Apparently catching a wild reindeer is no easy task – nor is gripping one by it’s furry antlers… let alone milking one!
Reindeer milk is, however, rich and buttery with an average butterfat content of 22.5%… six times that of the average cow’s milk… and four times the protein!
Reindeer were domesticated by the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. They were used for many things including transportation and dairy. The cheese that was made provided much needed sustenance and was especially important to the herders during their long migrations across the Arctic.
Today the true artisanal art of reindeer cheese is vanishing with only a handful of producers following the ancestral ways: by hand, in small batches without electricity or thermometers, and using wild thistle instead of store-bought rennet. A commercial production is largely non-viable due to the low milk yield of the deer… an average of 4 cups per day (compared to the Holstein cows staggering seven gallons a day). The famous Finish “juustoleipa”.. a squeaky block of pressed and baked curds that was originally reindeer source…can be occasionally found world-wide but is now commercially made with cows milk.
Hmmm… I have always been familiar with the tradition of leaving Santa cookies and milk for a treat… maybe this year it should be cheese.
Drop by the shop to see our latest HANSA reindeer… (looking for a home)