Reindeer “reindsdyr” is a livelihood and staple food for the Sami, the northernmost indigenous people of Norway, Sweded, Finland and Russia’s Kola Peninsula. Once exclusively nomadic reindeer herders, they continue to see the reindeer as an important part of their cultural identity – with some still carrying on the tradition of herding reindeer. Many of their culinary traditions have entered into the wider Nordic cuisine, with dishes such as bidos and finnbiff more commonplace.
In celebration of their national day on the 6th February, I’m sharing this recipe for shaved reindeer and beef burgers with lingonberry mayonnaise. Reindyrskav is reindeer meat that is cut into very thin slices while the meat is frozen. Initially, the frozen meat was buried in the snow and could be dug up and sliced/shaved thinly when needed. These thin slices meant the need for tenderization was reduced, so the less tender cuts of the animal could be used. The preparation was also quick, which was handy for hungry and cold herders.
Today, the method for scraping is roughly the same as it was. Reindeer shavings are prepared and frozen to be readily available for purchase from shops. The thin slices thaw in a short time or can be used while still frozen and they easily tear into smaller pieces, if needed. Reindeer meat is naturally lean, only about 7.5% fat, which is why pairing it with ground beef that has a ratio of 80 % lean to 20 % fat provides a juicy and tasty burger.
Lingonberries, like many wild berries growing in the Nordic region, are a common addition to Sami dishes. Here, I utilize lingonberry jam to make a simple mayo that adds a nice sweetness and tang to the rich and juicy meat. A few spinach leaves, slices of cheese, and crispy bacon round these burgers off.
If you cannot access reindeer, you can use moose, elk or venison. If the meat is not shaved, you can freeze it and then slice off thin pieces with a sharp knife. Just let the meat defrost before adding it to the ground beef.
Shaved Reindeer & Beef Burger (Reinskav-Burger)
For the lingonberry mayonnaise:
- ¼ cup lingonberry jam (substitute with cranberry jam/sauce)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
For the burgers:
- 7 ounces (200 g) shaved reindeer meat, defrosted
- 14 ounces (400 g) ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- Cheese, such as Jarlsberg
- 8 slices bacon
- 4 hamburger buns
- Baby spinach leaves or other greens
To make the lingonberry mayonnaise, in a small bowl, stir the lingonberry jam and mayonnaise together. Set aside. Depending upon the sweetness of the jam, you may want to add a little more until the desired taste.
For the burgers, in a medium bowl, combine the shaved reindeer meat and ground beef. Form the meat into 4 equal-sized patties, pressing your thumb into the middle of each to make a little indention. Season the patties on both sides with salt and pepper.
In a large frying pan, melt about 2 tablespoons butter over high heat. Add the patties and cook for about 3 minutes per side, flipping once until your ideal doneness. Place 2 to 3 slices of cheese on each patty during the last minute of cooking and cover with a lid until the cheese melts. While the patties are cooking, you can fry the bacon until crispy and toast the buns in a separate pan with some butter.
Add a good dollop of the lingonberry mayonnaise on both sides of each bun. Arrange some baby spinach leaves on the bottoms of the buns then top with a patty, followed by the bacon. Finish with the bun tops and serve immediately.