When I think of colder weather, I think of hearty soups and stews that warm you up from the inside. Hunter soup is one of those soups. It’s a simple way to serve what has been obtained from the hunt during the start of the season in autumn as well as throughout the winter months.
Up until the 1950s, there were households in Norway subsisting completely, or almost completely, on hunting. As people created more permanent settlements, their approach and reliance on hunting changed. Today, very few people hunt as an occupation or means of income, but rather spend the time and money to go simply for the wider experience of nature, recreation, and self-sustainability.
Hunter soup, or jaktsuppe, utilizes the season’s hunt in a simple and satisfying way. Rich cuts of venison star in this dish, and you can use what you have on hand. Many of the recipes in traditional cookbooks, dating back to the early 1900s, typically flavor the soup with a dash of sherry and thicken it with a flour slurry. My recipe leans more to the velvety side with fresh cream swirled throughout and a brightness from fresh kale.
It’s easy to imagine cooking this over a hot fire in the mountains, the pot hanging over the flames and the rich scents filling the air as bowls are passed around and the soup is ladled into them, steam rising. Though, sitting indoors in the cozy warmth of the home is just as ideal. Bowls will be empty and bellies will be satisfied.
Hunter Soup (jaktsuppe)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/3 pound (150 g) thick bacon, cut into small pieces
- ¾ pound (350 g) venison, thinly sliced (I use shaved reindeer)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 to 6 small potatoes, cubed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 ¼ cups (1 ½ liters) venison or chicken stock
- 2 handfuls (50 g) chopped kale
- ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the bacon fat in the pan, and set aside. Add the venison and onion, and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes or until the meat is browned and the onions are softened. Add the garlic, potatoes, and salt, and cook 2 minutes longer. Return the bacon to the pan. Add the stock, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through, but still keeping shape. Add the kale and stir in the heavy cream. Continue cooking, uncovered, for 5 minutes to bring the flavors together. Season to taste with pepper and more salt if needed. Serve warm.