Aby-a-Day – 16 Mars: Bear necessities (Swedish Saturday)

In Sweden, we have a thing called REKO-Ring. REKO means “Real Consumption” (Konsumtion in Swedish) and is a way to shop for locally produced food, without intermediaries. Consumers and producers merge and start a REKO ring where locally produced products are sold directly from producer to consumer. In Skövde, our local REKO-Ring has a Facebook page where the producers post what they have available, and then people who want to buy something comment on the post saying what they want to get. Then, on alternate Wednesdays, we meet in a parking lot at a hockey arena two stops on the bus line from our house.

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Well, just as I despairing of finding a really great birthday present for Björn, I happened to check the REKO-Ring Skövde Facebook page. And I found a post from Lilla Spännefalla, and they had all kinds of game for sale. Including bear meat from Jämtland in the north of Sweden.

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I ordered a “Bear Box” and got steaks, ground bear meat, and chunks.
I have only had bear a couple of times, and it is delicious. The first time was in 2000, when I found it for sale in an Asian grocery store in Boston. I then had it again when we canned bear meat for sale in the duty-free on the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. Then I got to eat it again when we went to a medieval restaurant in Taillinn. But the thing is…The name Björn is the same as the Swedish word for bear. So when I found bear meat available for sale just before Björn’s birthday, I knew I had the perfect gift.

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Bear meat is delicious. You have to make sure all the fat is removed, because it can add a slightly rancid flavour to the meat. The basic rule of thumb is, “Season like beef, cook like pork.” This is because like pigs, bears and raccoons are omnivores, and their meat can cause Trichinosis if it is not cooked well.

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So, sorry guys…you don’t get to try it raw.

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Despite not getting to try it raw, the bear meat attracted quite a crowd.

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Lorelai, of course, had to get on Björn’s shoulder to supervise.

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Izaak made sure Björn cooked it thoroughly.

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And he did.

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Served with plain potato wedges and mushrooms, it was a delicious birthday dinner…

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…which some people in the house were eager to sample.

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Zak was the first to taste bear meat whilst the plates were still on the coffee table.

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Everyone else got their tastes in the kitchen. Rory LOVED it.

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Jacoby tried to steal her piece, but she managed to keep it for herself. But don’t worry, Jake got a couple of pieces of the bear meat.

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Alfred took his piece so quickly…

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…I couldn’t even capture it with my camera. Fast Freddy!

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Angel took her sample gingerly…

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…and ran away from all the other cats to eat it in peace.

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It took her a little longer to finish it, because of her three teeth, so she wanted to eat it someplace safe.

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I guess we can add bear meat to the things Abyssinians (and Singapuras) will eat.

Aby-a-Day – 24 Februari: “Some chicken, some neck!” (Cinema Sunday)

Izaak loves his chicken necks.

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I mean, he really loves them. He only gets one a day, though, because too many raw bones can cause constipation…but if he could have it his way, he’d eat five or six a day.

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I generally feed the cats at noon and midnight, and Zak gets his neck around 8pm. He knows this, so starting around 6pm, every time I get up, he tries to lead me into the kitchen. If I am in the kitchen, he leaps up to the counter next to the refrigerator and yells for his neck.

Of course, still photos cannot express how funny he is when he is doing this…so I made a video of a typical trip to the kitchen chez Hellqvist.

Aby-a-Day – 16 Februari: Alla hjärtans dag (Very Aby Holidays)

Just in time for Valentine’s day, Björn found a package of chicken hearts in the “Ät Snart” (past date meats) bin at our loval ICA. He thought the cats might like them…

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…Gee. Raw meat. What’s not to like? We served them to the LunaTicks on Valentine’s Day (of course). So I rinsed the hearts off…

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…And served them to our feline family.

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Angel, Alfred and Izaak, not too surprisingly as they are our biggest raw food eaters.

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Still, Jacoby and Lorelai joined in to eat some hearts.

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Angel gets nervous eating close to the other cats (probably something to do with someone stealing her food in her foster home), so she took her heart a little ways away to eat it.

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Not that anyone was looking at her specific heart. There was enough for everyone.

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I think it’s safe to say that everyone enjoyed their Valentine’s Day hearts.

Aby-a-Day – 31 December: Happy New Year’s! (Hipstamatic

For the past three years, Björn and I have hosted the New Year’s party for our friends. This year, due to a number of random circumstances (ours and our friends), we ended up being a party of seven – us and the cats.

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Of course, we didn’t know it was going to be just us when we were preparing everything in the run-up to Jul and New Year’s, so I managed to find the largest turkey I could to cook for the party.

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At 8.5kg (almost 19lbs!) it’s the largest turkey I have been able to find since I moved to Sweden.

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Oh, how I have missed the monster, American super-sized turkeys! Okay, so we’ll have lots of leftovers.

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I think we’re going to have lots of help finishing those leftovers, too.

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Combined, Alfred, Lorelai and Zak weigh 10.6kg…so the turkey weighs more than any two of them put together.

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The size difference didn’t stop them from investigating its edibility.

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Zak was especially interested in the big bird.

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Rory, without the boys flanking her, did seem a little more intimidated by it.

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She is our smallest cat. The last time I weighed them all, she clocked in at 2.6kg.

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I think she thought it wasn’t really dead!

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She tentatively approached the bird. I’m sure she’ll be a lot less tentative once it comes out of the oven!

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I love the randomness of Hipstamatic…

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Even though we ended up not having any guests, everyone got dressed up. The boys all wore their leather bow ties.

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Rory wore a festive red bow.

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Freddy can’t ever keep his tie on straight.

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Angel wore her sparkly sequin collar I got ages ago at a Seacoast show. Next year, I want to see if Arja can make the girls feminine festive collars, perhaps with flowers instead of bows.

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Regardless, when the turkey came out of the oven it. Was. AWESOME.

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Easily the best turkey I have ever cooked. And, ironically, I have been cooking them since 1999.

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But yeah, in 20 years of cooking turkeys, this was one of my best.

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Someone else thought so, too.

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Of course, his opinion is slightly biased…he's never had a whole cooked turkey before in his life.

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Izaak tried so hard to eat off that big turkey…but it was too hot.

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Since it was too hot to eat, Zak tried smacking it with his paw instead.

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It was still too hot…but it wasn’t too hot when I put it on a tray for everyone to share.

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Everyone seemed to enjoy their bits of turkey.

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As you could probably tell by the general swarming going on.

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Björn and I also did some Incredibooth selfies…enjoy!

Aby-a-Day – 25 November: Dances with cats (Cinema Sunday)

It’s always a huge event in our house when I cut up meat.

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It’s one of the best ways to get all five of them together.

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They are so fascinated by it…and of course, hopeful for a scrap or two.

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It’s a bit like feeding a tank of piranhas, to be honest.

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Cats – at least Abys and Singas – swarm.

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Alfred is at his most athletic when there’s raw meat involved.

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But still photos cannot capture the mayhem properly…so here is a little movie Björn made of the Famous Hellqvist Dancing Cats. Click the image to view it in Flickr.

Aby-a-Day – 24 November: “Waiting patiently for the fattest bone is a cat’s lifestyle.”

On Thursday, I posted about our early Thanksgiving goose. But I saved the best part for today…and of course, the best part of any bird is the neck! Usually, I bake it alongside the bird and eat it myself as a snack. But since Izaak loves his chicken necks so much, I decided to let him have the goose neck.

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I know these photos are blurry, but look how excited he is!

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Gimme!

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The neck was nearly as long as he is!

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Lorelai and Alfred were very interested in the neck, too.

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Rory was willing to dance for it!

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It’s hard to see in the photos, but Zak is really pulling on the bone! He’s like a little terrier.

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He’s growling, too.

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The growling got louder when Freddy couldn’t stand it any more and hopped up on the counter to get closer to the meat.

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You have to admire Freddy’s chutzpah, though…despite the growling from the little Singa, he still tried to take the neck.

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Finally, I cut off a small piece of the neck and gave it to Zak.

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I always give him his neck in the house, so he can eat them without being bothered by the others…and also so it doesn’t get dragged all over the house.

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However, it turned out that, excited as Zak was about the prospect of the neck…he doesn’t like goose necks. So, when I opened the house to let him out, Rory stole the neck…

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…and proceeded to eat it in the living room.

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So much for not having raw meat dragged all over the house, eh?

Aby-a-Day- 22 November: Happy Thanksgiving, or, as we call it in Sweden, “Thursday”

Today is Thanksgiving back in the States, but we actually had our “Thanksgiving” dinner last Thursday.

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The reason for this is more utilitarian than anything else. Since last year, I have wanted to cook a goose. In Sweden, geese are traditionally cooked for St. Martin’s Day, celebrated on 10 November. I didn’t know this last year when I first saw whole geese in the shops last year…I wanted to get one for Christmas, but by the time I was ready to buy one, they were nowhere to be found! Because they are only available in early November.

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This year, I was on full alert for geese, checking all the stores for geese. And I found them at two stores. I snagged a better deal than the above for the one we had for our early Thanksgiving, but Björn (who works at the same mall that the supermarket I took that photo at is in) got a second one we froze for a third of the price. But for the first one, I wanted to cook it fresh, not frozen, and the use-by date was the 15th…so, we decided to have Thanksgiving a week early.

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I have cooked whole chickens, turkeys, pheasants and ducks, but never a goose. I followed my usual Chinese-style, boiling-water-to-tighten-the-skin trick, and I even found a kick-ass Asian-style roast goose recipe.

The thing to keep in mind, here, is that the goose weighed 5kg. Of our five cats, the one who weighs the closest to that is Alfred, who, the last time I weighed them all, came in at 4.7kg. Yep, that’s right…Freddy officially weighs more than Jacoby!

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None of the cats was the least bit intimidated by food that weighed more than they did.

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Freddy even tried to take a bite!

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Lorelai is our smallest cat – smaller even than Izaak! She only weighed 2.4kg the last time I weighed them. She was very impressed with the goose.

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Another trick I use when cooking birds is to start cooking it breast down (upside-down from the way people usually roast a turkey). This way, the juices run DOWN into the breast and keeps it moist. Then for the last hour, the bird is flipped over so the breast can brown. Goose cooks a lot faster than turkey, though, which I was not expecting. I’ll know better next time.

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Zak was very interested in the cooked goose.

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So was Jake.

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Cheeky bugger actually licked it!

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I don’t cook my birds with stuffing per se, but I do stuff the inside cavity with ginger, garlic, scallions, and, for this particular recipe, orange wedges. It adds flavour to the meat from the inside. I also boil them down with the carcass when I make stock, which makes for very tasty soups.

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The meat inside is so much richer and more flavourful than turkey…but overall, it seems there is less edible meat per kilo than a similar-sized turkey. All in all, an interesting exercise. I can’t wait to try it again!