Swedish Midsummer Fare Of Pickled Herring, Gravlax And Snaps
Midsummer (midsommar) is a HUGE occasion in Sweden, rivaling Christmas, and celebrated with smorgasbord (buffet style), snaps and singing and dancing around a maypole.
Some of us at LeanPac®have had the pleasure of immersing ourselves in this celebration with the locals, and enjoyed it so much that we have made it a yearly practice for the lean team to get together and celebrate with the same food, drinks and singing!
Typical midsommar fare include a first course of pickled herring and new potatoes, followed by a grilled dish of some kind, usually spare ribs or salmon, ending with the first strawberries of the season served with cream.
Grilled mains and strawberries and cream are something most of us are familiar with, so the lean team’s midsommar lunch has become a smörgåsbord of the first course.
Traditionally, canned pickled herring (matjesill) steeped in water, salt, sugar and spices like cinnamon, and cloves, are served plain with sour cream and dill clippings. Nowadays, there is an assortment of marinated pickled herring to include clear pickling sauce ones e.g. onions, anchovies essence, sherry etc, to creamy ones like mustard, garlic and tomato.
Abba (no connection) is the main producer of canned herrings in Sweden but house brands are widely available. You can get some of the here-mentioned ingredients including Swedish pickled herring in the UK from Ikea, and a couple of Swedish grocery shops (also online) in London or online from Ocado and Amazon although only limited produce are available.
Otherwise, buy pickled herring and make your own. Try our recipes here.
Gravlax (Gravad Lax)
Gravlax is raw salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill. It is thinly sliced and served with a tangy and sweet dill and mustard sauce called hovmästarsås or gravadlaxsås.
Gravlax is expensive and difficult to find. They can be bought online or at walk-in specialist shops. The best way is to cure your own, as it is not difficult. As for the hovmästarsås, Ikea stocks their house brand called “Dill & Senap Sås” (dill & mustard sauce) and it is also available in Ocado’s Swedish Shop. Try our gravlax and hovmästarsås recipe here!
The Swedes are very particular that new potatoes be used for this meal and tries very hard to get the science right to make sure they are ready for harvest in time. The new potatoes are boiled with dill sprigs and served, with skin, alongside all the other delights in this buffet style meal.
Hard Bread & Cheese
Hard bread, as the Swedes themselves translates it, are crisp bread or Ryvita as we know it. They are offered up plain in a breadbasket to be used as “vehicles” for the herring or eaten with hard cheeses. Västerbottensost, maturing up to 18 mths, is the traditional cheese served. It tastes and has texture very much like very matured cheddar.
DRINKS & DANCING!
Associated with midsummer, is a strong tradition of beer and snaps consumption in connection with the celebration. Snaps is vodka infused with various combinations of herbs and spices like wormwood, wort, aniseed, caraway, cinnamon, fennel etc.
Lager is served with the food with snaps served in small shot glasses and can be emptied in one go, but more commonly taken in two to three sips to discover and enjoy the infused flavours in combination with the midsummer food. All snaps are usually taken as a toast by all around the table and accompanied by a short song.
They are available in some of the usual suggested places but again, best to make your own and try the different infusions yourself!
Dancing comes after and traditionally around a maypole. A classic song includes “Små grodorna” (small frogs). Have a listen here, if you are interested!
Enjoy and Happy Midsummer! GLAD MIDSOMMAR!