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REINDEER

How to cook reindeer from frozen: recipe

Cast Rudolph and his friends to the back of your mind and feast on this traditional dish known as tjälknöl in Swedish. Our recipe was recommended by food writer John Duxbury.

How to cook reindeer from frozen: recipe
Tjälknöl, served with vegetables. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food
Tjälknöl is an ingenious way of cooking a large piece of meat. Tjälknöl is really two words: tjäle means ground frost and knöl means tuber, like a potato tuber.
 
The result is an absolutely stunning piece of meat, quite dense, slightly salty and delicately flavoured. 
 
Summary
 
Serves: 8 or more people
 
Preparation time: 15 minutes
 
Cooking time: At least 12 hours
 

Sami reindeer herding. Photo: Hans-Olof Utsi/imagebank.sweden.se
 
Ingredients
 
At least 1kg (2lb) frozen boneless piece of reindeer
 
1000 ml (4 cups) water
 
250g (1 cup) salt
 
2 tbsp sugar
 
1 bay leaf
 
1 tsp crushed black pepper
 
2 tbsp crushed juniper berries
 
Method
 
1. Put the frozen meat on a rack in an oven heated to 75C (170F) or as near to that as you can get.
 
2. After two or three hours insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. The meat will be ready when the thermometer reads 65C (150F). Allow about one hour per 100 grams (15 minutes per ounce), but be guided entirely by the meat thermometer as ovens vary so much at low temperatures.
 
3. When the meat is cooked, mix the water, salt, sugar, bay leaves, black pepper and juniper berries in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
 
4. Place the cooked meat in a bowl just big enough to hold it or use a large polythene bag and pour the hot marinade over the meat, ensuring that all the meat is covered. Put a lid on the bowl or tie the bag and leave to cool completely for 4 or 5 hours.
 
5. Remove the meat from its marinade, pat dry and slice as thinly as possible.
 
Serving
 
Tjälknöl should be served cold and sliced as thinly as possible. It is usually accompanied by potatisgratäng (potato gratin) and/or fried diced root vegetables and rårörda lingon (stirred lingonberries) and/or syltad svamp (pickled mushrooms).
 
Tips
 
– As ovens vary a lot, particularly at low temperatures, keep an an eye on the meat the first time you try this dish. Once you know your oven you should be able to cook the meat overnight.
 
– Although this recipe was originally developed for cooking reindeer it also works well with venison, elk (moose) or beef.
 
– The meat keeps well for several days in a fridge if wrapped in foil.
 
This recipe by Christer Frånlund was originally published on food writer John Duxbury's website Swedish Food
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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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