Saturday, December 6, 2008

Five "Only in Sweden"
Items from the Grocery Store

Ok, Sweden gets a lot of press about the pickled fish situation. It is true- there is a whole wall the size of the cheese section at an American store that is devoted to pickled fish. Even worse, there is pickled fermented fish in cans, which is smells so rank my mother in law will not open it in our house, as an act of courtesy. But let's not talk about the preserved fish. Let's talk about some of the lesser known things available in Swedish stores you may not know about if you've never been here.

1) Of Korv You Can.
First, the Korv. Korv means sausage, and there is a huge selection of various sausages, all filled with nitrates, sold in Sweden. But best loved of all is the FaluKorv, a very substantial sausage indeed. On the package there, is a little girl with a spoon jammed in her mouth, and an eldery man with a bow tie. They love the FaluKorv. It is a huge pink meaty sausage about 6 inches in circumference, that curls into a half circle. It is made of at least 40% beef and pork, and the contents of the other 60%? Well, the world may never know. It is also temptingly known as "circular bologna". The FaluKorv was developed by the butcher Ander Ollson in the late 1880's in Falun. This special Korv is celebrated each year at the Falun FaluKorv Day in June. "Inbäddad Falukorv" is the usual recipe for it. Yes, In Bad...
You slice it, put apples in the slits, and covering in a mayonnaise and ketchup mix, then bake it. Yep, it is just about as delicious as it sounds. Circular bologna.

The cranberry-like Lignon berry is the berry most often associated with Sweden. But, why ignore any berry called the Hjortron??? In English it is known as the cloudberry, and that does have a more noble ring to it. The only thing we have used it for thus far is over vanilla ice cream.

3)Wild Roses for Supping
Wild roses bloom all over Sweden in the summer, and as fall approaches the bushes are covered with rosehips, called nypon. The hips are used in teas (they are what make Red Zinger so good) , and in cosmetic creams as a rich antioxidant to keep the skin looking smooth. But one of the most traditional uses of the abundance of rosehips is to make them into a super vitamin C rich soup. I collected bunches of rosehips this summer, and put them out to dry. I was not sure quite what to do with them after that. I was told that the seeds inside, which are plentiful and hairy, are used to make itching powder. This made me proceed all the more carefully. So then I learned a trick about nypon soup from an older Swedish relative- you don't try to make it, you buy it. Otherwise you risk seedy, hairy, itchy, fuzzy soup that took waaaay too much effort. I searched a few recipes in Swedish, and found some sites that mentioned it is not that hard to make the soup yourself, but they do not give detailed instructions for removing seeds that can be used for itching powder. I have a big stash of dried rosehips from the States that I use for my pregnancy tea, so I was kind of interested in this recipe that uses dried rosehips. I also like that somehow google translator translates nypon into dog, so it is a recipe for 'dog soup', which sounds all the weirder. It says it will turn out fine, as long as you remember to soak the dog before you start.

4)Coca Cola sales drop noticeably every December in Sweden...
When the JulMust hits the Shelves. JulMust is best described as the Swedish version of root beer, that makes an annual appearance in stores during the Christmas season. When I lived in Tallahassee, FL and went to FSU (the years I went it ranked as America's #1 party school), it was well known beer sales dropped noticeably during final exam week. In Sweden, there is a similar phenomenon in that the Coca Cola sales drop in December as soda drinkers replace their colas with Julmust. It is the only soda made by gnomes. Really, just look at the label. All Julmust is made from a syrup that is the proprietary secret of the Robert AB company. No one really knows what is in it that gives it such a distinct flavor, the only known ingredients are hops and malt. The flavor is not anything that can be described exactly, it would be like trying to describe root beer. I am sure there is a wine taster out there somewhere that could do it, so go ask them.

I like to read old cook books, and there is often a section with fermented drink recipes. Prior to our vending machine culture, when people still produced their own food and fermented sauerkraut, made pickles, and canned stuff, it was not uncommon to bottle your own fizzy lifting drinks. I am sure Julmust is just the tradition that remains from the home bottlers that probably had a variety of recipes for special sodas they made for the winter holidays.

5)Reindeer Slay
I can buy reindeer at my grocery store, can you? After the 'dog soup recipe' above, this may actually not sound so bad. In our very large mega chain grocery store, there is a significant section with game meat. It has wild boar, moose meat, reindeer, venison, and wild turkey. I have been reading the cookbook "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, the founder of The Weston Price Foundation, which makes a good case for eating a wide variety of whole foods including saturated fats from game animals, so this is not too far off my radar, really. That cook book makes it sound like a healthy choice to eat all manners of organs and brains, so reindeer is not too far fetched. But what strikes me, really, is that the game section is allotted as much shelf space as the chicken section in a mega grocery store. That it is not a lofty gourmet extravagance, it is actually cheaper than the "regular" meat. My brother in law makes a great stew, with variations made with dark beer or red wine as a base, and he says reindeer meat works with these recipes well. I found this recipe on-line, which when translated in google translator, mysteriously calls for a deciliter of 'The World Wild Life Fund'. Way to go right to the heart of the ethical dilemma at stake.


JessiTRON said...

this is a really interesting post! I'm going to look for that Jul soda at the global foods store.

MermaidLilli said...

Highlight of my gastronomical time in Norway was eating reindeer. It was delicious. But the price I paid was too high now that I know it is cheap at the store. I guess the place catered to tourists who were awed at the idea. Either way I loved saying I ate reindeer. How fun for you to be trying out so many new things.