Pioneer Potluck: About Big Bodies Of Water And Whales

Year 1967

North Kenai, now Nikiski, Alaska

I arrived in Alaska in 1967 with three little kids and three suit cases.  It was my first ride on an airplane and about my first time out of the state of Colorado.

Never in my 29 years had I seen a large body of water or the ocean or big river, until I came to Alaska.  I thought Cook Inlet, with its muddy glacier silt and strong rip-tides, was absolutely beautiful.  I still do.  I never tire of going down to Arness dock and look out over the water and marvel at the ever changing beauty.  It has changed through the years.  The sunken landing craft for a dock is gone and a wonderful large dock in its place. The oil rigs in the Inlet have multiplied, produced oil and some are shut down now. I still get great joy in showing newcomers and our visitors, Arness dock or as they call it now - OSK.  I kid people and tell them I was born in Colorado on a mountain top and the biggest body of water was a rain puddle.  Only half true.  I was born and raised on a farm in Northern Colorado and the biggest body of water was mud puddles we played in and the largest stream of water was an irrigation ditch.  Black Hollow Lake held irrigation water.  The swift waters of the Poudre Canyon and Big Thompson Canyon required days of planning and a few chickens to kill, pluck and fry so we could enjoy a picnic in the mountains.  So when I saw all the ponds, lakes, streams, Kenai River, Cook Inlet and the ocean out of Homer, I was both fascinated and terrified.  I cannot swim a lick and do not like water in my face and I am not terrible found of boats.  I do not particularly like to fish, but love to watch other people fish.

One day shortly after we arrived in Alaska, I had to find a job in a hurry and was offered a bookkeeping position at Offshore Fabricators, located at Arness Dock.  After the interview, I went back to get my kids being baby sat by my new friend Helen.  I wanted them to see how beautiful Cook Inlet was.  Beside, said my new boss, "The Beluga's are in."  "What are they?" I asked.  "Big white whales," he said,  "Go down to the dock and walk out on the ship (a sunken liberty ship poured full of concrete to make a dock)  and you can see them jump out of the water."  Wanting my kids to see everything, I hurried up the hill in my old Willis Jeep, put the kids in the jeep and thanked Helen for taking care of them.

I drove back down to the dock and parked where the sign said "no parking" and walked with my kids in tow, onto the big World War II Landing Craft.  That was my first time I had ever been on a boat, sunk with cement or other wise.  We walked the long expanse of the deck sticking high out of the water and walked up to the bow, leaned over the railing with the other on-lookers and started looking for Beluga's.  ALL OF THE SUDDEN this BIG creature leaps high out of the water!!

My heart jumped out of my throat and I took off running.  I stopped when I got to the edge of the dock, realizing then, I had left my kids standing out there!!  The kids shouted MOM, their eyes wide with shock.  I hollered what was that???? A bystander, who later became my good fried said, that's a Beluga.

I had to walk all the way back out to the bow of the boat, while everyone was giving me side ways glances to retrieve my kids.  They wanted to stay and watch for more Belugas and I had to act like I was brave enough to stay and watch.

My boss and all the welders in Offshore Fabricators shop were looking out the big wide doors and saw my swift get-away.  They were impressed at how fast I could run.  They eventually became my good friends and I was always teased about the first time I saw a Belugas and my running abilities.

My kids reminded me when I went to get them in the old green Jeep,  that I parked very close to the "no parking" sign, just in case we had to leave in a hurry.  They think I thought Beluga's were as big as Jonah's whale.  The kids knew how scared I was of water, boats and a ship in this case.  They also knew that I wanted them to see everything in the great state of Alaska.  They tell me that I made them hold hands and walk down the middle of the sunken ship with its concrete deck, so we would not fall off or be thrown overboard.

When we got to the bow of the ship. I instructed them to hang on tight to the railing, don't climb on it, don't move around, just stand still and watch.  The next thing they remember is the Beluga jumping out of the water, me screaming and taking off down the middle of the ship without them. In there utter disbelief Mom was running away from them and leaving them stranded.  After all I had told them NOT to move.  My oldest daughter says that when I walked back to retrieve them, down the middle of the ship I was shaking like a leaf and barely could talk.  I must have been quite a site.  A tug boat tied to the dock and all those guys in the fabrication shop saw this lady who had lost her mind, running down the middle of the deck screaming at a Beluga jumping out of the water.   And that is how I made my mark and my beginning in Alaska.

The series is written by a 44 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends.  She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years.  Some are her own creation.  Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook.  She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.

Grannie Annie can be reached at


Annie’s Beer Batter for Salmon and Halibut

I want to thank all my old friends for all their input many years ago with this recipe.  There are many versions.  This is mine. 

Depending on how much Halibut or Salmon you are frying.  This recipe makes a small batch, enough for about two salmon or halibut or one of each. 

Cube and cut fish in about 1 to 2 inch pieces, taking out all the bones, the grey fat and blood.  Soak in lightly salted water for 30 minutes.

Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside on large paper toweled cookie sheet. 

In a large bowl mix:
1 cup pancake mix – Krustez is preferred
1/4  tsp each of :
Celery salt, garlic salt, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper.
1/8 or more of Cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 cup or more of Bob’s beer – warm.  Be sure the beer is room temp or the batter will be too thick. 
Stir until smooth and medium thick, not too thin batter.  A little thinner than pancake batter.  Let set for an hour at room temperature.  Deep fat fry until golden – do not over cook.  Does not take long to cook fish.

Keep warm in oven until all is fried.  Serve with horseradish sauce.

Red Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/4cup horseradish-grated or sauce. 
Add more to taste.
This stores well in refrigerator

Tartar Sauce
2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup either dill relish or sweet relish
1 tsp grated onion
1/4 cup lemon juice

2 to 5 or 6 drops of Tabasco

Enough buttermilk or milk to make a nice smooth sauce.  Start with a fourth cup.

This stores well in glass pint jar with lid in refrigerator.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Custard Dessert or Pie

This is very versatile and good warm or cold. Served with Vanilla Frozen Yogurt or whip cream

For a Custard dessert:
Butter an 8 x 8 glass dish

In a large bowl Mix:
4 cups of rhubarb
2 cups cut up fresh strawberries or 1 cup of frozen strawberries, thawed, *drained.
1 cup of brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Instant Tapioca
1/4 tsp nutmeg.Mix and toss gently, until rhubarb and strawberries are coated.

Stir in:
2 eggs slightly beaten
Pour into buttered dish, dot with butter. Sprinkle with topping
Bake 10 minutes at 450%.  Reduce to 350% for 30 minutes.  Serve warm with Vanilla Frozen Yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream.

For delicious Pie:

#1 Line and 9 inch pie plate with pie crust.  Pour in above ingredients, sprinkle with topping and bake as directed.

#2 Pour ingredients into a prepared graham crust, sprinkle with topping and bake as directed.
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4cup flour
3 Tbsp cold butter cut or rub in.

Sprinkle atop the dessert or pie and bake.

*Optional for frozen and thawed strawberries. Thicken the juice from the strawberries, a few drops of lemon juice and small amount sugar with a small amount of corn starch by heating on stove top and cook until thick.

Serve over Vanilla Yogurt, Ice Cream or whip cream

Ditcher Dave’s Mock Lobster

Our good friend for years, Dave loved to cook and make jellies and jams.  He has been experimenting and cooking in the big kitchen in the sky for several years.  We miss him.

Thaw or use fresh halibut, cut in about one and a half inch chunks.  Dave used the last 4 inches of the tail, “then it will turn out to resemble little lobster tail.”

In a large saucepan heat:
2 quarts of water
3 tsp ground ginger or 1 Tablespoon fresh grated
1 Tbsp garlic powder or 4 cloves of garlic
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8th cup salt

Bring to a boil; turn heat down and let simmer, covered, 5 minutes. 

Bring back to boil, lay fish carefully in water and turn OFF THE HEAT, cover and let stand for 30 minutes in hot water. 

Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and cool on broiler pan. 

Put in fridge to cool, if you are doing this earlier in the day.

OR proceed after taking out of hot water and draining and cool slightly.

2 tsp paprika
4 Tbsp melted butter

Brush the fish several times.

Just prior to serving, put under hot broiler for about 8 minutes, watch carefully.  Serve immediately with more melted butter and lemon juice.  A green salad and rhubarb pie, and sourdough bread is great with this wonderful tasting dish.

Have a piece for Dave.

Baked Whole Salmon

Use a 6 to 8 pound salmon, gutted, scalded, washing inside of fish with running water to get rid of blood.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Place on foil lined, well oiled, shallow pan that fits the fish.  I use a cookie sheet. 
Combine 2 Tbsp lemon juice with 1 teaspoon salt and rub the inside of fish.

Shake ground paper inside fish
Set aside while you prepare the following – once again optional to all.
1 large onion sliced and separate into rings.
1 green pepper, (red and orange op) slice and toss with the onions
1 carrot peeled and sliced thin.
One half thinly sliced lemon and a few orange slices. Reserve rest of slices for serving
2 Tbsp parsley sprinkled over vegetables.
2 slices of bacon, diced, uncooked.  This gives the fish a slightly smoky taste.

Place the vegetables, fruit and bacon inside cavity of fish.  Place foil loosely over top and bake in preheated 400% oven for 20 minutes.  Turn oven down to 350% for 35 minutes.

Remove the tops foil and bake 15 minutes. Test with knife to see if fish is done in the largest part of fish.  Remove from oven and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes. 

Carefully lift fish to a warm platter, or as we do in Alaska, cut away the foil, decorate with lemon and orange slices and parsley and serve right from the pan.

Bake potatoes are very good with this, green beans with bacon, and onions and large slices of sourdough bread.

Cheese cake from the store for dessert.

Baked Fresh fish Steaks

2 pounds of fresh salmon or halibut steaks or other good fish.
Wash and dry fish. 

Rub with olive oil. 

Season with:
Garlic salt and cracked pepper and other optional seasoning of your choice.
Place in a glass dish on a bed of sliced onions, celery and a few slices of green pepper (op). 

Topping is a matter of choice and how many calories you want to consume.
Spread sour cream over top (op)
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese
Sprinkle with dry bread crumbs
Dot with butter (op)

Bake covered with foil for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 20 to 30 minutes.  DO NOT over cook.  Serve with buttered noodles, tossed with butter, garlic salt and parsley.  Steamed broccoli and Mexican cornbread or muffins. Don’t forget the sourdough bread.


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Year: 1969, North Kenai, Alaska, now Nikiski, Alaska

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