Swedish food is much more than meatballs and chewy fish-shaped sweets. To learn the difference between pickled herring and fermented herring, or what to serve with lingonberry jam or crispbread, here are 7 vital facts to know about Swedish food traditions.
1. Lingonberries: they go with anything
Just like ketchup and mustard, lingonberry jam is widely used to accompany a variety of dishes, from meatballs and pancakes, to porridge and black pudding (blodpudding). Even though it’s sweet, lingonberry jam is rarely used on bread.
2. Pickled herring: the center of the smorgasbord
You can swap meatballs (köttbullar) for mini sausages (prinskorvar) or cured salmon (gravlax) for smoked, but a smörgåsbord wouldn’t be complete without pickled herring (sill). This fishy favorite remains the basis of every typical Swedish buffet.
3. Crispbread: the base for any topping
In addition to bread and butter, crispbread (knäckebröd) is almost always served alongside the main meal. Once considered poor man’s food, crispbread has been baked in Sweden for over 500 years and can last for at least a year if stored properly!
4. Prinsesstårta: a royal indulgence
A beautiful—and delicious—addition to window displays of bakeries throughout Sweden is green princess cake (prinsesstårta), topped with a bright pink sugar rose. The cake is made with yellow sponge cake lined with jam and vanilla custard. It’s finished off with a heavy topping of whipped cream and is carefully sealed with a thin layer of sugary sweet green marzipan.
5. Sweet tooth: a calendar of sweet delights
In Sweden, people always find a good excuse to indulge in something sweet—so much so that specific calendar days are designated to the celebration of particular sugary specialties! Cinnamon Bun Day (Kanelbullens dag) is celebrated on October 4th. Buns filled with cream and almond paste, known as semlor, are eaten on Shrove Tuesday (fettisdagen). Waffles (våfflor) are reserved for March 25th.
6. Summer fish: crazy for crayfish
Crayfish parties (kräftskivor) are popular in August, when Swedens spend warm summer evenings feasting on these red, bite-sized, freshwater (or saltwater) shellfish in their gardens or balconies.
7. Surströmming: something fishy
From late August to early September, locals uphold a stinky fish tradition: they open cans of fermented sour Baltic herring (surströmming), a preparation who’s smell is reminiscent of rotten eggs or raw sewage!
A longer version of this article was originally published on www.sweden.se.