• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 24s

Nome students’ culinary adventure: pickling muktuk

By Heather Hintze 8:44 PM October 10, 2014
NOME –

It’s a home economics lesson you’ll only find in Alaska.

“It’s fun,” said Sadie Ellison, smiling. “I like the feeling and how it’s all oily.”

On a Friday in early October, Nome Elementary School fifth graders spent their afternoon wielding ulus and cutting up muktuk.

“Muktuk is kind of a fishy, acquired taste,” Tom Gray described.

“I’m not a big fan of it, but it’s okay,” said Sadie, turning up her nose.

Every year, Gray harvests about 10 beluga whales from the Bering Sea. Those that are still alive when he reels in his net will get a satellite collar to be tracked by scientists.

With his latest catch, he invited students out to get an up-close science lesson.

“I like to see kids hands-on,” he explained. “We dissected the whale and looked at the heart, the lungs, the whole system inside.”

While a couple students were a bit squeamish around the carcass, many — like Sadie — enjoyed the unique learning experience.

“I like how when he was cutting it open, he showed us the heart and the liver and we cut up the intestines,” she said.

Gray brought in several large portions of muktuk for the kids to cut up. They sliced through the soft grey flesh and blubber with ease thanks to their sharp ulus.

The students learned how to pickle it, though Gray said his family prepares it a number of different ways.

“Some of it is aged. My wife is aging it,” he said. “It will render and soak in its own oil and get real stink and some people really love it.”

While he helps the kids with their cutting skills, his wife BeeJay prepares the pickling ingredients: lemon, onion, sugar, pickling spice, vinegar and of course, muktuk.

“Oh, this is lots of fun,” she said. “If I could do this all my life with kids I’d be a happy camper.”

BeeJay grew up eating the Alaska Native staple, but whaling isn’t as prevalent as it once was in the small coastal town. Sharing the experience with the students is a way to get them interested in their culture and hopefully get them to carry on Native traditions.

“I won’t be here forever to put it away, so I want to teach as many people as I possibly can,” she lamented.

About 60 families will benefit from all the meat the Gray family harvests. Tom Gray hopes that, in addition to putting food on the table, he’s also inspired students to consider his profession for themselves.

“We’ve got about 30 kids here that we’re planting seeds, so to speak, so we can have whalers and I’ll get muktuk as an elder,” he said.

It’s a chance for the students to get back to their Native heritage, so they might one day give back to their community in the same way.

Latest Stories

  • Politics

    Immigration law experts react to SCOTUS decision on travel ban

    by Steffi Lee on Jun 26, 20:40

    The Supreme Court of the United States will hear full arguments on President Donald Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries while letting parts of it go into effect. The decision came down Monday. It impacts foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In the 9-0 ruling, justices will not allow the ban […]

  • Politics

    Impasse on oil tax bill stalls special session

    by Liz Raines on Jun 26, 20:33

    Lawmakers are still in special session, but only a handful are in Juneau. The capitol building will likely stay empty for the rest of the week, perhaps longer. That’s because Gov. Bill Walker has only put one item on the agenda– and it isn’t the one either side wanted. Lawmakers were expecting to take up […]

  • News

    Klatt Road roundabout design concerns some drivers

    by Heather Hintze on Jun 26, 17:54

    Drivers in South Anchorage are learning to navigate a new roundabout. Alaska Department of Transportation crews spent more than one month constructing a new traffic circle at the intersection of West Klatt Road and Johns Road. Some people took to social media to voice their complaints about the roundabout’s design, saying the concrete barriers in […]

  • News

    State gets approval for survey work for Cold Bay roadway

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jun 26, 17:49

    Governor Walker announced Monday the state has received permission to begin survey work that could lead to a road between King Cove and Cold Bay. Walker said he got a personal phone call Monday morning from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting him know the state could begin survey work to seek a route with the […]

  • News

    2 Marines badly burned in ground flash fire on U.S. base

    by CBS News on Jun 26, 15:13

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. — A ground flash fire on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar injured two Marines performing aircraft maintenance on an F/A-18 Sunday night, base officials say. The region has been experiencing extremely high temperatures, notes CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV. “Both Marines are currently being treated for severe burns at […]

  • News

    Duck pond at Cuddy Park is much cleaner

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jun 26, 13:50

    A “Don’t Feed the Birds” campaign seems to be making a difference when it comes to the duck pond at Cuddy Park. Thom Eley with the Anchorage Waterways Council said levels of fecal coliform, the bacteria that comes from bird feces, is normally sky-high this time of year, but two recent tests show the levels […]

  • Man wanted for failing to appear on assault charge

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 26, 13:47

    A 19-year-old man is wanted by Anchorage Police for failing to appear in court. Dominik Lacell Spivey has an outstanding warrant for failure to appear related to an assault charge from last March. Spivey is described as 5-foot-10, weighing 170 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. If you have information on his whereabouts, you’re asked […]

  • Humpback whale breaches super-close to boat off NJ coast

    by CBS News on Jun 26, 13:22

    A New Jersey man videotaped a humpback whale surging out of the water right alongside his small fishing boat last week, and the footage has gone viral. The whale showed up in the waters just a mile or so off the northern coast of New Jersey. Paul Ziolkowski, of Union Beach, caught the moment on […]