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Reindeer Suovas - Slow Food Presidia

Reindeer Suovas


Reindeer meat is the traditional food of the Sámi people, a native European tribe that live in an area called Sápmi, an arc of land spreading across the north of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. The Sámi speak dialects of the indigenous Sámi language and their culture has been shaped by the extreme cold and isolation. Here, winter lasts 200 days a year, during which temperatures sometimes dip below –30°C. During two fleeting months of summer, berries can be collected along with wild grasses and lichens, but the traditional food supply remains almost entirely dependent on the giant herds of reindeer that migrate annually to the mountains. Today, about 3,000 of the 35,000 Swedish Sámi are reindeer herders, a vocation that is limited to ethnic Sámi by law. The Sámi's reindeer are semi-wild and they pass the winter grazing in forests, moving to higher altitudes to graze in spring and summer. The Sámi are no longer nomadic—and some novelties such as helicopters and snowmobiles have radically changed the way they herd—but reindeer herders must follow their herds between the forests and the high mountains every season.
Much of the traditional Sámi food was developed to remain edible for the long periods when the nomadic Sámi were on the move. One of the most traditional preparations of this special, flavorsome meat is Suovas. Suovas is prepared by dry-salting meat and smoking it in a traditional peaked hut for eight hours over an open fire. Suovas can be cut into pieces and grilled or eaten raw. Tasty yet delicate, Suovas can be eaten in fine slices accompanied by pickled mushrooms and lingonberries. For long trips, the Sámi traditionally pack Suovas with unleavened bread to eat on the trail.

This Presidium wishes to safeguard the traditional preparation of Suovas made only from the tender meat cut from the reindeer's inner loin (Coarbealli in Sami language) and brings together Suovas producers in Swedish Sápmi. Presidium Suovas is made from the meat of semi-wild animals that are slaughtered every autumn and winter; it is prepared throughout the year with the most traditional techniques of preparation, salting, smoking, and curing. The reindeer used to produce Presidium Suovas are not given any antibiotics or man-made feeds and graze entirely on the natural forage found in Sápmi. The Presidium, which it is hoped will eventually include all Sápmi producers, is working to raise awareness of this ancient cured meat and to encourage the consumption of reindeer meat instead of introducing ill-adapted domesticated animals that may harm this Arctic region's delicate ecosystem.

Production area
Swedish Sápmi

Presidium supported by
Sámiid Riikasearvi (Association for the Protection of Sámi Culture)
Eight breeders and artisans
Ol-Johán Sikku


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