Depending on where in Alaska you are, there are many different variations on the recipe for agudak (pronounced ah-goo-dak; aqutaq in Yup'ik spelling), also known as Indian ice cream or Eskimo ice cream. More northern and interior regions used caribou or moose tallow (fat). Areas next to the sea would use whale or seal fat. Over time, Crisco has taken on a commanding role in this recipe. I like this version because it has lots of fish and berries, and Crisco is more of a binder than a main ingredient.Evelyn Elliott showed me this version, which includes using whitefish. Evelyn is from Bethel, a town in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Southwest Alaska. Whitefish is a subsistence river fish that has a flaky, neutral texture. I would recommend using cod for a similar result, as it has flaky flesh and a more neutral flavor than other Alaska white fish.While fish, berries, sugar, and fat for dessert may not be in culinary vogue at the moment, this dish is very much alive in Alaska. You will more than likely see agudak on the table at weddings, birthdays, potlucks, funerals, and other celebrations. I have used this recipe myself at Alaska-centric events. Evelyn showed me this recipe when I catered to the National Indian Health Board Culture Night in 2011. There were five hundred attendees from the circumpolar region and the United States, and I was honored to prepare food from around the state to highlight the many regions of Alaska. For me, this represents the resourcefulness and resilience of Alaska’s people. More than likely, agudak began as a way to preserve berries beyond the summer.
- 8 ounces white-fleshed fish (preferably Alaska cod)
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup Crisco
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup (5 ounces) frozen raspberries
- 1 cup (6 ounces) frozen blueberries
- 1. Bring the water and fish to a boil, drop to a simmer, and cook until the fish is poached. Cook through until it flakes apart, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- 2. Strain the water and reserve. Let the fish cool for about 5 minutes.
- 3. In a tabletop mixer using the whisk attachment, add fish, Crisco, and sugar, and whip until it all incorporates and aerates, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- 4. Add the reserved liquid sparingly to assist with aeration, about 2 to 4 ounces on average.
- 5. Add the berries last, and pulse.
- 6. My personal preference is to have the berries bleed into the agudak, leaving some whole berries for texture.
Helpful Hint: There are many different variables to this recipe, including the type of fish used, the sweetness of the berries, and how much vegetable shortening you want to use. So please taste, feel, and look to make sure you get the result you want.