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Pioneer Potluck: Arness Dock, Nikishka Beach

Posted: March 7, 2012 - 10:09am

Nikiski, Alaska 1969

You want to do what?? Said my husband of 4 months. "I want to buy those fishing sites down by Arness Dock."

We don't have any money! He said "I'll do a trade with my Dad for my property in the mountains of Colorado." We don't know anything about beach fishing! "We can all learn. Betty and Gene will help us." Well, OK if you can get the money, I guess we can be set-netter's.

I called my Dad, who was always looking for a bargain, and he agreed (after hesitating about 3 minutes!) to loan us $14,000 to buy 7 beach sites. He had the property in the mountains, with the agreement that if he sold them he could keep $18,000 and send me the rest, if and when it sold.

We moved our little family of 5 girls and a boy to the beach. We bought sleeping bags of World War II vintage, all down filled, all in good shape, I thought, from Army Navy in Kenai. We built a big bon fire on the beach, that glowed and kept us warm all fishing season. We built a tri-pod for the cast iron Dutch Oven to hang and went to Dobbenspect's Fish Cannery, at the mouth of the Kenai River, where they gave us credit to buy things like rope, nets and bouy's for our fishing site. In turn we sold (traded) them our fish.

They also had a food commissary where we piled up on groceries and canned goods.  Lots of Spam, canned bacon, canned hams, and canned whole chickens. Oh, don't for get the beans - lots of beans. I cooked every meal, breakfast, lunch and supper over the camp fire. A challenge that I loved. I baked bread, cakes and cookies over the fire. I opened cans of canned chickens and made homemade noodles to dump in the hanging Dutch oven over the camp fire. Added dehydrated onions. Passed out the spoons and large soup cups and we all had a hot meal in our tummies at supper time. After a day of pulling fishing nets, picking fish out of them and resetting the nets, that chicken noodle soup was very good with a big slab of bread with butter. Other days we had a big moose roast with all the vegetables around it. Put the lid on the Dutch oven, hang it on the tri pod and let it simmer all day. There was NEVER any left overs, because Betty and Genes two kids and our 6 kids and 4 adults sopped up ever morsel.

On special occasions, our precious fish was cubed and dipped in Gene's beer batter and deep fried in oil, in the same Dutch oven. With Bettys great coleslaw and garlic bread, what a nice meal that was. Everyone within miles of our campfire, came to enjoy the great food and wonderful company, which lasted into the early morning and on into the next day, usually.

Sleep drifted in an odd times for the kids, so we rolled out the sleeping bags around the fire and they were warm, snug as a bug in those down filled WW II sleeping bags. Sometimes a rolling kid in a sleeping bag got too close to the campfire and a spark burnt many a hole in them. It caused this Momma great concern and later we built a A frame cabin with a loft, for everyone to sleep in. The kids would crawl out of the loft, looking like the chicken factory had exploded, as those great WWII sleeping bags leaked, and I am sure some due to the holes from the campfire. 

Sometimes the whole night was just dusk and with the beautiful sunset bouncing off the mountain tops, in all its red, orange glory and the reflection in the water, was just spectacular. So many a night of sitting and gabbing with all our neighbors and friends around the camp fire, the night slid right in to morning. It was time to set the nets againat 7. Then some of us would crawl into a sleeping bag and catch a few wink's of sleep before the tide came in of went out and we had to pick fish - hopefully. The coffee pot was always on the forever camp fire. with the smell of frying bacon and pancakes, one by one  little sleepy heads and big tired sleepy heads would crawl out of their sleeping bags and find a cup for coffee.

The wonderful paper plates and plastic "silverware" were a must for me. Betty liked her china plates, cups and silverware and did not mind washing them up after wards-but I did!

There was always something to do, mending nets, untangling nets and pulling sticks from the nets, before dragging them  back down the tides edge to be set before the tide came back in. We always walked down the beach with our heads down, looking for the illusive agates, listen to waves and the occasional shout from someone...."I found a big one!!" I can hear the waves now and feel the warmth of the sun.

OOPS! we still have 10 foot of snow in our yard!!

Well, I can dream!

Beer Batter for Salmon and Halibut

Take two cans of Bob's beer and let it sit at room temperature while you fix fish and batter.
For one 5 to 6 pound salmon-skin and de bone and cut in 1" cubes.
Pat dry with paper towel. Lay in layers on paper towel lined cookie sheets
Keep chilled
In a large bowl:
1 cup Krustez Pancake Mix
1/4 tsp each, celery, garlic, onion salt
1/2 tsp lemon pepper or just black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, don't leave this out, as it brings out the flavors.
1 tsp paprika
1 can or more of Bob's beer, warm
Mix and stir until very smooth. Batter should be medium thin, just to coat fish. Adjust the liquid in the batter is to thick if necessary. Let set at room temperature at least an hour.
Heat peanut or vegetable oil in deep fat fryer to the highest heat at least 350 to 400%. Dip well dried, fish cubes in beer batter, let drip off a few seconds, and place carefully in hot fat. Repeat but do not crowd. Fry until dark golden. Drain on toweling and serve with home made tartar sauce or red sauce.

Grannie Annie's Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tblsp finely diced or grated onion
2 tblsp sweet or dill relish
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 to 4 shakes of Red Hot Pepper sauce
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice

If dip is to thick thin with buttermilk or milk
Chill for a few hours before serving.

Red Sauce
1 cup of Ketchup
1/2 cup horseradish
Mix and let chill for a few hours.

Betty's Coleslaw

1 head of Alaska grown cabbage
Shred with a thin knife like you would be making sauerkraut
Shred a large Alaskan carrot
Or grate or sliced thinly in food processor both cabbage and carrot
Best Food Mayonnaise - Betty said you HAD to use Best Foods
1/2 cup or 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar, if you like it sweeter increase to 1/3 cup
Mix cabbage with a sprinkle of salt. Mix with the mayonnaise sauce. Chill
Added additions:
Fine chopped onion
Fine chopped celery
Fine chopped green or red bell pepper
Add dill weed or caraway seed
Any or all goes well with the slaw salad.

Mexican Cornmeal Muffins

I cheat!
1 to 2 boxes of Jiffy Cornmeal Mix
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
Jalapeno diced, as much as you like
2 tblsp diced red bell pepper
A sprinkle of red cayenne pepper
2 to 4 tbsp whole corn
Mix and bake as directed with in well oiled muffin tins or a oiled 8 x 8 pan.
Serve with butter and I like honey on it too!!
Extra additions: Crumbled bacon

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