Sweden, located in the center of the Scandinavian peninsula, is a land rich in more than just meatballs. The country’s harsh climate has shaped the way locals cook, forcing them to find creative methods of preserving foods through the entire, 5 or 6 month-long winter when few fresh foods remain available. From smoking to pickling, the intricacies of Swedish cuisine are steeped in historical efficiency and tradition. Read on to learn about some of the most interesting developments in the Swedish kitchen.
Swedes are well known for pickling vegetables and fish. The method is simple: combine sliced vegetables or fish with hot brine made of sugar, water, vinegar, and various seasonings (peppercorns, bay leaves, and allspice are all good options). After a few days, the preparation is ready to eat. Herring, one of the most commonly pickled foods, is a staple of the smörgåsbord and many Swedish dishes.
One of the most popular forms of cured food in Sweden is gravlax (made with salmon). The process involves coating fresh food with a mixture of salt, sugar, and various seasonings for several days. Once the curing process is complete, the mixture is removed and the cured food is either served as is or rinsed and prepared into a dish.
Swedes often preserve fresh meats and fish by leaving them over smoke for several days. The process dries the meat, enabling it to keep for years on end, and gives it a delicious smoky flavor. Lutefisk, or smoked cod, is one of the most common examples of this Swedish preparation.
While similar to curing, salting involves dousing fresh food with nothing but salt and allowing it to sit for several days. Salt slows the oxidation process and removes moisture from the fresh food, thus slowing the growth of harmful microorganisms.
One of the oldest forms of food preservation, fermentation transforms naturally-occurring sugars into acid, gas, or alcohol. The process occurs naturally when fresh produce is pressed down and stored it in a cool place, but can also be jumpstarted by inserting a yeast strain. Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, are packed with probiotics and nutrients, promote digestive health, and bolster the immune system. It’s an incredible culinary technique!
Swedish forests are full of wild berries that ripen late in the summer. To preserve these plentiful fruit through winter, Swedes made jams, jellies, and other preserves by boiling the fresh fruit in sugar. Once properly stored in jars, fruit preserves can keep for several years.