Ruka/Erä-susi Huskyfarm -3°C gloomy and grey.
The story of a youth who went forth to 'hunt' a reindeer-a Lapponian culinary delight!
Obviously I did not shot the reindeer myself, but I was always curious how reindeer taste! Since I had a day off I got my warm clothes on and walked to the 8 km far Ruka, a little village that consists actually of 2 souvenirshops, a supermarket, ski renting companies, loads of ski slopes, 3 big hotels and some restaurants and bars. It takes you 10 minutes to see everything which Ruka village has to offer, but still it was a nice change. Actually I felt quite strange- the village is enlightened with loads of fairy lights and blinking decorations, but the village seemed to me quite abandoned. I saw just a few people in the streets and the ski slopes, but the restaurants, bars and shops were devoid of people. Sitting alone on a little red bench waiting for the bus home I heard unsettling alpine folk music. The voice of an old gentlemen singing in German about his love to the beautiful, green mountain world accompanied by brass band and accordion resounded in the empty square from the loudspeakers somewhere behind me. I was sitting in front of a place called 'alphut' (German 'alp cap')... It was so weird!
But to come back to the reindeer-story...In Finnish Lapland live around 200.000 reindeers (more than humans) which are running free almost all over the year. In spring the reindeer fawns are born in freedom in the forests and during the summer month the breeders round them up in order to count, cure and mark their own animals. Every breeder cuts his personal cutting pattern in the reindeers' ears, some of them use ear tags, too. Then they are released again until wintertime. Because winter is really rough out here they get encaptured again and are fed with some extra fodder. Obviously you can train them to pull a sledge, too. I was told, that normally for pulling a sledge are used just males, because they are stronger, look nice with their big horns and the females are pregnant yet. Sooo...the males have to work to the delight of the tourists who are the main asset of the region.
Reindeers are quite shy and not like cows or horses fully domesticated. At this point is remarkable that the reindeer is the only cervid specie that was tameable at all. The reindeers are semi-wild living in close contact with their few human neighbors. During my first trip to Lapland in November 2013 it often happens that reindeers crossed the streets and highways. My guide at that time have told that reindeers tend to lick the gritting salt from the asphalt to provide themselves with minerals.
Even if they are no dangerous, aggressive specie one should take care of the reindeer horns. When a reindeer feels threatened or get spooked it might throw its head suddenly around and catch accidentally what is in range of their sharp pointed horns. The fur is really thick and isolates really well. A reindeer has 2700 up to 3500 single hairs per cm2. I guess the reindeer is even more connected to Lapland than the dogs; the reindeer is Lapland's true mascot!
Reindeermeat is quite expensive, even in Finland the price for reindeer meat tops already the costs of cow meat.Since the demand, especially during christmas and new years festivities, is huge due to the many tourits who want to try the traditional Sami dish. You can buy it in every supermarket and it is exported all over the world.I recently read an article (click to read the German version!) about a trading agreement about Islam-compatibly slaughtered reindeer meat between Finland and Katar-the market for halal-reindeer meat is expanding.
The reindeer meat is rich of protein, vitamin A.B.C and PP having at the same time a really low fat content. which makes it unique! Since the animals spent nearly their whole life wandering, always moving and eating what they can find in the relatively untouched nordic nature, their meat is a high-quality, biological, really healthy source of nourishment. And as such the reindeers are admired and protected by the Sami, who followed their herds for centuries through their animals' peripatetic routes and became an essential element in Sami folkloritic and culture. Today just 5-8% per cent of the Sami still subsist on the breeding and raising reindeers, but they don't adhere to a nomadic lifestyle anymore.
Today I wanted to taste this 'wonder-meat' myself, but since I don't even know how to prepare and cook it, I decided to order myself a nice reindeer fillet in a restaurant I've been before. (Last time I was invited to have dinner there I had an grilled salmon which was simply fantastic! -Ruka-Colorado)
I got 160 g grilled reindeer fillet on red wine-cranberry sauce and red currant jelly with roasted vegetables and oven-baked potatoes with house made garlic-herbs butter decorated with fresh thyme. Sounds great and tasted even better!
The meat was medium cooked and very delicate, not rubbery at all. It's characteristic, rich flavour game meat use to have, is quite strong and might not be everybody's taste, but I hardly recommend to test it at least. It is worth, even though I could have easily survived two weeks in Germany with the money spent for that
dish. It was really tasty and the service was really friendly and attentive, too! I would order it again, if I could affort that!
Knowledge of the day: Tipping is not compulsory in Finnish restaurants.