on my bucket lists of foods I would love to experience.

Caribou from Rankin Inlet served at Tuesday's state dinner was so delicious it apparently left guests speechless. (WO Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2016)     
Rankin Inlet caribou. Hot smoked with dried heather. Roasted at a low temperature. Served rare with maple sauce and foie gras butter sauce.
That's what was on the menu at Tuesday night's state dinner at Rideau Hall to honour Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The event, hosted by Governor General David Johnston, was also attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and around 100 other guests.
Rideau Hall's Executive Chef Louis Charest puts the finishing touches on a platter which includes caribou loin from Rankin Inlet. It was served at Tuesday night's state dinner. (WO Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2016) 

"Of everything served last night, the caribou is the one that got the most feedback. I'm still hearing it today and I'll be hearing about it for a few days," said Louis Charest, Rideau Hall's executive chef.
"Apparently, some people at the table were speechless," he said. "Somebody was eating it and they couldn't put words to it.
"I wanted the main course to highlight a more different protein. I thought the main focus should be on caribou," he said.
The caribou was sourced from Kivalliq Arctic Foods in Rankin Inlet. Only six kilograms of meat was needed to serve 106 guests.
Charest was inspired to hot smoke, or quickly smoke, the caribou after a visit to Kugluktuk last summer. 
Caribou from Rankin Inlet (right) was served at Tuesday's state dinner alongside other foods from across the country, including a Niagara prosciutto, lobster and sweetbread pavé (left) and early summer vegetables. (WO Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2016)

While he was there, he cooked with community members, including a feast with caribou on the grill and heather thrown on the barbeque.
Charest had a friend send dried heather to Ottawa so he could recreate the experience.
He was also looking to bridge two cultures.
"In Mexico, there are a lot of meats that are cooked around a fireplace and a lot of wood smoke, but slowly over a long period of time," said Charest.
"So that smokiness I thought to me made sense to highlight a little bit of something that both countries would have in common," he said.
This isn't the first time Charest has included food from the Arctic on his menus. Arctic char, although often farmed, has been used. Or deep fried maktaaq poutine on a stick at the Arctic Inspiration Prize reception.
"Personally, it's very important to showcase the Arctic," Charest said, adding people often overlook it when composing menus. He's hoping to change that as more people become aware of what the Arctic has to offer.
"In a way I think it adds a little exotic element to have products from the Arctic showcased on the menu. It's Canadian exotic products because they're so hard to find."

Indian Ice Cream - soap berries

Well I have not been one to be posting much on the blog these days but food security and food security continue to inspire me and have been feeling more and more compelled to be sharing food stories and especially indigenous food stories more and more lately.

On a hot day like today, it is especially motivating to share an indian icecream recipe using traditional berries and something I just have to try soon. I did not write this story or recipe but simply sharing story already shared on Traditional Native Healing.  Its a pleasure to read stories and amazing stories and food experiences that use our original sovereign foods , techniques, knowledge, etc... I just LOVE IT. So many thanks to the original story tellers, please continue to share knowledge relating to our original foods, seeds, medicines and more and keep our circle strong.

Soapberries: their benefits and uses

Hi everyone!

I was busy in the past few days and have not had a chance to add new content. However, as I went to my usual Tuesday night Pow wow, I gather some intel for this post 😉 Indeed, I talked natural remedies and plant based products with a merchant there. As she was whipping a pink foamy mixture with an electric mixer, I got curious. So I ask what it was. Her response: soapberry indian ice cream. Well I had seen this foamy “ice cream” before at Pow wows but had never known what it was. As she told me that soapberries are thought to contain numerous positive and healing properties, I decided to research them a bit.

Native soapberries or buffaloberries or foamberries

So as I did my research, I came to the realization that there are two types of soapberries. The kind I am discussing here are the soapberries using by Native nations, especially on the West Coast. They look like the berries above and below, a bright red/pink fruit. The other kind of soapberries are also referred to soapnuts and are used as ingredients in natural detergents. Yes that’s right. That type of soapberries are contained in shells containing saponin, a compound responsible for some of their healing properties and cleaning properties (as it has foaming properties).

The “native” soapberries grow in a shrub that can survive harsh climates and pretty much any kind of soil. The shrub itself is about 3 to 6 feet high with loose branches. A soapberry shrub will need about 5 to 6 years to produce fruits. it produces a fruit that is often described as bitter (I can attest to that…) but when eaten has been reported as being an effective mosquito repellent. Go figure! Berries are collected from the shrub by placing a tarp under the shrub and beating the branches bearing fruits with a stick. Only the very ripe ones will fall down.

So what can soapberries do?

As I said, soapberries are used by many nations, here in BC at least (like the Lillooet nation or the Shuswap nation). Not only are they eaten in dishes as they contain high vitamin C (like the indian ice cream described below) but they have also been used by native people to treat high blood pressure, digestive disorders, acne and bringing on childbirth to name a few. However, as the native soapberries or buffaloberries also contain saponin, they must be consumed in moderation as they can upset your stomach. They can also be used externally to make cleansers or even shampoo. 

But wait, there is more!! The roots, leaves and bark can also be used medicinally. Boiled inner bark can be used as a laxative or a infusion of the bark can be used as an eyewash (remember it has cleansing properties). The brew has also been used to soothe an upset stomach, to treat stomach cancer, constipation and venereal diseases. Similarly, a brew using the stems and leaves can be used as a wash for cuts, swellings and sores. The roots of his little miraculous shrub also have an anti-hemorrhagic property, in other words they stop bleeding as well as purge and cleanse. They have also been used as an aid to childbirth and to treat tuberculosis. Jeez that shrub does a lot!!! Who wants a soapberry shrub in their backyard now?

Ok but how do we eat them? Indian ice cream!

Well soapberries are rarely eaten directly, due to their bitter taste. They are most commonly mixed into something. They can be crushed and be used to make lemonade or tea. And yes they can be found in indian ice cream! Yes I know you are all wondering what the heck I am talking about. Let me explain by reminding you that soapberries contain saponin, which gives them a foamy quality. Meaning that when beaten, they become foamy. Vigorously beating them raises the foam level. So the soapberries are crushed then can be mixed in different ways. More than one recipe is out there. The woman I saw at the Pow wow was beating hers with water and sugar. That’s it. The result looks like the picture below. I included a larger image so you can see its texture. It’s basically as light as air and is often eaten in large gatherings like Pow wows. It is served in little cups. What does it taste like?? Well…..I can only describe what I tasted. The original taste is somewhat sweet but then an ashy/bitter aftertaste sets in. I was told that it is normal to have that aftertaste and that one gets used to it. I can’t say it was bad, as the texture is very interesting and fun but one cup was enough. I will continue to try it though to see if the ashy taste goes away.

 But as I said, there are variances in how one makes indian ice cream. Indeed, Alaskan natives call it akutaq or agutak. It is basically salmonberries (similar to soapberries) mixed with fat. Yes you read that right. Berries and fat. It can be animal fat or good old Crisco. Same principle of crushing the berries and beating them with fat. The consistency is less smooth and more lumpy, like you can see below. What do they call it? Well Eskimo Ice cream of course.

 Have you ever had soapberries or indian ice cream?? Share your comments or experience below!