Swedish cuisine


Swedish cuisine
Swedish meatballs with cream sauce, mashed potatoes, pickled gherkin and lingonberry jam

Due to Sweden's large north-south extent there have always been regional differences in Swedish cuisine. Historically, in the far North, meats such as reindeer, and other (semi-) game dishes were eaten, some of which have their roots in the Sami culture, while fresh vegetables have played a larger role in the South. Many traditional dishes employ simple, contrasting flavours; such as the traditional dish of hearty meatballs and gravy with tart, pungent lingonberry jam (slightly similar in taste to cranberry sauce).

Swedes have traditionally been very open to foreign influences, ranging from French cuisine during the 17th and 18th century, to the sushi and cafe latte of today. On the fast food side, pizza and hot-dogs have been a ubiquitous part of Swedish culture since the 1960s. Twenty years later, the same could be said about the growing popularity of the kebab and falafel, as many small restaurants specialise in such dishes.

Contents

General features

Swedish cuisine could be described as centered around cultured dairy products, crisp and soft (often sugared) breads, berries and stone fruits, beef, pork, sweetened seafood and fish. Potatoes are often served as a side dish, often boiled. Swedish cuisine has a huge variety of breads of different shapes and sizes, made of rye, wheat, oat, white, dark, sour-dough, whole grain; soft flatbreads and crispbreads. There are many sweetened bread types and some use spices. Many meat dishes and especially meatballs are served with lingonberry jam. Fruit soups with high viscosity, like rose hip soup and blueberry soup (blåbärssoppa) served hot or cold, are typical of Swedish cuisine. Butter and margarine are the primary fat sources, although olive oil is becoming more popular. Sweden's pastry tradition features a variety of yeast buns, cookies, biscuits and cakes, many of them in a sugary style with a pastry (fika) are enormously popular in Sweden.

History

Surströmming, fermented herring served with boiled potatoes and salad
Gravlax on crisp bread with pepper and lemon
Pitepalt dumpling

The importance of fish has governed Swedish population and trade patterns far back in history. For preservation, fish were salted and cured. Salt became a major trade item at the dawn of the Scandinavian middle ages, which began circa 1000 AD. Cabbage preserved as sauerkraut and various kinds of preserved berries, apples, etc. were used once as a source of vitamin C during the winter (today sauerkraut is used very seldom in Swedish cuisine). Lingonberry jam, still a favourite, may be the most traditional and typical Swedish way to add freshness to sometimes rather heavy food, such as steaks and stews.

Sweden's long winters explain the lack of fresh vegetables in many traditional recipes. In older times, plants that would sustain the population through the winters were cornerstones; various turnips such as the kålrot (rutabaga) (aptly named "swede" in British English) were gradually supplanted or complemented by the potato in the 18th century. A lack of distinct spices made every-day food rather plain by today's standards, although a number of local herbs and plants have been used since ancient times. This tradition is still present in today’s Swedish dishes, which are still rather sparingly spiced.

Both before and after this period, some new Germanic dishes were also brought in by immigrants, such as persons related to the Hanseatic League, settling in Stockholm, Visby, and Kalmar. Swedish traders and aristocrats naturally also picked up some food traditions in foreign countries; cabbage rolls (kåldolmar) being one example. Cabbage rolls were introduced in Sweden by Karl XII who came in contact with this dish at the time of the Battle of Poltava and during his camp in the Turkish Bender and later introduced by his Ottoman creditors, which moved to Stockholm in 1716. Kåldolmar were already described in 1755, by Cajsa Warg, in her famous Hjelpreda i hushållningen för unga fruentimber.

Husmanskost

Swedish husmanskost denotes traditional Swedish dishes with local ingredients, the classical every-day Swedish cuisine. The word husmanskost stems from husman, meaning "house owner" (without associated land), and the term was originally used for most kinds of simple countryside food outside of towns. Genuine Swedish husmanskost used predominantly local ingredients such as pork in all forms, fish, cereals, milk, potato, root vegetables, cabbage, onions, apples, berries etc.; beef and lamb were used more sparingly. Beside berries, apples are the most used traditional fruit, eaten fresh or served as apple pie, apple sauce, or apple cake. Time consuming cooking methods such as redningar (roux) and långkok (literally "long boil") are commonly employed and spices are sparingly used. Examples of Swedish husmanskost are pea soup (ärtsoppa), boiled and mashed carrots, potato and rutabaga served with pork (rotmos med fläsk), many varieties of salmon (such as gravlax, inkokt lax, fried, pickled), varieties of herring (most commonly pickled, but also fried, au gratin, etc.), fishballs (fiskbullar), meatballs (köttbullar), potato dumplings with meat or other ingredients (palt), potato pancake (raggmunk), varieties of porridge (gröt), a fried mix of pieces of potato, different kind of meats, sausages, bacon and onion (pytt i panna), meat stew with onion (kalops), and potato dumplings with a filling of onions and pork (kroppkakor).

Dishes akin to Swedish husmanskost and food traditions are found also in other Scandinavian countries; details may vary. Sweden is part of the vodka belt and historically distilled beverages, such as brännvin and snaps, have been a traditional daily complement to food. Consumption of wine in Sweden has increased during the last fifty years, partly at the expense of beer and stronger alcoholic beverages. In many countries locally produced wines are combined with local husmanskost.

Husmanskost has undergone a renaissance during the last decades as well known (or famous) Swedish chefs, such as Tore Wretman, have presented modernised variants of classical Swedish dishes. In this nouvel husman the amount of fat (which was needed to sustain hard manual labour in the old days) is reduced and some new ingredients are introduced. The cooking methods are tinkered with as well, in order to speed up the cooking process and/or enhance the nutritional value or flavor of the dishes.

Swedes have adopted some foreign influences, ranging from cabbage rolls and influences from French cuisine during the 17th and 18th centuries, to the pizza and cafe latte of today. Many Swedish restaurateurs mix traditional husmanskost with a modern, gourmet approach.

On the fast food side, hot dog sausage served in a bun or wrapped in flatbread is the classical Swedish fast food, but pizza has also been an integral part of Swedish fast food since the 1960s. Twenty years later, the same could be said about kebab and falafel, as many small restaurants specialise in such dishes.

Dishes

A plate for midnight supper
Crayfish party called Kräftskiva
Falu sausage, Falukorv
Potato casserole called Janssons frestelse
A traditional Christmas ham in modern Sweden
Pickled herring, sour cream and chopped chives, potatoes and an egg half served at midsummer.

Swedish traditional dishes, some of which are many hundreds of years old, others perhaps a century or less, are still a very important part of Swedish everyday meals, in spite of the fact that modern day Swedish cuisine adopts many international dishes.

Internationally, the most renowned Swedish culinary tradition is the smörgåsbord and, at Christmas, the julbord, including well known Swedish dishes such as gravlax and meatballs.

In Sweden, traditionally, Thursday has been soup day because the maids had half the day off and soup was easy to prepare in advance. One of the most traditional Swedish soups, still served in many restaurants and households every Thursday together with pancakes, is the yellow pea soup, or ärtsoppa. It dates back to the old tradition of peas being associated with Thor. This is a simple meal, a very thick soup, basically consisting of boiled yellow peas, a little onion, salt and small pieces of pork. It is often served with mustard and followed by thin pancakes (see pannkakor). The Swedish Army also serve their conscripts pea soup and pancakes every Thursday.

Potatoes are eaten year-round as the main source of carbohydrates, and are a staple in many traditional dishes. Not until the last 50 years have pasta or rice become common on the dinner table.

There are several different kinds of potatoes: the most appreciated is the new potato, a potato which ripens in early summer, and is enjoyed at the traditional mid-summer feast called midsommar. New potatoes at midsommar are served with pickled herring, chives, sour cream, and the first strawberries of the year are traditionally served as dessert.

The most highly regarded mushroom in Sweden is the chanterelle, which is considered a delicacy. The chanterelle is usually served as a side dish together with steaks, or fried with onions and sauce served on an open sandwich. Second to the chanterelle, and considered almost as delicious, is the porcini mushroom, or karljohansvamp named after Charles XIV John (Karl XIV Johan) who introduced its use as food.

In August, at the traditional feast known as crayfish party, kräftskiva, Swedes eat large amounts of boiled crayfish boiled and then marinated in a broth with salt, a little bit of sugar, and a large amount of dill.

Some traditional Swedish dishes are:

Main courses

Swedish English Definition
Ärtsoppa Pea soup
Blodpudding Black pudding The Swedish name literally means "blood pudding". Eaten with lingonberry jam, and sometimes bacon.
Blodkorv Blood sausage Other than pig blood the ingredients include flour, pork, raisins and spices
Falukorv Sausage, big and thick, originating from Falun. The lifts and pumps at the Kopparberg copper mine in Falun were, during the 16th and 17th centuries before the introduction of steam engines, powered by oxen. When these oxen died from strain or old age, the skin was turned into leather ropes used in the mine, and some of the meat was turned into Falukorv sausages.
Fiskbullar Fishballs, made from minced white fish meat.
Gravlax Salmon cured with salt and sugar with herbs.
Inkokt lax Boiled Salmon, together with onion and carrots, in a mixture of water, vinegar, salt, sugar and some other spices. Usually eaten cold, not uncommonly together with mayonnaise spiced with dill and lemon.
Isterband Sausage, from Småland, made of coarsely ground pork, barley and potatoes. It is prepared by first fermenting it and then lightly smoking it. This method of cooking creates a distinct, both acidic and slightly smoky flavor. It's traditionally eaten with dill-stewed potatoes and pickled rootbeets.
Janssons frestelse Jansson's temptation Potato casserole made of grated potatoes, onion, "anchovy" and cream; the fish used is usually the sprat, a different species, but similarly spiced.[1]
Julskinka Cured ham, boiled and breaded with mustard, bread crumbs and egg, translates as Christmas ham. The Swedish equivalent to Christmas turkey.
Kalops Meat stewed with onion, vegetables and spices
Kåldolmar Cabbage rolls
Odorflue Dried and deboned whitefish wrapped in a soft, mild cheese. Also known as Detweilerfesh.
Köttsoppa med klimp Soup, made from beef and root vegetables, served with klimp, a distinct Swedish dumpling.
Kroppkakor Dumplings made of pre-boiled potatoes, filled with pork.
Lutfisk Lye fish made of stockfish.
Palt Dumplings made of unboiled potatoes, filled with pork.
Pitepalt Dumplings from Piteå.
Blodpalt Dumplings with blood
Paltbröd A type of tunnbröd baked with blood. Traditionally served leached with white sauce and fried pork.
Leverpalt Dumplings with liver
Blåbärspalt Dumplings with blueberries
Pannkakor Pancakes - A "plätt" is a small pancake, usually made in a "plättlagg", a sort of frying pan with indentations to allow for several to be made at once.
Plättar
Inlagd sill Sweetened, pickled herring
Pölsa Similar to hash
Raggmunk Potato pancakes
Rotmos med fläsk mashed potatoes, carrotts and swede served with pork
Korv Stroganoff Sausage pieces served in a sauce
Biff Stroganoff Beef Stroganoff Beef pieces served in a sauce
Stekt fläsk och bruna bönor Pork with stewed brown beans
Stekt fläsk med löksås och potatis Pork with onion sauce and potatoes
Prinskorv Sausages, small hot dog style
Fläskkorv Sausages, pork
Pyttipanna Mix of chopped and fried meat, onions, pre-boiled potatoes. Other ingredients are often added as well, such as sausages, bacon or even salmon (instead of the meat).
Smörgåstårta Sandwich cake Like a very big multi-layer sandwich. Comes with many different fillings and toppings.
Surströmming Fermented Baltic herring Being fermented, Surströmming has a strong odor and unique flavour and is considered an acquired taste.
Stekt strömming Fried herring Sweetened pickled fish, very different from surströmming.
Grisfötter Pigs' trotters served with rödbetor
Flygande Jacob Casserole based on chicken with bananas, peanuts and bacon. "Invented" in the 60's.

Seafood

Egg sandwich with cod roe caviar

A limited range of fish and other seafood is an important part of the Swedish cuisine. Farmed salmon from Norway has become increasingly popular. And pickled, sweetened herring, inlagd sill, is the most traditional of Swedish appetizers. Shrimp and lobster are specialties of the Skagerrak coast.

Desserts

Christmas dessert, called Ris à l'amande ("Almond rice").

Common desserts include:

Swedish English Definition
Ostkaka Swedish cheesecake (very different from American cheesecake).
Gotländsk saffranspannkaka Rice pudding dessert with saffron originating in Gotland, usually served with jam and/or whipped cream, or Dewberry jam.
Smulpaj crumb pie Various kinds of pies and cookies are typical desserts, mostly served with coffee. Typical pies are apple pie, blueberry pie and rhubarb pie.
Smördegspaj butter dough based pie
Pannkaka Pancakes are almost never served for breakfast ("American style") but either as dessert with sweet jam and/or whipped cream, or as a meal in itself, using fewer sweet toppings. (Pancakes for dinner can be thick oven-baked pancakes with pork meat or apples inside.)
Spettekaka A sweet dry hollow Swedish cake, shaped like a cylinder, and similar to Meringue, found only in the southern regions of Sweden, Skåne.
Våfflor Waffles Often served with jam and whipped cream or ice cream. Waffles also have their own day on March 25.
Klappgröt semolina pudding mixed with juice from either red currant, lingonberries, raspberries, blackberries etc. and then stirred or blended until the texture is fluffier. Eaten cold.

Pastries and treats

In recent years American brownies, cookies and cup-cakes have become popular in cafés and restaurants.[citation needed]

Cinnamon roll (Kanelbulle)
Princess cake (Prinsesstårta)
Budapest pastry (Budapestbakelse)
Napoleon pastry (Napoleonbakelse)

Kaffebröd (coffee bread)

Bakelser and other types of kaffebröd (or more colloquially "fikabröd") are various forms of pastries, pieces of cake, cookies and buns that are usually consumed, except by children, with relatively strong coffee (see fika). Popular kinds of kaffebröd available in a traditional Swedish konditori (coffee shop / patisserie) include:

Swedish English Definition
Kanelbulle Cinnamon roll with cardamom dough
Wienerbröd A Danish pastry; comes in several varieties and shapes; very similar to a Danish pastry in the US.
Chokladboll/Negerboll Chocolate ball/Blackball or Negro ball A round chocolate-flavored butter ball with oatmeal-cocoa-sugar-, coated in coconut flakes or pearl sugar. Chokladboll is something of a misnomer as it contains no cocoa butter. Originally called negerboll, literally "negro ball", today a less accepted name in PC circles, but still used by many, and generally not seen as derogatory towards black people).
Kringla A small pretzel-shaped (sweet) cookie with pearl sugar on top.
Punschrulle Punsch-roll A small cylindrical pastry covered with green marzipan with the ends dipped in chocolate, and inside a mix of crushed cookies, butter, and cacao, flavoured with punsch liqueur. This pastry is often called dammsugare ("vacuum cleaner"), referring not only to its appearance, but also to the practice of the pastry baker collecting crumbs from the day's cookies to make the filling. Other names are arraksrulle (as arrak is an ingredient in punsch) and "150-ohmer" (owing to the brown-green-brown coloring).
Biskvi A small round pastry with a base made from almonds and sugar, filled with butter cream and covered with a thin layer of chocolate. First made in France during the 19th century.
Prinsesstårta Princess cake A large cake, made of sponge cake layered with whipped cream, and custard under a green marzipan coating with powdered sugar on the top; often decorated with a pink marzipan rose.
Budapestbakelse Budapest pastry Basically made from sugar, egg white, hazelnuts, whipped cream, and pieces of fruit like apricot or mandarine, decorated with a little chocolate and powdered sugar.
Napoleonbakelse Napolitain Made of pastry dough, whipped cream, custard and jam, topped with icing and currant jelly.
Napoleon pastry
Kladdkaka A chocolatey and sticky flat cake.
Arraksboll A ball flavored with arrak, similar in appearance to a chokladboll but very different taste.

Treats

Saffron bun, also called St Lucia bun (Lussebulle)
A gingerbread house

In the summer, various seasonal fruit cakes are common. Strawberry and cream cake are highly regarded. Strawberries are also often eaten on their own with sugar and milk or cream. In the late summer and autumn, apple cakes and pies are baked. The apple cake is often served with vanilla custard, but sometimes with ice cream or whipped cream.

During the winter holidays, traditional candy and pastries include:

Treat Definition
Knäck Christmas toffee
Ischoklad Cold ice-chocolate "toffees"
Marmelad "Marmalade candy", rectangular fruit and pectin based candy in various colours.
Lussekatt Saffron bun, a Swedish saffron bun eaten on the Saint Lucia celebration (13 December).
Pepparkaka Similar to a ginger snaps (has been eaten since the 14th century and baked at the monastery of Vadstena since 1444); associated with Christmas but consumed all year round.
Semla With the new year, the fastlagsbulle (Lenten bun), or semla, is baked. It is a wheat bun with a cream and almond paste filling, traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday.

Candy

Salty liquorice gelatine fish, a typical Swedish candy
Ahlgrens bilar ("Ahlgren's Cars") candy

Other typical Swedish candy includes:

Candy Definition
Saltlakrits Liquorice candy flavoured with ammonium chloride.
Polkagris Traditional peppermint stick candy from Gränna, also made in other flavours.
Winegums and gumdrops in all shapes, colours and sizes a typical Swedish candy[2] for kids
Ahlgrens bilar A marshmallow candy shaped like a car. Marketed as "Sweden's most sold car".
Sockerbitar Similar to square, chewy marshmallows
Geléhallon An early form of gelatine-based candy
Daim formerly called Dime in the UK

Drinks

Sweden is one of the heaviest coffee drinking countries in the world, behind Finland. Milk consumption in Sweden is also very high, again only second to Finland. Milk is bought in milk cartons, and it is no coincidence that Tetra Pak, the world's largest maker of milk cartons, was founded in Sweden. Milk is considered the standard drink to have with meals during weekdays in many families, for both children and adults.

Religious Christmas

Julmust
Drink Definition
Mumma A traditional Christmas beverage. Usually a mix of porter or another dark beer, some light beer (pilsner), port wine (or some other wine), and something sweet (sockerdricka or julmust); commonly spiced with cardamom.
Glögg Mulled wine

Sweet drinks

A cup of blueberry soup, (blåbärssoppa) topped with cereals
Swedish English Definition
Blåbärssoppa Sweet soup or drink made from blueberries, served either hot or cold.
Enbärsdricka Traditional juniper berry soft drink
Sockerdricka "sugar-drink" Traditional sweet-sour soft drink (carbonated)
Fruktsoda Traditional lemon-lime soft drink (carbonated)
Champis Soft drink alternative to sparkling wine (carbonated)
Pommac
Trocadero Traditional soft drink with the taste of apple and oranges, with its roots in the north of Sweden.
Julmust Traditional sweet seasonal carbonated soft drink (jul means Christmas in Swedish).
Lingondricka Lingonberry drink

Fruit soups

Fruit soups, especially rose hip soup and bilberry soup, are eaten or drunk, usually warm during the winter.

Liquor

Absolut Vodka in different flavours

The most important of stronger beverages in the Swedish cuisine is Brännvin which is a general term that includes mainly two kinds of beverages: The Akvavit, also called Aqua vitae, and the Vodka. When consumed traditionally it is often served as a Snaps, but Vodka is also populary consumed as a drink ingredient. Renat is often considered to be the national vodka of Sweden, but other highly popular brands are Explorer Vodka and Absolut Vodka, the latter being one of the world's best known liquor brands. Most forms of Brännvin have around 40% alcohol.

The production of hard liquor has a tradition dating back to the 18th century and was at a high in the 1840s. Since the 1880s, the state-owned Systembolaget has a monopoly on selling spirits with more than 3.5% alcohol, limiting access. Hembränt (moonshine) used to be made in rural Sweden, but production has lessened in recent years due to more liberal rules for the import of alcohol as well as increased smuggling.

Beer

Beer is also widely consumed in Sweden and the typical Swedish beer is lager beer of a bright and bitter kind. The brands Pripps Blå and Norrlands Guld are common examples. In the last few decades, many small breweries (microbreweries) have emerged all over Sweden offering a wide range of styles and brands. Nils Oscar Brewery, Dugges Ale och Porterbryggeri and Närke Kulturbryggeri are examples of these young Swedish microbreweries. Many microbreweries in Sweden are inspired by the US craft beer movement, brewing American styles and/or styles commonly associated with American craft breweries, e.g. American Pale Ale and American IPA.

Food and society

Brödinstitutet (The Bread Institute) once campaigned with a quotation from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, recommending[3] eating 6 to 8 slices of bread daily. Drinking milk[4] has also been recommended and campaigned for by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare; it's often recommended to drink two[5] to three glasses of milk per day.[6][7][8] 52% of Swedes surveyed drink milk at least once a day,[9] usually one glass with lunch and another glass or two in the evening or morning.

Health issues

Though overweight and metabolic syndrome has been rising in recent years with the increase in more highly processed food and fast food, the obesity rate is still low compared to many other industrial countries, well below that of the U.S., at least in part due to smaller portions and a more active lifestyle.[citation needed]

Low-fat products, wholemeal bread and other alternatives are common — grocery stores usually sell milk in four or five different fat levels, from 3% to 0.1%.[10]

Swedish alcohol consumption has changed during the last few decades due to more "continental" habits, as Swedes combine their traditional weekend binge drinking with casual weekday drinking and relaxed import regulations (see alcoholic beverages in Sweden). Tobacco smoking has decreased greatly during the last few decades, mostly because of many Swedes' transition to the national specialty snus and (more recently) due to smoking being prohibited in bars and public places.[citation needed] Recreational drugs other than alcohol and tobacco are less common in Sweden than in continental Europe.[citation needed]

Ethical issues

Swedish farmers actively advertise their products as free from genetic engineering, cruelty against animals, un-organic chemicals and excessive transportation. The national organic farming label, KRAV, is popular, and a fair trade label was recently established[citation needed].

See also

References

Further reading

  • Schildt-Lundgren, Margareta (2000) Simply Swedish. ISBN 91-974561-7-9
  • Widenfelt, Sam, ed. (1950) Swedish Food. Gothenburg: Esselte

External links


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