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A HORSE of Course! Horse Meat in Sweden (Gustafskorv)
When it comes to regional food I never turn my nose up on something large numbers of peoples eat… no matter how cute it was in its living state. Sorry but I’ve been that way since learning what veal was when I was a kid… after that, it was like “hot damn, well if everyone is doing it….” But alas we come to the meat in question: horse meat sausage or Gustafskorv.
Why? Well, as my companion in Dalarna (county in central Sweden) put it:
“Why not? What’s the difference between a horse and a cow?”
Okay, riding a cow is neither practical nor romantic, but for all intensive purposes, they are pretty close hooved amigos. Now, I’m not advocating adding My Little Pony to the little pictures on the ‘ideal diet’ chart, especially since it wouldn’t replace any meats we already over consume…. but as much as I like the idea of better meat practices, I also believe in eating local: and in Dalarna “Gustafskorv” (Horse Sausage) is as local as it gets!
So let’s not put the horse before carriage and put this into a little cultural context. Dalarna is a region in Sweden about 3 hours northwest of Stockholm well known for their folk culture and flowery dialect. One of the most famous symbols of the region is the “Dalahäst” or “Dala Horse”, colorfully painted wooden horses. You can find them in any souvenir shop in Stockholm and in many homes in the region. Another claim to fame for the region is the annual “Vasaloppet”, which is the world’s longest cross country skiing race, which commemorates the tale of King Gustav’s same trek in the year 1520 running from some angry Danes. Last but certainly not least, the region is known for the city of Falun whose copper mining site (closed in 1992) is a UNESCO world heritage site, important today as the minerals from the soil there also provide the pigment for the classic red houses across the entire country of Sweden.
Now, big dudes named Sven were not the only labor involved in the mining, and the only mules I’ve heard of in Sweden are in a shopping mall… perhaps that’s because the little stout horses in the region held it down in ways their nimble Arabian horse counterparts couldn’t imagine. They worked away hauling copper and once their backbreaking strength turned into just a simple back break: they were turned into delicious smoked sausages. With age comes smoky responsibility!
Before I even open the package I am amused by the label as it reads boldly above the ingredients: “Mjölk-, laktos- och glutenfri!” (Milk, Lactose and Gluten Free) Whew! Good thing my horse didn’t have a glass a milk! That would be taboo, just crossing the line! Perhaps there was sort of horsegate conspiracy is past history I’m not aware of, but good thing, because now I have a good protein option for my appetizers for my next dinner party:
Me: “I know your picky and avoid gluten Fred, so I made these for you”
Fred: “Love the smoky flavor… what is it?”
Me: “Horse of course! Eat up!”
The flavor has a very strong smokiness, slightly gamey, dense yet moist and salami style in texture but slightly softer, not a sausage akin to one of the dried varieties. Swedes typically make this sausage into a one trick pony: slicing it on thick atop bread with some variety of accoutrement, or rolling it up into another gluten based item: more or less a deli item, although I think it has a lot more potential. I have to say that Gustafskorv is ranked in the upper half of ranks of sausages by my standards, however… there’s just something about the flavor that is smoky goodness at first but then after piece number two, starts to become tiring and boring, making you want to find another way to ride this pony. So, I have decided this sausage is great cooked! I sliced the sausage thin, pan fried it to a crisp, and tossed it into some fettuccine along with a fresh cream sauce and leeks… I ain’t horsing around!
Want another idea on how to use Gufstavskorv? Try my recipe HERE.