From moose tongue to rabbit stew: some Indigenous holiday dishes

From canned moose to rabbit stew, here are just a few of the meals that Indigenous people are sitting down to this holiday season.

Bullets and bangs, moose tongue and wild rice among holiday dishes enjoyed in Indigenous communities

From rabbit stew to Cree pudding, here's a selection of holiday dishes. (CBC)

When it comes to holiday food, most people probably think of turkey. But in Indigenous communities, the choices can be as diverse as the individuals who prepare them.

From canned moose to rabbit stew, here are just a few of the meals that Indigenous people are sitting down to this holiday season.

Rabbit stew

For Algonquin chef Cezin Nottaway, holiday cooking usually involves rabbit. (Cezin Nottaway)
For Cezin Nottaway, 37, the holidays usually involve rabbit stew.

An Algonquin chef, Nottaway regularly cooks traditional foods learned from her grandmothers — or "kokomic" in the Anishinaabe language — as part of her business, Wawatay Catering.

Using her grandmother — or kokom's — technique, Nottaway will tenderize the rabbit meat with salt pork, let it simmer for two hours, and later add potatoes to it. Once the potatoes are cooked, she adds a "slurry" of water and flour.

The second method uses celery, rosemary sprigs, garlic cloves, half of a salted pork, peppercorn, salt and two beers, all in a dutch oven. Nottaway says the two secret ingredients for this dish are Dijon mustard and homemade maple syrup.

Over the last few years, Nottaway has been involved in a recipe book, winning a Quebec entrepreneur award through the Jeune Chambre de commerce de Montréal (JCCM). Expanding her staff, she continues to build her kitchen and hopes to eventually turn it into a restaurant. Nottaway was born in Rapid Lake, but raised in Parc de la Verendrye, Quebec. 


Stephanie Feletto's holidays include Boo-dnin, a type of pudding enjoyed across Quebec and the North. (Marlene Kapashesit)
Stephanie Feletto, 46, is from Moose Cree First Nation in Ontario, but raised in Moose Factory, along the James Bay coast. She remembers the smell of her grandmother's house when she would make a steamed plum pudding, called boo-dnin.

It's a traditional delicacy, well known in Quebec and Ontario coastal communities.

Making boo-dnin required the burning of white sugar and the creation of a soft "pillow" filled with raisins and currants, with spicy aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. The mixture would be wrapped in a cotton cloth and placed in a small amount of boiling water. It is the steam that eventually cooks the boo-dnin, with small amounts of boiling water added throughout the cooking process.

Feletto says when it's done, it's like unwrapping a surprise. The best part of the boo-dnin is the top of it, having a candy-like texture and sweet flavour from being exposed to the steam. Boo-dnin is best served warm. 

Canned moose, moose tongue

For Ann Davies-Sutherland, the holidays meant eating canned moose meat and moose tongue with her grandparents, Hilda and Reg Lizotte. (Ann Davies-Sutherland)
For Ann Davies-Sutherland of Grande Prairie, Alta., the holidays involved eating canned moose meat and moose tongue with her grandparents, Hilda and Reg Lizotte.

This is the time her papa would give her a pillow case of dry meat, too. Davies-Sutherland said her grandmother's cooking is what brought the family together, especially during the holiday season.

The canned moose meat, actually in a mason jar, would be cooked in its own gravy on a stove, says Davis-Sutherland. The meat was so tender, it melted like butter, she said, and had a salty and sweet flavour.

While the moose tongue was roasted and served with gravy — a tougher meat, but still good. 

Moose tourtière

Moose Tourtière is a dish Michael Dumont said he has been perfecting for years. (Michael Dumont)
Michel Dumont, 49, from Thunder Bay, Ont., with Ojibway and Métis roots, celebrates the holidays with a tourtière made from ground moose or deer meat. 

It's a dish he's been perfecting for years, he said, especially after misplacing a family recipe box many years ago.

Dumont also celebrates the season with sugar pie, something his mom used to make and blood sausage.

Boiled seal, arctic char

CBC Indigenous also received quite a response when we asked our readers to share some of their holiday food memories.

Aana Kristensen posted on CBC-Indigenous' Facebook wall that she will be marking the holidays with roasted caribou, boiled seal meat or goose. And, maybe even some frozen arctic char.

Brenda Michelle Courchene-Greyeyes wrote that her family often had "bullets and bangs," on New Year's Eve — which is a traditional Métis dish.

"The bullets are meatballs in flour and onion gravy and the bangs are fried bannocks."


Originally from Obishikokaang (Lac Seul First Nation) located in northwestern Ontario, Martha Troian is an investigative journalist who frequently contributes to CBC News, including work on the multiple award-winning and ongoing Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls. Follow her @ozhibiiige