Seal has been a basis for life for many people throughout history. Since the first Inuit inhabited Arctic Canada and Greenland, seal has been decisive for the ability to survive. The Åland islands were inhabited over 6.000 years ago by people who came to fish and hunt seals. And seal has been an important source of meat for food, blubber for oil, fur for clothes and skin for ropes in all the countries around the top of the globe.
Common name: seals
Scientific name: pinnipedia
Average life span in the wild: up to 30 years
Size: 3 feet to 20 feet long
Weight: 100 pounds to 4.4 tons
There are 32 species of pinnipeds, most of them known as seals. Pinnipedia is made up of three main groups: The walrus, the eared seals (including different kinds of fur seal and sea lion), and the earless seals (they do have ears, they are just hidden!).
At Îles de la Madeleine in Quebec, Canada, there has always been a tradition of eating seal meat and the butcher Réjean Vigneau has specialised in making cold cuts and other traditional butcher products out of seal meat.
Réjean Vigneau has a butcher’s shop in Cap-aux-Meules at Îles de la Madeleine in Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Growing up with seal meat and being a seal hunter himself, he set out to make more out of the meat than the traditional stews. Applying methods from treating game meat and traditional butchering craftsmanship has resulted in various seal meat products both at his shop and as export to restaurants in Quebec and Montreal.
The work of Réjean Vigneau has been inspirational for the further work of New Arctic Kitchen.
Obviously, seal meat has been subject for experimenting for centuries and travelling the
Arctic and the Canadian east coast, you will meet various different traditions. But seal meat has only briefly entered the modern kitchens, only in a few restaurants in Quebec, Montreal and Nuuk will you be able to find seal meat on the menu.
Seal is getting a revival in the Åland islands
“There is so much you can do with seal meat, as long as you have a bit of knowledge and inspiration”.
Viktor Eriksson, chef Åland
Viktor Eriksson is a chef and a hunter and has published a book on seal meat.