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Inuit Delicacy: Sea Birds Fermented in Sealskin

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The BBC Human Planet Explorer team recently traveled to Greenland’s Siorapaluk, one of the northernmost inhabited villages in the world, to watch Inuit prepare kiviaq, a fermented delicacy of seal skin and sea birds.

This recipe originated from ancient indigenous methods of preserving food to survive harsh winters.

First, meat is removed from sealskin, leaving a thick layer of fat. After forming a bag with the skin, it is packed with 300 to 500 little auk birds. Once stuffed and pulled tight, the skin is sewn up. Seal fat is greased around the exterior to act as a repellent to flies. The sealskin bag is then hidden under a pile of rocks to ferment for three to 18 months.

When the darkness of winter pervades the landscape and game inevitably becomes scarce, Inuit families dig up the kiviaq. It is generally consumed outside due to the pungent aroma. One BBC commentator described the taste as a mix of liquorice and sharp cheese.

The bird meat is tender from the seal fat, so it is enjoyed raw and whole with the frail bones. Supposedly, the heart is the most savory part of this Inuit delicacy.