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A frozen elk (Tjälknöl)

Last fall we got a piece of elk meat from a friend, when we were at my partner’s country place in Dalsland. Great, I thought, and put the piece of meat in the freezer. First, it lay in the freezer in Dalsland for a week, then I shipped it home in a cooling bag and it ended up in our cabins freezer for a few months, to finally end up in the freezer in our city apartment.

Yesterday I found it and realized that I had a delicacy waiting to be cooked – Tjälknöl. You could translate Tjälknöl into a frozen piece of meat cooked from scratch, from it is frozen, until it reaches the right temperature. This one had been in the freezer for a long time, but when it comes to meat of game, wich is low fat meat, you can keep it for a long time in the freezer. And it looks very fozen…but don´t worry, I´m alive and kickin´.

Tjälknul is a classic and was “invented” by Ragnhild Nilsson, who was married to a hunter. She asked her forgetful husband to thaw the roast of elk in the oven the day before she came home. The old man forgot the roast and it was left in the oven for 24 hours before Ragnhild got back.

To save the meat Ragnhild put the piece of meat in a spicy brine and it turned out great. Mr. and Mrs. Nilsson realized that they just created a delicious dish – tjälknöl.

The dish is originally from the north of Sweden and is a clasic in the Scandinavian cuisine, and can be made with both lamb, beef and other meat of game. The secret is low heat, frozen meat from the beginning and slow cook for many hours. The lower the heat and longer time in the oven, more tender and tastier meat. The brine allows you to spice it any way you like. Think about what’s around the elk in the forest, juniper berries, cranberries, blueberries, for example. Garlic and onions gives a little extra flavor and be careful with the salt.

Ad som salty chees cream and sweet sour pickled onions and you´re home. It´s a great buffé dish or as a cold starter…and great if you have forgotten your elk in the freezer.

Here you go!


1-1.5 kg frozen roast of elk
1 liter of water
0,2 cups salt
2 tablespoons sugar

1 bay leaf
10 crushed black peppercorns
2 tablespoons crushed juniper
fresh thyme
2 crushed cloves of garlic

pickled red onion
4 small red onions

Fusion for the onions
1dl vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

0.75 ml crème fraiche
0,5 cup grated cheese
0,5 cup blueberries
fresh thyme
fresh horseraddish

1. Preheat the oven to 70 degrees Celcius/158 F and put the meat in an ovenproof dish. After six hours, put a digital thermometer and let the meat bake until it has a core temperature of 60 degrees Celsius/140 F. (pale pink). It takes abut 13 hours. Do this late at night and you can sleep well until next morning, when the meat is ready. At the same time, boil the brine and let it cool in the fridge.
2.When the meat is ready, put the hot meat in a double plastic bag that is durable (type freezer bag) and pour over the cold brine. Try to get as much air as possible out of the bag. Tie it up and put it in the fridge for 6 hours.
3. Cook the fusion for the onions and ad the onions unpeeled. Cook for five minutes. Strain the fusion and save it. Rinse the onions in cold water and peel the skin. Put the onions in the brine and let it cool.
4. Boil on low heat the crème fraiche and the grated cheese until cheese has melted. Let it cool. Whisk occasionally so the cream is fluffy.
5. Spread thin slices of the elk meat on a serving platter or on the buffet platter. Spred some of the cheese cream on top. Cut the onions in half and spread the onion leaves onto the meat. Top with blueberries, fresh horseraddish and thyme.

Hej hej


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Pernilla Elmquist

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