Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Working on Ugruk, Part 2


After yesterday's butchering, today it was time to kuvrak the blubber off the skin. The easiest way to do this (in my opinion) is to lay the whole skin over an a-frame, but everyone has their own favorite way to get it done.

It was nice to have lots of help. We are all wearing rubber gloves because working on Ugruk is a very oily, messy job. The advantage of wearing gloves is if you need clean hands in a hurry all you have to so it pull your gloves off.

We had plenty of ulus to go around. Even people who have no experience can cut blubber into strips to we put everyone to work.

Uyaana is learning. He has watched many times but this is his first time cutting blubber.

To make seal oil you need to take the blubber off the skin.

You do this by scraping slabs of blubber off with your ulu.

The goal is to leave no blubber on the skin, but that's much harder than it looks. If you slice to shallow you leave lots of blubber on the skin. If you slice too deeply then you will ulik (cut/tear)the skin.

Maija and I took turns kuvrak-ing. It's lots of hard work so it's nice to have a partner.

Maija has a nice big piece almost ready to be cut off.

Here is Maija with a big slab of blubber which she is going to put on the table behind her.

The folks at the table cut the blubber into smaller strips and throw them into a bucket.

Cutting it into strips helps speed up the process of rendering.

When you cut up the blubber and put it into the bucket it will self render without heat. You just stir the blubber a couple times every day. The oil just melts out of the fatty tissue and makes seal oil. How long it takes to render out depends on the size of your strips and how warm out it is.

Here Saima and Stacey are helping us Kuvrak. It was nice to let them take over so we could have a break.

Almost done.

I also finished cleaning out the ingaloks and hung them up to dry for a while.

So this concludes part 2 of working on Ugruk. We're not done yet. We still have lots of work to do to finish this one.



Cate said...

Hello! Love your blog. Your pictures are fantastic -- there really is a quality difference between cameras. I also love your A-frame idea and may try it next time (though getting plywood out here is harder than turning rocks into gold). You may like my blog, too, as we are your coastal neighbors to the south, in Hooper Bay... try this post, from last month:http://hooperbaytundra.blogspot.com/2009/05/baptized-by-blubber.html

The Force Family said...


the california guy said...

I would like your pictures to go to the San Diego city council--You know how to solve the seal problem at Childres's pool in La Jolla!!

Mrs. Hurzeler said...

Thanks for showing us! It is nice to be able to see pictures of people and actually recognize them!

Anonymous said...

Cathy, I could spend hours on your blog. You are phenomenal and every blog post you write/photograph is a lesson in geography, anthropology, sociology, photography and, last but not least, humor!

Love it!
Liz (from Ninny's Notes blog.)

Finnskimo said...

Blubber is right...blubber on ME. Hooooly cow. I'm going to print one of these and put it on the fridge, to sway me from eating too much good stuff like cheetos and fish spread!

Dean smoked some fish last night and I thought we should try some smoked Ugruk. I told him I'd get him a piece to try! :)

Becky said...

This is fascinating to me. I love that these traditions are carried on and that you're documenting them.

Sooo...what DOES seal taste like?

Grace said...

That is so awesome. I just showed my mom and she's totally addicted to your blog. We can't wait to see the seal oil after it's rendered.

Rocksee said...

Wow.. I can't wait to read the rest of this. It's truly fasinating and it's awesome to have someone teach you about a part of your life that is very common and to us down south is very foreign.. Really amazing.

Conchscooter said...

Thank god there is no smell here. I think I'd rather have a Cuban sandwich all the way, somehow.

Way Way Up said...

I found it interesting while viewing this post that even though the North is such a huge mass of land and your community is hundreds and hundreds of kilometres away that the cultural activities being performed here do not seem at all out of place in comparison to what I see here.