"Frozen tuber" of reindeer


Tjälknöl ("Frozen tuber" of reindeer, venison or beef)

Tjälknöl is an ingenious way of cooking a large piece of meat. Tjälknöl is really two words: tjäle means ground frost and knöl means tuber, like a potato tuber.

The method was invented by the Sami people, previously called Laplanders, who farmed reindeer (caribou) in northern Sweden, Norway and Finland. The Sami would keep their best pieces of meat by burying them in the snow.

When they wanted to cook their tjälknöl they would dig another hole in the snow, fill it with rocks and then build a charcoal fire on the rocks. They would then wrap the meat, put it on the fire, cover it with earth and cook it very slowly, usually overnight. The final stage was to soak it in a hot marinade and leave it to go completely cold. The meat is then sliced as thinly as possible.

The result is an absolutely stunning piece of meat, quite dense, slightly salty and delicately flavoured. Christer Frånlund


Recipe summary for tjälknöl (A frozen tuber of reindeer)


•  As ovens vary a lot, particularly at low temperatures, I recommend keeping an eye on the meat the first time you try this dish. Once you know your oven you should be able to cook the meat overnight.
•  Although this recipe was originally developed for cooking reindeer it also works well with venison, elk (moose) or beef.
•  The meat keeps well for several days in a fridge if wrapped in foil.


1+ kg (2+ lb) frozen boneless piece of reindeer
1000 ml (4 cups) water
250 g (1 cup) salt
2 tbsp   sugar
1   bay leaf
1 tsp   crushed black pepper
2 tbsp   crushed juniper berries


1. Put the frozen meat on a rack in an oven heated to 75°C (170°F, gas ⅛) or as near to that as you can get.

2. After 2 or 3 hours insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. The meat will be ready when the thermometer reads 65°C (150°F). Allow about 1 hour per 100 grams (¼ hour per oz), but be guided entirely by the meat thermometer as ovens vary so much at low temperatures.

3. When the meat is cooked, mix the water, salt, sugar, bay leaves, black pepper and juniper berries in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

4. Place the cooked meat in a bowl just big enough to hold it or use a large polythene bag and pour the hot marinade over the meat, ensuring that all the meat is covered. Put a lid on the bowl or tie the bag and leave to cool completely for 4 or 5 hours.

5. Remove the meat from its marinade, pat dry and slice as thinly as possible.



Tjälknöl should be served cold and sliced as thinly as possible. It is usually accompanied by potatisgratäng (potato gratin) and/or fried diced root vegetables and rårörda lingon (stirred lingonberries) and/or syltad svamp (pickled mushrooms).


For pickled mushrooms try our recipe for syltade kantareller (pickled chanterelle mushrooms) if you are able to find some good chanterelle mushrooms (sometimes they are called girolles). You can also find syltade kantareller in delicatessen shops in Sweden. 


Alternatively, try syltade svart trumpetssvamp med balsamicvinäger och chili (pickled black trumpet mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and chilli). They are more unusual and have a wonderful flavour and a nice texture. Also it is often easier to find good quality black trumpet mushrooms on markets as they tend to keep better. (Sometimes black trumpet mushrooms are called horn of plenty mushrooms, trumpet of death mushrooms or trumpette de la mort.)


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