A very typical Swedish Tradition
Midsummer Eve/Solstice Celebrations and the Swedish Smorgasbord
At mid-summer the Swedish summer is a lush green and the nights are scarcely dark at all. In the north the sun never sets. Midsummer Eve is celebrated all over Sweden, with dancing and singing around the maypole. People begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole and the young Swedish girls even wear flower wreaths in the hair. Once the “may pole” is raised the dancing around it starts and the fiddlers are playing and everybody sing and laugh while they are dancing and they dance way into the light night.
One of the most popular places for Midsummer celebration is Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm: www.skansen.se but every town, city and province make its own Midsummer Celebration – the longest day of the year.
Midsummer is also a day of eating a typical summer Smörgåsbord, with various herring dishes, fresh boiled potatoes with dill , salmon and of course the famous Swedish meat balls. In addition, crisp bread – the King of Breads (and very healthy) with Västerbotten cheese and together with all this you drink Swedish beer and schnapps. And for dessert a Strawberry cake – it can’t be more Swedish than that!
The Swedish Smörgåsbord
From the early 18th century until today, the Swedish Smörgåsbord has been very popular.
This is perhaps the best known of Sweden’s culinary traditions. The Smörgåsbord is a beautiful collection of delicacies meant to be eaten in a special order on several clean plates. “You can pick out a non-Swede by the way the person loads everything onto a single plate”.
It is an art to eat a Swedish Smörgåsbord the right way and what a delicious art!!
The meaning Smörgåsbord (“Sandwich Table”) might be familiar to everyone. Long time ago when the Swedes used to invite guests to their homes, they first of all thought of how to feed them all. The invited guests could arrive from faraway places, so not to make the people wait, the Swedes treated their guests with salted fish, salads of boiled potatoes, eggs and boiled vegetables which were able to keep fresh for several days, and sandwiches. Today, every Swede (and visitors alike) loves a genuine Smörgåsbord which is quite different from what it use to be.
And how to eat a Smörgåsbord:
Begin with the various herring dishes, egg dished with anchovies and shrimps plus salmon dishes (smoked salmon or grav lax which is a raw, marinated salmon). Those dishes are served with boiled potatoes.
Together with this first course you also take some Swedish crisp bread and cheese. You might also like to try Jansons Temptations, a potato casserole with onions, anchovies and cream.
To this you drink Swedish Aquavit and beer. Aquavit comes in different flavors like cumin, fennel and aniseed.
Next plate will be filled with cold cuts such as various sausages, ham and different pates.
Then come the warm dishes such as meat balls with lingon berries, roast beef and spare ribs, and if you don’t care if you eat Santa’s horse, try some reindeer from the north. At Christmas, the HAM is the main course.
No Smorgasbord can be too big or too varied but they should always contain typical Swedish dishes, like the ones I just mentioned.
In addition to all this, you will also find various salads, and vegetable dishes to choose from.
From start to finish – the Smörgåsbord is a work of art, lovingly created and consumed.
And don’t forget: Change plate for every new dish. You don’t want to mix up all the different flavors on one plate.
Herring – the way we like them:
Fried herring, smoked herring, salt herring and many more.
There are many ways to prepare and eat herrings which belong to the family Clupea Harengus.And like a beloved child has many names, so has herring: Fladen herring, virgin herring, spring herring and many more. The different names depend on where and when they are caught. Herring has been fished for a couple of thousand years in the cold salt-water regions. It has been the food for the poor as well as the rich.
Skål: The word “skål” means cheers, salute, l’chaim, to your health and during Swedish festivities it might be one of the most frequent used words. The Swedish word “skål” really means “scull” and the legend says that the Vikings in their Heaven called Valhalla use to drink from the enemies’ scull. Today, when we Swedes cheer each other, we look deep into each other eyes, and very seriously, we say “skål” and then we drink. Also, we like to sing with every “skål” but WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may cause you to think you can sing….but can you really??
Strawberries: Midsummer would not be Midsummer without strawberries, preferably Swedish strawberries. The smultron, wild strawberry, is native to Sweden but the jordgubbe, the larger cultivated strawberry hybrid developed 250 years ago, did not grow on a widespread scale in Sweden until the mid-20th century. Whether served alone with sugar and whipped cream; with vanilla ice cream; on top of a meringue; or in the form of jordgubbstårta (the Swedish version of strawberry shortcake), the strawberry has become the quintessential Midsummer dessert.