It’s getting to that time of year again when Santa will be harnessing up his reindeer ready for his grand tour. But they’re not all as lucky as Rudolph and company, most are going to end up on a Scandinavian or Finns dinner plate.
Reindeer have been domesticated for many thousands of years. Archeologists have found bones of reindeer in caves in South West France dating back to somewhere between the Bronze age and the Ice age. The Sami people of the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia continue to live a life herding reindeer. They use every bit of the animal, the fur they use for coats or shoes, even the bones and antlers are made into knives and ornaments. They now have huge ranches where the reindeer graze on grass, herbs and lichen. The caribou in the North American arctic have never been domesticated and that is essentially the only difference between them and the flying sled pullers.
Reindeer meat is much lower in fat than any other red meat, only 2% in fact so it’s a very healthy choice. It has a clear, gamey taste similar to venison only sweeter and with a smoother finish. It is a very lean and tender meat so the steaks of reindeer lend themselves well to serving pink. Otherwise a slow cooking method is advised, perhaps as they do in Finland stewed in snow. Obviously, avoiding any with a yellow tinge.
Reindeer milk has a very high fat content so the Scandinavians produce delicious cheeses from this. While in Lapland they tuck into reindeer soup and reindeer calf kebabs. In Sweden reindeer meat is often served as a delicacy at the Christmas dinner table. Next door in Norway, dried reindeer meat is the choice chomp at the cinema, just as ubiquitous as our popcorn. The Sami people also smoke the meat and call it Suovas and this is regularly served as part of the prestigious Nobel Prize dinner banquet. On the menu at an Italian restaurant in Finland, is the Pizza Rudolph but then reindeer burgers, sausages and pate are all commonplace in this region of the world. In fact Santa himself, who hails from this area, will probably be sitting down to a tasty reindeer roast dinner after all his exertions, on Christmas day.
Photos courtesty of Flickr - Jom Manilat, Travis S, ae fusion and maikki.p