Forests in Southern Sweden, specifically Skåne, take on a wonderful look in the fall. The days begin to shorten and as winter comes nearer the trees release their hormones to begin the process of abscission. As the leaves lose their precious nutrients they change in color and finally drop until the next season. But, more importantly, it’s hunting season!
Not to worry, no blood or guts in this post. Just a short story of my experiences in the Swedish forest with a group of special friends. And, a very special “Thanks” to my friend Benny for including me on these adventures. We’ll wind up the post with the best wild game stew recipe I’ve ever tasted, Viltgryta med enbär & äpplen or Wild Game Stew with Juniper Berries & Apples.
Now, if you’re not into the forest, hunting or just want to dive into the cook, you can Jump on Down to the Recipe.
Let me go on record as saying I’m not an avid hunter nor have I ever been. Now my nephew, David, he’s an avid hunter and my brother Glenn, a serious hunter. But me, I’m just as comfortable shooting with my camera. Mind you, I have nothing against controlled, legal hunting. But, I do love the outdoors and especially the forest. Oh, and of course, the wild game for the pot!
The Fyledalen Forest
Fyledalen forest is in Österlen and near the Fyledalen Nature Preserve. Österlen is an extremely fertile agro area in Southeastern Sweden also famous for its summer homes, Spas, B&Bs and fun along the lower Baltic Sea.
We usually have a gang of about five or six for this “hunt” and as with every Swedish hunt, you need to have a meeting. Swedes are big on meetings. So once the group has expressed their ideas of approaching the hunt, the weapons are checked to make sure they’re ready to enter the forest. We begin.
For me the excitement of the hunt is the forest. In October the colors are bold, and the smells are fresh, as if the forest is renewing itself.
As I walk into the forest with camera in hand, I notice a grand old oak tree. I lean against the trunk and pear up at the bark with rivers running up to the branches. It’s fascinating, it’s an ancient tree. I wish it could speak to me. I think it would tell of times past when life was simpler, and game was abundant. Perhaps it would tell of harsh winters, with the wind hollowing and taking its weak branches in the process. Oh, if only trees could talk. I peer over, and a moss padded stump catches my eye. That’ll be my throne here in the forest for this hunt. The moss is thick and has an incredible earthy smell. Forgive me kind moss, but this old man must have a seat. Oh, the colors. The colors this day are impossible to capture in an image.
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” – Unknown
For this hunt, those hunting used traditional shotguns. This small forest is best walked out with a fine hunting dog. Nope, that’s not Chloe! She’s never been formally trained to hunt. The lovely Springer Spaniel you see in these images is Vera, a spry older Springer. She’s been hunting for many years and is soon to retire. Perhaps she has one more year in her. To watch her work in the forest is amazing and a joy.
Dogs are “all important” when hunting and it’s a requirement that a person or group be accompanied by a dog for some hunts. Swedish gun and hunting laws are comprehensive and for good reason. When hunting, you must have a dog with you or available within two hours from the time of wounding of an animal for tracking purposes. For those of you interested, you can read more about rules of the land for hunting in Sweden here (in English).
As this day of hunting in Fyledalen forest closes, I hear a sound in the bush. Could it be one of the Dovhjort (Fallow Deer) we noticed when we arrived. Oh, how I’d love to get a shot (camera) of one of those grand animals in the forest. Per chance, might it be the cute little Rådjur (Roe Deer) that are so often seen by the roadside. The sound of twigs breaking, and the rustling of the leaves gets closer. I’m set and ready for my shot! It’s Vera, indicating that this hunt is ending and from the look on her face I knew today was just hunting not killing.
On she trotted, knowing that soon she’d be given that special hunt day dinner she deserved. So, ended this day in Fyledalen forest and a fine day it was. With guns stored properly, it’s time to head off to a nearby summer home for the best part of the hunt.
We arrive at the summer home where it’s already warm from the morning fire. The fire is stoked and the camaraderie among hunting friends begins. Over at the stove, the traditional ham and pea soup is being heated to warm our chilly tummies. In a pot, Swedish Fläskkorv (pork sausage) is also warming. The guys are all chatting about the day, while setting the table for this simple feast. The important things come out first, cold beer and Flaggpunsch. Flaggpunsch is a Scandinavian drink with about 25-30% alcohol that’s been around since the 17th century. As I sipped on a cold Mariestad beer, the hot soup made its way to the table along with the warm sausage, ham, cheese and assorted breads. A simple but very pleasing lunch with friends. Discussions where had about the year they shot this or that and of course of hunts yet to come. We finished with coffee, dessert and more drink for those not driving (like me). I had made a famous Swedish dessert Amalia Lundbergs Äpplekaka or apple cake, served with vanilla sauce. The apple cake (lower right-hand image above) is simple, yet lovely. We thank Pia for sharing her family recipe. Not to worry, we’ll be making a special post to honor this dish in a few weeks. As the sky darkens, we all make our way back to cars and trucks shaking hands and promising to repeat the adventure again.
Silently, I think, what does hunting in Sweden mean to me? For me, it means friends in the outdoors getting close to the forest and earth, talking, laughing and always enjoying that moment in time.
I’ve also made a smaller hunt in a forest in Billinge. My mate Benny and I challenged the forest in 2016 and again this past fall. The hunts were full of stories of charging wild boar, hunting dogs and people in the woods. But that’s another hunting story for another time, which we’ll feature in an upcoming post along with my favorite recipe for wild boar.
Viltgryta med enbär & äpplen or Wild Game Stew with Juniper Berries & Apples
We love a sturdy wild game stew, and this is a Swedish classic. Although, moose is commonly used for this dish, any wild game would work. In North America if moose isn’t at hand, elk or venison (deer) would perform well in this dish. For our friends Down Under, Venison (Red deer) is available as well as other game at the Some Thing Wild online store. Personally, not being an Aussie, I’d give Skippy a go. Coles has Roo in their online store.
We’ve tried this recipe with both moose and venison with great impressive results. It should also be good with wild boar or feral hog meat. Here in Sweden wild game is available either fresh or frozen. In early winter we get fresh moose meat and that’s what we used for this cook. Moose makes a great stew, but one could also use other red meat such as lamb or goat shoulder.
The real hero in this dish is the whole juniper berries, which are available from herb merchants or your local markets. In the US and UK, you can order via Amazon. In Canada, IGA usually stocks them. For our friends Down Under, try “The Melbourne Food Depot“. Be sure and mash them up well with a mortar and pestle or the flat side of the knife. You want them broken down into very small bits. In the recipe you’ll also notice we recommend using a cartouche, which we found to really add depth to the flavor. Cartouches are simply a disposable cover used for braising yummy sauces and ragouts and you can learn how to make them in our post Cartouche making, Simple and Easy.
This dish is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and oven roasted carrots on the side. Should you have the joy of finding some fresh (properly identified) forest mushrooms, more the better. If cooking the dish for freezing, we omit the mushrooms as they don’t freeze so well. Instead, when reheating, we sauté up some mushrooms and toss them in the stew. Don’t omit the apples as they really make this dish.
In a hurry, this recipe adapts well to an electric or stove top pressure cooker. For an electric pressure cooker (Instant Pot) after browning and sautéing, cook on HP for 35 minutes. For stove top, cook about 40 minutes. Natural release for both methods.
HAPPY STEW MAKING AND A BIG HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY TO CHLOE!
Chloe tested and tasted Viltgryta med enbär & äpplen and has approved it for dog (just a taste) and human consumption. Chloe has given this recipe her coveted 5-paw rating 🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾
Thanks again for having a read.
So, what would you say to a tree if it could talk?
Wild Game Stew with Juniper & Apples
A sturdy wild game stew, that is a Swedish classic. Although, moose is commonly used for this dish, any wild game would work. In North America if moose isn’t at hand, elk, venison (deer) or feral hog would perform well in this dish. In a hurry, this recipe adapts well to an electric or stove top pressure cooker.
- 2.2 pounds (1 kg) Moose or deer stew meat (see note 1), cut in approximately 1" (25mm) pieces.
- 2-3 tbsp (2-3 msk) Butter, for browning stew meat.
- 8 oz (225 g) Bacon or pancetta, minced.
- 2 medium Yellow (brown) onions, finely chopped.
- 7 oz (200 g) Fresh mushroom, cut in to bite size pieces.
- 1 tbsp (1 msk) Whole dried Juniper Berries, crushed finely (see note 2).
- 10 Dried plums (prunes), stone (seed) removed.
- 2 tbsp (2 msk) Tomato puree, or 1 tbsp of tomato paste.
- 2 Dried bay leaves.
- 10 fl oz (3 dl) Red wine of drinking quality, the same you'll serve with the stew.
- 13.5 fl oz (4 dl) Strong meat stock, preferably, from wild game.
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, for seasoning.
- 2-4 tbsp (2-4 msk) Corn starch for thickening, (optional).
- 1-2 tsp (1-2 tsk) Raw sugar, (optional).
- 2 medium Apples (Gala or similar), cored and slice in thick slices.
- 1 tbsp (1 tsk) Butter, for frying.
Begin by tossing your stew meat with a little salt and pepper to season.
Next place your Dutch oven (or braising pot of choice) on your stove top and heat to a medium-high heat. While heating add butter (or fat of choice) to the pan. Once the fat is heated, begin browning your stew meat in batches. Don't over crowd the meat.
Once your meat is browned, place it on a plate or in a large bowl and reserve for use later.
Now, add your chopped bacon and cook for about five minutes or until the bacon is rendering it's flavor into the pan.
Toss, in your chopped onions and sauté until soft. This should take about five minutes.
Add the mushrooms and continue sautéing until the mushrooms begin to soften.
Return the browned meat and give it a good stir. Now add the crushed juniper berries and stir. Continue to cook until the juniper berries become aromatic, about 3-5 minutes.
Quickly add the red wine and scrap the goodies from the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the wine is reduced by half.
Once reduced add the stock, tomato puree, dried plums and bay leaves. Stir until well combined. Return your pot to a boil, reduce to low and simmer.
If using, place your dampened and oiled cartouche over the top of the stew.
Place the lid on the pot and simmer for 2 hours. (See note 3 regard pressure cooker use)
After the cooking time, remove and discard your cartouche (if using) and stir. Taste and correct seasoning as required.
At this point you can reduce the liquid to the consistency desired or use the corn starch for thickening. If using corn starch, mix 2 tablespoons with 2 tablespoons of water in a separate bowl. When thoroughly mixed slowly mix into the stew while stirring. Cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
Once the stew is at the consistency you wish, taste again and if additional seasoning is required, adjust. Finally, should the stew taste too gamey for your taste, add a teaspoon of raw sugar to the stew. Stir, cook a minute and taste. Add an additional teaspoon should you feel it's needed.
In a sauté heat the butter on medium high and fry apples until soft and browning.
Remove from heat and place on top of the stew when serving or if you prefer, serve on the side.
Please note that the quantities can be changed by entering the amount you wish in the quantity indicator. However, the metric will not change.
- It should also be good with wild boar or feral hog meat. Moose or venison makes a great stew, but one could also use other red meat such as lamb or goat shoulder.
- Be sure and mash-up the whole dried juniper berries well with a mortar and pestle or the flat side of the knife. You want them broken down into very small bits.
- For an electric pressure cooker (Instant Pot) after browning and sautéing, cook on HP for 35 minutes. For stove top, cook about 40 minutes. Natural release for both methods.
- This dish is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and oven roasted carrots on the side. Should you have the joy of finding some fresh (properly identified) forest mushrooms, more the better. If cooking the dish for freezing, we omit the mushrooms as they don’t freeze so well. Instead, when reheating, we sauté up some mushrooms and toss them in the stew. Don’t omit the apples as they really make this dish.