There is quite a North-South divide in the regional dishes of Swedish cuisine with the North featuring meats such as reindeer and other similar meat dishes, the South has more vegetables in their diet. Traditional Swedish cuisine is known as ‘husmanskost’, this comes from ‘home owners fare’ and incorporates simple local ingredients. Dishes include pork in all it’s forms, fish, cereals, potatoes, vegetables, berries and apples. Husmanskost dishes include ‘ärtsoppa’ pea soup, ‘rotmos med fläsk’potato and rutabaga with pork, salmon in various forms such as ‘gravlax‘ which is salmon cured in sugar, salt and seasoned with dill, herrings (normally pickled), ‘fiskbullar‘ fish balls, white fish pieces blended with cream and formed into balls, ‘köttbullar‘ meatballs, potato dumplings, ‘raggmunk’ potato pancakes, ‘pytt i panna’ a fried mixture of potato, onions and small pieces of meat often served with fried eggs and slices of pickled red beets, ‘kalpos’meat stew,and ‘kroppkakor’ potato dumplings with a pork and onion filling, all of which are hearty, tasty and wholesome dishes.
One of the most well known Swedish dishes is the ‘smörgåsbord’ which is a mouthwatering selection of goodies including things such as meatballs and gravlax, herring dishes, salmon, pies, salads, eggs and boiled and fried potatoes, at Christmas this is known as ‘Julbord’. Meatballs are also well known and well loved, served with boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam and a rich creamy sauce. Thursdays are still traditionally kept for soup,normally pea soup with pork and mustard served alongside (Thursday was originally the maids day off and soup was left prepared to just heat up), the soup is followed by Pancakes for dessert, even the Swedish army still serve their conscripts pea soup and pancakes every Thursday.’Kaldolmar‘ are Swedish cabbage rolls, they were introduced into Swedish cuisine by Karl XII who came into contact with the dish at the time of the battle of Poltava, filled with minced pork or beef and rice, they are served with boiled potatoes, lingonberries and gravy. Lutefisk is popular in Sweden, as it is in Norwegian cuisine, made from stockfish which has been air-dried or dried-salted fish ‘klippfisk‘ and lye.
Midsommar (midsummer’s day) is one of the most important holidays in the Swedish calendar, there is dancing around a giant maypole and traditional music is played and some even wear the traditional folk costumes, along with crowns made from wildflowers. The year’s first potatoes are eaten along with soused herrings,chives and sour cream and finished off with the first strawberries of the season. Bonfires are lit and houses are decorated with greenery to bring good luck and good health to those living there.
August sees the Crayfish celebrations, all over Sweden you will see the coloured lanterns hanging in the gardens and tables set for family and friends with colourful tablecloths and napkins. It has become a strong and enjoyable tradition to pile the table high with crayfish, bread and cheese and wash it all down with beer and, of course, schnapps.The tradition started in the early 20th century when restrictions on crayfish fishing came into force because of over-fishing, it was limited to only a couple of months starting in August, nowadays crayfish are available all year round but the tradition goes on and with the best of the weather being at this time it is the ideal time of year to enjoy sitting out in the evenings.
Sweden produces several varieties of cheeses, ‘Adelost’ is a cow’s milk cheese and is a creamy, blue cheese. ‘Graddost’is Sweden’s most popular cheese. Made from cow’s milk, it has a mild and creamy texture and is not unlike the Swiss Gruyere but with smaller holes. Another cow’s milk cheese is ‘Greve’ and is a semi-hard cheese very like the Swiss Emmental. ‘Mesost’ is one of Sweden’s whey cheeses and is a low-fat cheese. ‘Prastost’ is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with a slightly soft texture and irregular holes. The ‘Saaland Pfarr’ is the Prastost cheese washed in Whisky to develop a stronger flavour.
Cinnamon buns ‘Kanelbulle’ are a favourite all over Sweden and are regularly eaten with a good strong cup of coffee, sweet, soft yeast breads are another favourite made with saffron, raisins and again cinnamon or ‘Wienerbrod’ Danish pastries ‘Punschrulle’ a small pastry covered with green marzipan and the ends dipped in chocolate, the inside is flavoured with punch liqueur. Pancakes served with preserved fruits will even make an appearance at the breakfast table and who could possibly resist the wonderful Swedish butter cookies! Other desserts will include ‘Ostaka‘ a Swedish cheesecake, ‘Gotländsk saffranspannkaka ‘Rice pudding with saffron, ‘Våfflor’ Waffles and ‘Klappgröt’ semolina pudding with fruits, eaten cold. There are various mouthwatering cakes many of them filled with whipped cream and often containing nuts, marzipan, custard or fruits. Apples are second only to berries in popularity and are used to make wonderful apple cakes and pastries served with creamy custard.
The Swedes are one of the world’s leading coffee drinkers and they enjoy their coffee strong, and milk consumption is only second to Finland, and is usually taken with meals during the week. Fruit juices such as Lingonberry,Bilberry, Apple and Juniper berry are popular with adults and children alike. Fruit soups made from rosehips and bilberries are eaten or drunk, usually warm especially in the winter months and provide vitamins as well as being enjoyable.Vodka is a traditional spirit from Sweden with ‘Absolut Vodka’ being the best known, the other well known spirit is ‘Aqvavit’. Beer is also widely consumed in Sweden and a typical Swedish beer is of the lager type, brands Pripps Bla and Norrlands Guld are typical examples. A traditional Christmas drink of dark beer, light beer, port wine and a sweet drink with a little spice of cardamon is called ‘Mumma’ and then we have the more well known winter warmer ‘Glogg’ Swedish mulled wine.
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