Jokkmokk Winter Market
The Jokkmokk Winter Market was first held in 1605. The Market was created following a request from King Karl XI, who sought to exert control over trading in Lappmarken in order to collect taxes for the Kingdom. The Jokkmokk Winter Market begins on the first Thursday of February every year.
Situated just north of the Polar Circle and with a population a little over 2,000, the small town of Jokkmokk is a tranquil gem on the border of Laponia, the only combined nature- and cultural heritage site in Scandinavia. The Laponia World Heritage Site spans 9,400 square kilometres and includes several nature reserves as well as the vast national parks of Padjelanta, Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet and Muddus.
The secret lies in the seasoning
At the back of the room we meet the renowned Greta Huuva, Jokkmokk’s culinary guardian and well-known proponent of Sámi cuisine. Together with Linn, her daughter, Greta runs Viddernas Hus, with the aim of preserving Sámi culinary culture and traditional methods of using wild herbs.
“Caring for our earth and natural surroundings is central to Sámi culture. Here, we process all our produce internally, using natural methods and avoiding additives wherever possible. We always try to utilise all our produce and keep waste to a minimum – for me, throwing food away is a painful experience,” Greta explains.
Ever since the conference for indigenous peoples held in Jokkmokk, in 2011, attended by indigenous peoples from around the world, Slowfood Sápmi has been engaged with food, climate issues, traditional practices and the preservation of biological diversity. This is underpinned by respect for nature and produce, and an awareness of how we can minimise our impact on the environment so future generations can continue to live in prosperity. Just like at Viddernas Café & Deli in the centre of Jokkmokk, where the Huuva family serve homemade cakes and lunch dishes containing locally produced ingredients – what else?
“Traditionally, Sámi cuisine is not so heavily spiced. In my kitchen I use classic Sámi spices in new ways – for example, Garden Angelica, a personal favourite previously used mainly as a preservative. It has a fantastic taste, which goes perfectly with game and fish. We make a Garden Angelica salt which has become a big hit, among others,” Greta adds.
For local businesses the Winter Market is the highlight of the year, with many banking a large share of their annual takings during the hectic market period.
“The market is vital for Jokkmokk and the businesses based in the area. We get to meet new customers, with new meetings often leading to new ideas. Sometimes things can get a little too frantic, but even though I specialise in delivering carefully prepared cuisine for small groups of diners, the hectic market period has its own undeniable charm,” says Greta.
From tapas to street food, all local and free-range
The aromas from all the delicious produce make the stomach rumble and the mouth water. We swiftly order an improvised tapas snack containing cold cuts of game, cheese, marmalade and bark bread baked on birch sap, young birch leaves and pine shoot syrup. We take a seat at a table in the centre of the market and start to dig in. What follows is a veritable treat for the taste buds. The cold cuts feature assorted varieties of reindeer, including dried, smoked, sausage and heart, which dovetail perfectly with the local Skabram cheese – a cheese with a distinct hint of pine. We savour our feast on a bed of crispy bread, with an extra twist provided by the crowberry marmalade, at once sweet and sharp. It’s an experience you never want to end.
Our appetites whetted, we make our way into the throng of the market, and it’s not long until we reach the Souvaskungen food truck. Souvaskungen, who comes from Jokkmokk, is also a reindeer herdsman by the name of Nicke Nutti.
“At Souvaskungen we serve a local take on the kebab, with Souvas/smoked reindeer in pita bread baked in Gällivare, some 90 kilometres away. This is locally produced, natural street food of the highest quality. The Jokkmokk Market is important for us as it’s the largest winter market. During the summer we travel around the region to other markets, in Pajala, Överkalix and Kiruna,” says Nicke, as his queue begins to wind around the truck.
Street food dovetails perfectly with the market concept. Take the chance to sample local renditions of stir fry, kebab and hamburgers made from elk and reindeer meat, and whatever you do, you must try Ghakko, the delicious white softbread best enjoyed warm as the butter melts and dribbles down your chin. It’s not the most graceful way to eat, but wow, does it taste good! This bread was traditionally baked on a smooth stone surface heated by a fire in the centre of the Sámi cot. Why not try a wrap à la Swedish Lapland by filling your Ghakko with char and potatoes, for example, to create a genuine culinary treat.
From the Jokkmokk Market to Michelin star quality fine dining
Utsi Ren doubles up, running a table in the food market alongside a market stall in the middle of the lively market street. Founded by the Utsi brothers, Lars-Anders, Per-Ola, Jossa and Mikael T, the business has been going for all of 20 years. Now, the next generation has taken the helm to move the firm forward.
“We’ve seen an increase in demand for free range meat, such as reindeer. There are many vegetarians who make an exception by eating reindeer meat herded in accordance with sound practices, from animals living in freedom for around 350 days a year and subject to good ethics throughout the production chain. We’ve also seen demand rise for cuts such as briskets and legs, which was unheard of as recently as 4–5 years ago. These days though, it’s become fashionable to eat rustic food and consider the animal as a whole. This is a positive step. Among others, we supply produce to both Gastrologik and Oaxen, award winning restaurants in Stockholm, and others have shown interest,” explains Nila Jannok proudly.
Small-scale production has been a unique selling point for Utsi Ren, providing the flexibility to cut and deliver orders precisely according to specification. They also process the meat; their air-dried reindeer sausages sell like hot cakes at market time.
“Our reindeer sausages are made exclusively from meat and fat from the animal. We don’t add flour, beef or pork, using only pure reindeer meat. The sausages are smoked in a cot for 10 hours and then air-dried for 30 days. We manage to sell everything we produce, and the market is vital, accounting for around 10 percent of our annual turnover,” explains his partner, Olov-Thomas Utsi, or OT as he is better known.