As the sun shines from a clear blue sky in March you may wonder what on earth is hanging on the balconies or from the ceilings of the verandas of houses in Rovaniemi and also on other places in Lapland!? It is an old Lappish tradition to dry reindeer meat in the sun in the beginning of spring. The Lappish people love dried reindeer meat; especially people in the country side are used from home to dry meat and they have also taken the tradition with them to the city..
Meat is traditionally dried in the late winter-early spring. The March wind and the strong variations in day and night temperatures dry out the meat quickly. The meat is hung to dry in an airy place until it is ready. When the meat is ready, it is no longer red inside. It should be dark, almost black through and through. The speed at which it dries depends on the weather. It is not wise to leave the meat hanging for too long because over-dried meat is tough to cut. You can dry all parts of a reindeer carcass; usually meat on the ribs, fore loin and shoulder are used for this.
People in Lapland use the dried meat for a snack. They carve dried boneless meat into thin slices and eat them as they are. But you can also prepare a dried reindeer meat soup with potatoes and milk. It is not easy to buy this meat, but in spring time the dried meat is sold in vacuum packages on some places in Lapland.
What you traditionally can order in any restaurant in Rovaniemi made from reindeer is the sautéed reindeer and mashed potato. To prepare that by yourself at home you need:
1 kg meat for sautéed reindeer, 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 1 dl water, 2 teaspoons of salt.
Put the meat into a pot with melted butter or margarine and brown the meat. When all the meat has thawed and browned, add the water and salt. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer under the lid for 10-30 min. Serve with the buttered mashed potatoes and some lingon berries. This is absolutely my favorite reindeer food!
The sautéed reindeer meat you can buy from the deep freezer of any Supermarket in Lapland all year around. It can be used in many ways, even as filling on a reindeer pizza. Minced reindeer meat is also sold as deep frozen products but also tinned, which is easy to transport and store. You can i.e. prepare a warm soup from tinned reindeer meat.