Taste of Sapmi

Few Swedes have tasted Sami food. Not even in Jämtland or Härjedalen, which is part of Sapmi, the region of the Sami people. Reindeer tenderloin with chanterelle mushrooms at an up-market restaurant is wonderful, without a doubt. But, until you have tasted blood pancake or reindeer broth with marrow, you haven’t even begun to explore the Sami food culture.

Nose to tail

Sustainable, free-range, nose to tail, minimal wastage of raw materials, these are the clearest and strongest food trends in the world right now. It is a good trend as it creates an awareness of the value of food and respect for the planet we live on. But this is old news for Sweden’s indigenous people, the Sami. The Sami have a long tradition of living in sync with nature.

Cooking in a so called Murikka-pan over open fire. Photo: Tina Stafrén

South Sapmi

Sapmi is the area of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia that we call the Sami region. In our mountain regions of Jämtland and Härjedalen, reindeer husbandry has been the most important industry. The reindeer is a fantastic animal and the food we get from reindeer is both sustainable and healthy. The reindeer roam freely in our mountains, they give birth to their calves in the spring and they’re finally gathered in Sami villages for slaughter. There are no wild reindeer in Sweden today, all have owners.

Making use of everything has been a guiding principle and a necessity through all time. The traditional food is rustic and no-frills, and getting to taste the food is an experience. Like any food culture it reflects the people and says much about the Sami way of living over many hundreds of years.

Feed the reindeer in Trillevallen, Åre
Feeding reindeer. Photo: Tina Stafrén

Hävvi in Glen

Elaine Asp who runs the restaurant Hävvi in Glen has succeeded in putting the Sami cuisine well and truly on the Swedish gastronomy map. Glen is part of Tossåsens Sami village in the Oviken mountains. You could say that Elaine’s establishment is located completely in the middle of nowhere, at the end of the road. Or as Elaine puts it, where the road begins! Elaine married into a Sami family and she has taken the Sami food culture to her heart and made it her own. You can come here to taste regular Sami home cooking as well as more fancy food such as slow cooked meat with “klimp” (a type of local dumpling), tongue and crispy pancakes made from reindeer blood served with lingonberries from the local forest. Obviously there’s not only reindeer on the menu, there’s all kinds of the finest foods from the lakes, mountains, forests and marshes in the area. You can also book trips to experience the everyday life of the reindeer herder, way into the wilderness. A swedish tradition is eating “julbord”, meaning a grand smörgåsbord of all kinds of goodies. At Hävvi in Glen you can savour the extra special kind of Julbord with the tastes of Sapmi.

 

The tradition of Swedish Julbord - Christmas buffet

To a visitor it may seem like any other buffet with loads of different kinds of foods, but the Julbord (Christmas table) is sacred to many Swedes. Of course there are differences between the south of Sweden and the north as well as there are themed Cristmas buffets, like the one served by Hävvi in Glen in Tossåsen, and from family to family. But there are a few dishes that are more common than others:

  • Sill (Pickled herring) – Comes in a variety of sauces. The most common is with onions and the second most common is a creamed mustard sauce.
  • Julskinka (Christmas ham – A breaded ham sliced on order, often placed as the centerpiece of the table with a decorated fork for a handle and a knife on the side.
  • Leverpastej (Liver paté) – You get better points as a host if you make it yourself.
  • Rödbetssallad (Red beet salad) – Creamed with the red beets in little dices. Served with home made (or bought) Swedish meat balls.
  • Ost (different kinds of cheese) – Both hard cheese and soft variations. Preferably local produce. Served with crackers and grapes.
  • Janssons Frestelse – A casserole made-up of julienned potatoes, sliced onions, anchovy fillets and cream, baked in the oven.
  • Prinskorv – Tiny sausages often cut at the ends to make them dressed to the party.
  • Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs) – No Christmas without it! In the north of Sweden they are traditionally made from minced moose meat.

There are lots of restaurants in Sweden serving Christmas buffet from December 1st and up to Christmas Eve. Large companies often treat their employees or customers to Julbord as a sign of good will. So if you feel like trying the Swedish Julbord, but not cooking yourself, a good way of experiencing the flavours is to visit a Christmas market in Sweden followed by a Julbord!

  • Kokt potatis (Cooked potatoes) – To go with all the salty foods.
  • Revbensspjäll (ribs)
  • Lutfisk – A remnant of the fasting traditions from way back in time. It was common to dry the fish and soak it before Christmas for days to get all the saltiness out. Served with a white creamy sauce and spiced with some ground white pepper.
  • Tunnbröd (thin leavened bread) – A must on Christmas tables in the north of Sweden.
  • Ris a la Malta – Rice pudding with cream and vanilla sugar for dessert along with Swedish cookies, fudge and home made toffee called Knäck. Pigs made from marzipan is equally common.
Hävvi i Glen - Elaine Asp
Elaine Asp, Hävvi in Glen. Photo: Tina Stafrén

Visit a Sami village

A visit to Njarka Sami village is a little more accessible for the whole family. Njarja means cape in the southern Sami language, and this summer camp is located right on a beautiful cape. Maud Mattsson takes the visitor into the everyday life of a herdsman and tells the history of the Sami people through captivating stories, often told in the glow of the open fire in the Sami tent. Visitors can also stay overnight in Sami tents, far from everyday life but very close to the reindeer. These magnificent animals roam freely among the tents here, sometimes enticed by the hostess with some extra fine lichen.

Since reindeer meat was traditionally prepared to be stored for a long time, it can very easily manage a long journey home with you from Sweden. Dried and salted reindeer meat is a delicacy and a true taste of our region.

Njarka is not open on a regular basis. Contact Njarka for more information.

Njarka Sami Camp | Photo: Sandra Lee Pettersson & Tina Stafrén
The sign for Njarka Sami village. Photo: Tina Stafrén