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Savor the Many Delights of Swedish Cuisine

Boasting of a muppet as its main culinary ambassador, a smallish, tucked country like Sweden has a lot to overcome. With a fairly limited impact on global pop-culture, Swedish cultural attributes have been and will always remain associated with flying utensils, meatballs and the words “‘bork bork bork’. Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that– meatballs are well-loved staples and form an integral part of traditional Swedish home cooking (husmanskost).

However, there is a lot more than meatballs and what meets the eye in Sweden.  As a visiting gourmand, get ready to sample some of the best recipes on your platter-in the warmth of well stocked kitchens or fine dining places alike.

Husmanskost: Swedish Home Cooking

Historically in Sweden, harsh weather conditions and short growing seasons had made it difficult for natives to transport produce for most parts of the year. Long treks through the wilderness in blistering cold had made life even tougher-leading to the development of the cooking habits and eating patterns that we know of today. (image by Jonathan Koertge)

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In Sweden, each province has its own trademarked variety of cheese-with Västerbotten’s being a hot favorite. Cooks in diverse regions centered their go-to menu lists around the ingredients which were readily available from forests and local farms; with materials that needed to be stored/shipped being dried, pickled, cured, or canned. This need to preserve short-lived ingredients has led to ubiquitous Swedish delicacies such as filmjölk (fermented milk); gravad lax (slices of cured salmon); lingonberry jam; pickled herring and different kinds of liqueurs.

Here, you will also get to experience a national obsession with season based foods like chanterelle mushrooms, cloudberries and crayfish. Of course, now it is possible to buy strawberries through winters or prepare dishes with crayfish at all times of the year -but then, Swedish cuisine holds to its ancient order. So, gear up to encounter the basics of husmanskost that includes traditional Swedish meatballs whipped with specific proportions of pork, ground beef and veal. These are served with lingonberries, gravy and boiled/mashed new potatoes on the side. Relish!

Herring

In Sweden, herrings are fried, pickled, mushed into salad or simply rolled up into flatbread wraps-along with an assortment of regionally specific sauces. Known as sil or strömming (in accordance to the coastline from which it comes), herrings are best tasted as surströmming – canned fermented herring. You would also love to savor the delights of lutfisk, a rare ‘treat’ comprising of dried cod that is reserved in lye (caustic chemical used in soap making) and reformed to a pale, gelatinous mass (best savored with béchamel sauce, butter and/or green peas). Mmm!

Reindeer

It may sound strange to outsiders, but reindeer is livestock in Northern Sweden and forms the core of the cuisine of Samis, the native population of the region. Prepared in every conceivable way — from cured to dried to smoked to pickled to roasted (oft with seasonal berry-based sauces), it requires neither a stubborn nature nor practice to enjoy. Give it a try if you see it on the menu. (image by Marie Hale)

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Related post: The Top European Cities to Go on Vacation

Feature image Kirsten Lund

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