Reindeer Recipes from Finland: Now that Rudolph’s surplus to requirements…..

Reindeer Recipes

Santa, Sleigh and Reindeer – the traditional method of delivery

Christmas has just passed, the season that always brings reindeer to mind. And what better time of the year to try a few reindeer recipes from Finland. It did occur to me that these dishes might not be so popular with my kids – feeding Rudolph to children does raise a few questions, as in the possible “DAD! You’re feeding me WHAT?” But after somewhat cautiously querying mine, they expressed a desire to broaden their culinary horizons and, little carnivores that they are, stated that they had no qualms at all about eating Reindeer. The youngest (and most kitchen-oriented) went so far as to add “I want to help cook him”. Doubts as to exposing the delicate sensibilities (NOT!) of my young offspring set aside, we now proceeded down the path of identifying recipes and sources for procuring Rudolph, although first I had to come up with a plausible reason for the kids as to why Rudolph was available from the butchers. Needless to say, a little research on the internet explained the obvious….

Reindeer Recipes

Santa on more recent transportation equipment

As we all know, times change and we generally change with them. Santa Claus is no exception and the world-wide Santa Claus operation is continually taking advantage of the proliferation of modern technology to carry out numerous upgrades across the Christmas present selection, ordering, customer contact, tracking and present delivery operations. New integrated computer systems, increasing use of stealth technology, GPS (how else can you accurately track millions of waypoints), night-vision technology, franchising – all are combining to ensure the Santa Claus operation continues to deliver. Unfortunately, there’s usually a downside to any technology upgrade. One of these “downsides” has been the unfortunate redundancy of the reindeer traditionally used to pull Santa’s sleighs as the use of alternative transportation methods has been explored.

Originally, the reindeer were excited about these possibilities. As Rudolph commented at the time, “The new feature that allows Santa to switch to electric power is welcomed by all the reindeer. Covering the entire globe can be pretty exhausting and having the opportunity to rest along our journey will help us remain in peak condition.” However, Santa Claus Inc. has always been at the bleeding edge of technological innovation and rather more recent developments have now led to the reindeer being completely superseded. Santa Claus Inc.’s latest Press Release (26th Dec 2014) stated that “..as with any large organisation, we owe a duty to our shareholders to achieve the best possible returns, and, sadly, with advances in delivery technology, our reindeer are now surplus to requirements…“. Accompanying the Press Release was a brochure for a number of tasty reindeer recipes, samples of which were offered to the members of the press present together with order forms (for those wanting to jump to the meat of the post, reindeer recipes are set out below). Statements from Rudolph were not provided (“Rudolph has been processed… ahem … made redundant …. and is no longer employed by Santa Claus Inc. and is not available for statements. And no, a forwarding address is not available….“).

Reindeer Recipes

Santa Claus Inc., “…sadly, with advances in delivery technology, our reindeer are now surplus to requirements…” Above photo sourced from http://www.igorstshirts.com/blog/conceptships/2013/feng_zhu/feng_zhu_christmas_b.jpg

As Santa’s PR Statement alluded to, reindeer meat is becoming increasingly popular in many european countries and despite the potential for tears from younger consumers, many european supermarkets now stock reindeer.  Many restaurants are now also disregarding traditional Christmas conventions (and the sobs of children) as they opt to serve Rudolph as a dish rather than sing about his charming little red nose (which was in any case likely red as a result of burns from high speed atmospheric re-entry – a direct result of the demands for speedier delivery arising from increasing demand. Potential animal cruelty charges may also have influenced Santa Claus Inc. to replace their reindeer). Also influencing this decision may have been the increasing commercial demand for reindeer meat, meaning it was more financially viable for Santa Inc. to sell their reindeer for consumption rather than use them as a motive power for transportation.

In Finland for example, demand for this gamey, low-fat meat outstrips the supply, so it has to import reindeer meat from Russia (the biggest processor of reindeer meat, the Swedish-Finnish company Polarica is importing an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 reindeer carcasses from Russia to help meet demand). Companies from France and Spain have also tried to source the succulent game from the snowy northern European nation. Despite this, the export of reindeer meat from Finland is one of the fastest growing segments of the Finnish food industry. Back in December 2013 for example, Finnish reindeer producers had to turn down a German order for the meat from 100,000 animals, because there were not that many to be slaughtered in the whole of the country. UK supermarket chain Lidl said diced Siberian reindeer meat was introduced to 600 stores in Britain during the 2010 holiday season and most stores were sold out of the meat within a week.

Reindeer Recipes

Reindeer (Finnebiff in Norwegian) has been common on menus across Scandinavia for many decades.

Reindeer has been common on menus across Scandinavia for many decades. Other countries however have taken a little longer to get used to the idea of consuming Rudolph and friends with a nice cranberry sauce and dumplings. Six years ago there was an outcry in the UK when it emerged that the Swedish furniture giant IKEA was selling salami containing reindeer. However, things are changing and reindeer meat is rapidly gaining in popularity outside of Finland and Sweden. The exotic meat supplier Kezie reports on its website that demand for the “tender and succulent” meat is so high that it now offers it all year round, selling everything from reindeer sausages and reindeer steaks to reindeer meatballs and reindeer mince. So just what is making the demand for reindeer meat so high despite it’s somewhat high price?

Well, first and foremost, Reindeer meat is fine-textured, tender and tastes great, with the delicious but distinctive taste of game meat. It has some of the characteristics of venison but is a much milder-flavored meat, although still dark in color. It’s also, like much game meat, extremely low in fat content (and like much game meat, with the low fat content, you need to make sure you don’t overcook it). Reindeer meat is also ethically sound – reindeer are pastured in the forests enjoy almost complete freedom, unlike factory-farmed beef or pork. The fell reindeer’s diet is a natural one, without the drugs that the diet of factory-farmed animals is all to often laced with – in the winter the reindeer dig lichen from the ground while during the summer, reindeer eat more than 300 different plants . Twice a year the reindeer are gathered together and those to be slaughtered selected. Which brings me to my next discussion point: sourcing your reindeer meat. Now while in Europe reindeer meat is relatively easy to procure, Finnish Reindeer meat is not exactly an off-the-shelf product in my local (Canadian in Toronto) supermarket, so the first task was to source some Reindeer meat at an affordable cost.

Sourcing your supply of Reindeer

Reindeer Recipes

Christmas ‘Rudolph’ steaks for sale at Lidl discount supermarket

Before I start, if you live in Europe, Reindeer meat is becoming more widely available and you may find a local supermarket that stocks it. Otherwise, you should be able to find an online supplier easily enough. For North Americans, Reindeer is a little challenging but keep in mind that Caribou is the same as Reindeer – just not Finnish (and Finnish reindeer may well be from Russia in any case….).

Wild caribou and domesticated reindeer are actually the same species throughout the world – so for North Americans, just look for a source of caribou meat. I live in Toronto in Canada and I had no problems finding a supplier in my immediate neighborhood, Black Angus, that stocked a wide variety of caribou meat. They also have an online shop. A quick query on Google listed quite a number of North American suppliers so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding caribou meat.

Reindeer Recipes

Poronlihaa – Rudolph in a can

Now, where are you to source Reindeer meat if you don’t live in Finland, Europe or North America? (it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to hunt down your own after all). After a bit of searching, I found that fromfinland.fi ships Finnish delicacies worldwide (some countries restrict the import of certain food products so check before you order). These delicacies include tinned Reindeer Meat (Poronlihaa) – a 400g can of which is currently listed at €10.69 + shipping. It’s tinned, so it will keep for several years and should therefore survive the postal networks. Shipping time is 6-14 days to first-world countries and packages are tracked (shipping cost is determined by destination country and weight). Currently the site has three different varieties of tinned Reindeer Meat listed so you may want to do a bit of browsing before deciding. Depending on the recipe, you may also want to order Finnish lingonberry jam to go with your reindeer.

Incidentally, fromfinland.fi also sells a range of other tinned Finnish delicacies including reindeer paté, bear meat and paté, elk meat and paté and wild boar meat as well as about 3,000 other products. It’s a site worth taking a look at if you’re interested in uniquely Finnish products as most (99%) of Finnish companies employ less than 50 people and are too small to sell into the international market. This results in a large number of wonderful Finnish products remaining unknown because the companies are too small to sell and market their products outside of Finland. You can find quite a range of these otherwise unknown products listed on  fromfinland.fi. Happy hunting…..

And now, selected Reindeer Recipes from Finland

I’ve taken a few Reindeer Recipes and listed them here – some of them recipes for which tinned Reindeer Meat can be used, others for fresh meat for which I use Caribou (in Canada, it’s relatively easy to buy fresh or frozen Caribou if you look around).  Just keep in mind that, as with any meat product, the tinned meat is in general not as good as the fresh or frozen meat and I don’t really recommend it (I’d use venison instead). If you’re buying it fresh, the best way to slice it is to put into a freezer bag and chill to semi-frozen, then slice with a sharp knife. Also, wild game such as reindeer or caribou should be cooked on medium at the highest …. anything more than that will make it tough and leathery unless you slow cook it for hours on end. Marinating is also something that helps with making the meat more moist and sealing in some juice. And always remember that wild game has hardly any fat at all…so don’t overcook it!

As it turns out, after doing half a dozen reindeer recipes, it’s generally very simple to prepare and you can’t really spoil unless you try hard. And I can assure you my two kids enjoyed themselves trying these variations! And my little girl had fun helping me cook (“Yeah! I wanna cook a Rudolph” – to the tune of “I want to build a snowman” from Frozen)! OK, my kids aren’t sensitive souls, but some people may have mixed feelings about eating reindeer. All I can say is, don’t worry, Santa Claus won’t hold it against you if you try it! So here goes….. half a dozen Finnish Reindeer Recipes…..

Poronkäristys (Sautéed Reindeer), Mashed Potatoes and Lingonberries

Reindeer Recipes

Poronkäristys – in Finland you can buy this as a frozen pre-prepared meal…

In my kids opinion (and mine I might add), sautéed reindeer is best accompanied by mashed potatoes and crushed lingonberries or cranberries (being Canadian, I used the readily available cranberries from the local Loblaws). Lingonberries are quintessentially Finnish and recommended for the genuine quill. However, if you can’t find lingonberries or cranberries, any berry with sharp flavors works just fine. As a drink, beer is your number one option, but wine works well too, especially extremely dry white wine. Serves six.

In Finland you can buy this as a frozen pre-prepared meal. Now that’s mainstream!

Poronkäristys – Ingredients

  • 800 grams sliced reindeer (poronkäristysliha)
  • 50 grams butter
  • 3 deciliters beer
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 3 tbs flour
  • ½ tsp ground black or white pepper
Reindeer Recipes

Poronkäristys – This is more like it….

Poronkäristys – Instructions

  • Brown the sliced reindeer meat and chopped onions in butter, preferably in a cast iron casserole pot
  • Season the meat with salt and pepper and add the flour, stir
  • Add the beer and stir again
  • Place the lid on top of the pot and allow to simmer at a low heat for approximately one hour
  • Serve the Sautéed Reindeer hot together with the mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam or cranberry sauce, pickled beetroots, and pickled cucumbers

If you need instructions on mashed potatoes, I’d suggest a trip to the supermarket to buy a packet of those Instant Potato Flakes instead. Seriously.

The main part of this meal is the “käristys.” The word käristys refers to a method used in Lapland for cooking the meat. When still partially frozen the meat is cut into thin slices, fried in the pot and then cooked for several hours on low heat, in butter and/or beer if available. It is most often made with reindeer meat but other meats like beef or elk can be used as an alternative. As common with many Finnish meals, the meat is usually accompanied by mashed potatoes and lingonberries.

Poronpaisti (Reindeer or Venison With Bacon)

Reindeer Recipes

Poronpaisti

Although this very straightforward recipe calls for reindeer meat, venison can make a good substitute. Some Finnish cooks marinate the reindeer meat in beer to kill the wild flavor, some marinate it in buttermilk. Others like the gamey flavor and do not marinate the meat at all. Serve with fluffy mash potatoes. Quantity serves 6 to 8.

Poronpaisti – Ingredients

  • 1 pound bacon
  • 2 pounds reindeer meat or venison cut in paper-thin slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Poronpaisti – Instructions

  • Brown the bacon in a large frying pan and add the reindeer or venison slices. Be sure to keep the heat high and sear the meat quickly
  • When all the pieces are browned, sprinkle with the salt and lower the heat. Add enough water to cover the meat
  • Put the lid on the pan and simmer slowly for 20 minutes
  • Serve hot

Poronkäristys (Sautéed Reindeer), Lanttulaatikko (Swede Casserole) with Perunarieska (Finnish Flatbread)

This is a combination of three dishes which go really well together.

Ingredients – Poronkäristys

  • 2 lbs reindeer meat, sliced
  • 3 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cup beer (pale lager is popular in Finland)
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black or white pepper

Ingredients – Lanttulaatikko (Swede Casserole)

  • 3-4 medium rutabagas (called “swedes” in Europe)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 3 tbs golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs cream
  • Butter
  • Breadcrumbs

Ingredients – Perunarieska (Finnish Flatbread)

  • 2 cups mashed potato, cooled
  • 3 tbsp melted butter, cooled
  • 1-2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cup to 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder

Preparation and Cooking Instructions

First, the Lanttulaatikko (Swede Casserole)

  • First peel and cut up the rutabaga into 1-inch pieces. Place in a pot and add the butter, nutmeg, and salt.
  • Add water and bring to a boil. Let boil for about an hour, adding water as necessary, until the rutabaga is easily pierced with a fork. Drain and mash.
  • Now preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Add the flour, syrup, egg, salt, butter and cream.
  • Mix well and transfer to a greased casserole dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with melted butter and place on top
  • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Serve hot.

And now the Perunarieska (Finnish Flatbread):

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the salt, sugar and melted butter. Add the mashed potato and mix thoroughly.
  • Now gradually add the flour to the potato mixture until you get a dough. Cover and let stand for 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Separate the dough into 8 to 12 equal-sized pieces. Dust your hands with flour and place the dough pieces on a well-floured surface. Flatten with the palm of your hand to a thickness of about a quarter inch. Poke in a few places with a fork, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden (an egg wash will help you get a nice color, though it was not specified in the recipe). Serve warm.

And the Poronkäristys (reindeer), which is really simple.

  • Slice the reindeer into thinnish slices
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the meat and onions and cook until the meat is nicely browned
  • Season with salt and pepper and add the flour, stirring until well-incorporated. Then add the beer and mix well.
  • Cover and let simmer on low for one hour.

The major challenge for this meal is the different oven temperatures for the casserole and the bread. Luckily for me, I have a counter-top oven as well as the main oven so I just used both. If you only have one oven, you might want to bake the Lanttulaatikko all the way, then take it out of the oven and do the Perunarieska (flatbread). The bread does need to be served warm so definitely do it last. Put the Lanttulaatikko back in the oven for the last five minutes or so while the bread is baking, that way it will be hot when served. Start the reindeer half way through the Lanttulaatikko and it should all come out about the same time. As with many Finnish menu’s, there’s not too much in the way of green vegetables here. If you need ’em, do whatever takes your fancy.

Poro-leipäjuustokeitto (Finnish Reindeer and Cheese Soup) 

Reindeer meat is an important part of traditional Finnish food, somewhat as beef is in other areas of Europe. Now traditionally, there are two types of cheese used in this soup. One, “leipäjuusto”, has been baked, and has a very mild taste and with its slightly rubbery texture, it will get softer but not melt when added to this soup. This cheese is also often served as a dessert in Finland together with cloudberry jam and vanilla sauce. In the north of Finland, this dessert is sometimes called “lapsi veden vahvistus”, which translates into “strengthener after losing waters”: it was recommended to new mothers as a way to regain strength after giving birth. Traditionally in Sweden this cheese is diced and placed at the bottom of a coffee cup, and eaten once slightly melted by the hot coffee, hence its name, which means “coffee cheese”. Outside of Finland and Sweden, I’m really not sure what a good equivalent for this cheese would be.

The other cheese in this soup recipe, called “sulatejuusto”, is a sort of cream cheese with a very mild flavor. In the version presented below, Parmesan cheese has been introduced and brings a stronger flavor to this soup.

Reindeer Recipes

Poro-leipajuustokeitto – Finnish Reindeer and Cheese Soup

Poro-leipäjuustokeitto – Ingredients

  • 600 gr reindeer meat, in thin slivers
  • 2 onions, chopped thinly
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 2 bouillon cubes
  • 20 juniper berries
  • black pepper
  • 6 large potatoes, cut into pieces
  • 500 gr soft “cream cheese”
  • 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated very thin
  • 300 gr “coffee cheese”, diced
  • 1 dl parsley, chopped

Poro-leipäjuustokeitto – Preparation

  • In a pot, brown meat in pan with oil or butter, remove.
  • Cook the onions until soft, then put meat back, add boiling water, bouillon cubes and cook at low temperature for 30 minutes to an hour
  • Add in the cream cheese, spices and potatoes.
  • When potatoes are tender, add coffee cheese, Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Slow-Roasted Reindeer with Lingonberry Sauce

The diet and harvesting time of year have a great impact on the flavor of reindeer meat due to the difference in grazing patterns and available food supply.  Grazing wild for the most part during the summer months and leading up to the fall, the Reindeer are able to take advantage of the available
greenery on their grazing territory.  During these times the Reindeer have also been known to feed on mushrooms which start to show themselves near the end of the summer months.  Feeding on grass allows the animals to build up a little more fat, (and fat equals flavor) while the diet of grass helps to lend a delicate sweetness to the taste of the meat itself. Grazing during the winter months can prove to add a slightly stronger taste to the meat of the Reindeer due to the fact that their diet is forced to consist of mostly Lichens (a simple form of fungus) and especially Reindeer moss, which both grow in and around rocks and underneath the snow cover.  The Reindeer then have to forage constantly; digging in the snow looking for anything they can to supplement their meagre winter diet.  During the harsh winter months, Reindeer have also been known to eat the leaves off of willow and birch trees while on occasion, should the opportunity arise, consuming bird’s eggs and/or arctic char.

Reindeer Recipes

Reindeer – trussed and ready

Roast Reindeer – Ingredients 

  • 1 Reindeer roast, 4 – 6 lbs (netted or trussed)
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • ½ pound pork back fat (you will need 3‐4 long strips, ½ thick and 2 wide flat pieces)
  • 2 cups cranberry or lingonberry sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ onion (sliced thin)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ cup water
  • Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

Roast Reindeer – Preparation 

  • Reindeer Recipes

    Reindeer roast wrapped in bacon and ready for the oven

    Remove netting and unroll to expose the inside of the roast, letting it lay flat on the board or counter.  Place a strip of the back fat running length wise on the inside of the roast and start to roll back together.  At ¼ inch intervals, lay down two more strips of back fat until the roast is rolled back together again into a “football” shape (the idea is to evenly distribute the strips of back fat throughout the roast, this helps to provide moisture during the long slow cooking process)

  • Stuff the roast back into the netting or truss with string to hold it together.  Take the 3 sprigs of rosemary and thread underneath the netting lengthwise at different intervals evenly around the outside of the roast
  • Now take the two wide flat pieces of fat and thread them under the netting over top of the rosemary, one on the top of the roast and one on the bottom (essentially you want a cap of fat secured to the top and bottom of the roast to insulate it with moisture).  Season the roast all over with salt and pepper and set aside
  • Reindeer Recipes

    Reindeer Roast – carved

    If you want to cook vegetables with the roast, add these now. Onion, carrot, celery and potato add flavor to the roast

  • In a roasting pan, combine the cranberry or lingonberry sauce, water, bay leaves, peppercorns, onion slices and honey. Place the roast on
    the top rack of the oven and roast at approx 250 – 275 F for 2 – 3 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of about 140 F  (add more water as needed).
  • After the roast has finished cooking, remove from heat and allow it to rest for 20 – 30 minutes
  • Remove the netting and cut the roast into thin slices, serving with the (thickened) sauce on the side.

The reason for adding a component of fat to the recipe is really only to help with insulating the roast with a good amount of moisture during the long cooking process.  The meat of the Reindeer is very lean, as with most game meats, and therefore needs the addition of fat using this cooking method. Pork back fat is the best option for this procedure because, of all the animals fats available for cooking, pork back fat is the most neutral tasting while providing an adequate supply of fat to get job done.  The flavor of the Reindeer is so unique and delicate that you wouldn’t want to mask it with a strongly flavored fat.

Savuporomunakokkeli – Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Reindeer

This makes a tasty breakfast dish that’s delicious. As with other recipes, substitute smoked caribou for reindeer and you’re good. Preferably buy your smoked reindeer roast in one piece rather than readily sliced, as packed pre-sliced smoked reindeer roast can be tough and leathery. Outside of Finland, good luck with finding smoked reindeer meat ….. but if reindeer or caribou isn’t available, substitute smoked venison which is a lot easier to find, albeit the flavor is different.

Savuporomunakokkeli – Ingredients

  • 1 portion of scrambled eggs (quantity to suit)
  • slices of smoked reindeer
  • Garnish (chopped fresh chives, green onionsor scallions)

Savuporomunakokkeli – Preparation

  • Cut the reindeer roast slices in small cubes, removing any sinewy bits
  • Prepare the scrambled eggs
  • As soon as the egg mixture starts to scramble, delicately stir in the reindeer meat.
  • Stir until warmed through (smoked reindeer roast does not need cooking),
  • When cooked, sprinkle with garnish and serve with or on a slice of hot buttered toast.

And here’s a few more Reindeer Recipes from other websites

Cider-baked Reindeer Steak and Mushrooms plus 22 other Reindeer Recipes. Good selection here although the websites in Finnish, you’ll need to use Google translate and try and figure it out from there…..

Finnish beef (or reindeer) stew from the Real Food Suomi blog. Nice looking recipe that I intend to try for myself soon.

Making Reindeer Stew from Lapland/Rovaniemi Finland from frozenreindeer.com. Talk about starting with raw meat…..

Reindeer Pies and Other Reindeer Dishes from scandifoodie.blogspot.ca. Some interesting looking variations on Reindeer recipes. Reindeer blood crepes – hmmmm….

Reindeer steaks from marksvegplot.blogspot.ca – I loved the photos in Mark’s post. I wish I could photo my cooking like he does!

And somewhere in Helsinki, Samuel and Audrey (no idea who they are but it looked like they were enjoying themselves) try eating Finnish Reindeer Meat while drinking Finnish Beer at an outdoor terrace…

And a few more things about Reindeer before you eat your first one….

We always see Reindeer on Christmas cards galloping across the sky with Santa’s sleigh in tow or taking a break while Santa delivers the presents. But in northern Finland, Reindeer are part of everyday life all year round as they roam across Lapland — the Arctic homeland of the indigenous Sami people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and northwest of Russia. Besides recipes, here are a few interesting things you may not have known about reindeer:

Reindeer and Caribou are the same thing: Historically, the European/Asian reindeer and American Caribou were considered to be different species, but they are actually one and the same. There are two major groups of reindeer, the tundra and the woodland, which are divided according to the type of region the animal lives in, not their global location. The animals are further divided into subspecies, ranging from nine to 13 depending on who is doing the classification.

Reindeer aren’t that small: Reindeer are usually 4-5 ft tall not including their antlers.  Their antlers are 3ft tall (and both male and female reindeer grow antlers)! They can weigh anywhere between 240-700 pounds and live for up to 15 years.

Reindeer can run fast over long distances (but they can’t fly): They can easily travel 40 to 50 kilometers (24 to 31 miles) a day and can roam 1,200 miles or more in the spring from their winter grazing grounds in the forests to reach calving grounds high in the mountains (some populations of North American caribou travel over 3,100 miles per year). They can run at up to 50 miles per hour for short distances. A one-day-old reindeer can outrun an Olympic sprinter

Reindeer Wool is Warm: Reindeer are adapted to survive in the harsh Arctic winters with a thick winter coat of wool. Reindeer hair is hollow, with air trapped both between the hairs and also inside the hair. Their hair makes them very well insulated, one reason why Sami (Lapps) make their winter clothes from reindeer hides.  The air trapped in their wool also keeps them buoyant in water, which is critical given that they often swim long distances across massive rivers and lakes while migrating.

Reindeer have their own built-in Snowshoes: Reindeer have large hooves compared to moose or deer. When the snow is deep, they spread their hooves and make them even wider to stop themselves from sinking in – a natural snowshoe. They use their hooves to dig for food in the snow. The outer edges of their hooves are sharp to help them walk on ice and rocks.

Reindeer Eyes change colour between summer and winter: Reindeer eyes change colour between summer and winter to adapt to the widely varying levels of light in the high north. Reindeer eyes are yellow-green in summer and change to deep blue in winter. Due to the extremely limited light in the far northern winter, reindeer’s eyes need to be much more sensitive to light then than in summer. The blue color during the darkest months of the year helps scatter more incoming light and results in better vision.

Santa’s Reindeer? In popular culture, eight flying reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh as he delivers presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve. The story originates in 1823 from the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas“, more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” written by Clement Clarke Moore. It was Moore who came up with the names for eight of Santa’s Reindeer. Rudolph’s story was originally written in verse by Robert L. May for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores in 1939, and published as a book to be given to children in the store at Christmas time. According to this story, Rudolph’s glowing red nose made him a social outcast among the other reindeer. However, one Christmas Eve Santa Claus was having a lot of difficulty making his flight around the world because it was too foggy. When Santa went to Rudolph’s house to deliver his presents he noticed the glowing red nose in the darkened bedroom and decided it could be a makeshift lamp to guide his sleigh. He asked Rudolph to lead the sleigh for the rest of the night, Rudolph accepted and returned home a hero for having helped Santa Claus. The story has a real basis – migrating reindeer herds are usually led by a single animal and Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.

Peeing Reindeer: Reindeer can’t walk far without having to answer the call of nature. In fact, they are unable to walk and pee at the same time, so they have to take a bathroom break roughly every 6 miles. In Finnish, this distance is known as a “poronkusema” aka a “reindeer’s piss” – an old-fashioned description of distances in the countryside.

Reindeer Recipes

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