Food Preparation and Storage
Our ancestors lacked refrigerators, freezers and modern food processing and packaging methods. Nonetheless, they devised several effective methods for cooking food, preserving the surplus and protecting it from hungry predators.
When they killed large animals such as moose or caribou, families moved right to the site to process meat, hides and other useful products. The animal was skinned and hides were tanned, with or without the fur attached depending on the ultimate use. Meat and fish were set on coals or hot rocks to roast. Smaller pieces of meat and small animals were grilled on sticks turned over the fire. Women made a variety of soups and stews using containers made from birchbark, animal stomachs, rawhide and woven spruce roots. After filling the vessels with meat and water or snow, they gradually heated and cooked the meat by adding hot rocks. Fat was rendered using this same stone-boiling method. The grease was stored in containers or mixed with berries and dried meat to make a type of pemmican, an ideal trail food.
Berries were stored in birchbark baskets. The top was secured with another piece of bark sewn on with spruce root. The basket was buried and the berries remained fresh for several months. Dried meat was set on high caches safe from dogs and other animals. Once the weather became colder, meat could be frozen and sometimes stored under heavy rocks. Meat and fish were dried, making them easier to pack and store. Strips were cut and hung on a rack over a smoky fire. People even dried fish eggs.
Lena Malcolm preparing the meat for drying.
Drying meat. Dorothy Alexie (right) and Angie Joseph-Rear.
Robert Alexie, Georgette McLeod and Sandy Dubois dressing the moose head.