Monday, August 06, 2007


Well, kids, here's my zaniest kitchen experiment yet! And OH my goodness! This is paleo heaven!

What is akutaq??? Otherwise known as "eskimo ice cream", it is actually a traditional Native Alaskan food made from caribou fat, seal oil, fish, and berries. Traditionally, fat was whipped together with seal oil, fish and berries, and served as a nutrient-dense, rich food and treat.

Why on Earth did we decide to make akutaq? Well, being that I'm eating a gluten and dairy free diet, most deserts are OFF the menu. No pies, no pastries, no ice cream, no cookies. But, humans have a way with sweets, and have invented wonderful ways to satisfy their cravings. We decided that we'd give akutaq a try!

Considering that we don't live in Alaska (yet), we had to acquire fats other than caribou and seal. So we got some beef fat trimmings from the butcher (natural and free range please!), and took them home to render into a white tallow. We ended up with about 1/2 lb of beef fat, which rendered down into about 1/4 c of tallow. We put the beef fat and tallow into the food processor, with about a 1/2 c of coconut oil, and a tablespoon of cod liver oil (seeing how we had no seal oil, we figured it was a good substitute, tasty and nutritious too!). We whizzed it together and then added 1/2 lb each of frozen blueberries and blackberries, and a tablespoon of agave nectar. (Though I suspect it would have been perfectly delicious without the agave nectar.)

WHIZZZZZZ, and out came this fluffy pink delight, called Akutaq! No, we didn't add fish to it this time...but I'm willing to wager on it's equal yumminess in the concoction! Instead we added a handful or so of fresh whole blueberries. It tastes much like a berry mousse, with a hint of meaty-ness, but it really wasn't overwhelming at all - just a nice rich overtone. Maybe caribou fat and seal oil lend it a meatier flavor as well. Now I'm imagining the variations that could be created with this basic recipe. You could add nuts after whizzing together in the processor, or add cocoa powder for a chocolate mousse, or vanilla extract, or any number of other yummy fruits! Or how about fresh mint leaves and chocolate chips! Mint chocolate chip akutaq!

Coconut oil and beef tallow are mostly liquid at room temperature, so we stored this in the fridge until we were ready to eat!

Now, some of you might be concerned with the incredibly HIGH fat content of this Paleo dessert I've just described. Indeed, it is probably 70-80% fat, but both coconut oil and cod liver oil are well known for their health benefits and essential fatty acids. Fat from free range animals is incredibly nourishing, with the right ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins A and D, zinc, and even some protein. Fat is NOT your enemy! Fat is a vital nutrient! Your brain is composed of about 70% fat! Fat DOES have more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, so you probably don't want to make this an every day treat if you are trying to lose weight or living a sedentary lifestyle. But if you live in the harsh, cold winter of Alaska, you can eat this every day! This was a food meant for sustaining life and warmth in a harsh climate, and a very active lifestyle.

I'm moving towards eating a diet modeled on paleolithic nutrition, which excludes such high carb items like grains, beans, dairy, and sugar. Fat and protein become very important nutrients for the body with the exclusion of carbohydrates. But if you add a lot of fruit or agave nectar to this, it becomes a little more rich in carbohydrates. Remember, this is a treat, not a meal! We were only able to eat a small bowl after our dinner, perhaps 2 oz of akutaq, and frankly, I'm stuffed! A little goes a long way!

So if you Google "eskimo ice cream" or "akutaq", you might find a lot of recipes that call for Crisco, Wesson oil and white sugar. In my mind, this is what I'm calling "Trading Post Akutaq", a gross and downright poisonous modern version of what should be a very nourishing traditional food. Native peoples who once used traditional ingredients now have available these modern distortions of what was once food. Once white man set up his trading posts and cities, Crisco and white sugar became available. And natives, robbed of their traditional lands and livelihoods, end up relying on trading post modern foods. I think it terribly sad to see such a nourishing food become so perverted by modern standards. If you are up to making this delicious treat, please don't make it with Crisco, Wesson and sugar; stick to our paleo-friendly whole foods, REAL animal fat from wild or at least free range animals and nutrient-dense, brightly-colored whole fruits.



jim mcdonald said...

you so kick ass, darcey.

Shamana Flora said...

Thanks Jim! The akutaq kicks ass too! We're thinking of honey vanilla cinnamon flavored next!

Soliloquy said...

Wow, as a traditional-foods enthusiast, that sounds FABULOUS! I'll have to try it.

Stephanie said...

Very impressive!

Nanci said...

Tried the original when we lived in Alaska. Very interesting, unusual texture and taste. Sweet enough for those who do not eat sugar. Not greasy at all...

beonlygood said...

I've had it with bear fat, good but rare. I'd like to try with coconut oil now that I'm quite sold on it. Akutaq is similar in concept to the Native American Indian pemmican: fat mixed with dry meats and dry berries; high in energy calories, portable, good for a period of time without refrigeration or preservatives.

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~