Friday, June 29, 2012

7 foods to try with kids in northern Sweden

I grew up in northern Sweden, and since my kids were born, I go back there with them at least once a year to visit my parents and other friends and family. It's a beautiful part of the world, and though it might not be known for its cooking, there is some great food to try if you're in this part of the world.

This list is all fairly simple, even rustic, stuff, since much of it is old-school, traditional home-cooking. Depending on your child, most of of it is also quite kid-friendly.

My grandmother holding a plate of home-made palt.
1. Palt - Palt is the northern Swedish version of a boiled potato dumpling. It is made with grated raw potato, and flour, and is filled with diced, salted port. Traditionally it is served with butter and lingonberry jam. My son, often a picky eater, loves this dish. It is hearty, heavy food for sure, but definitely one of those dishes I miss from home.

Baking mjukkaka in a traditional oven.
2. Mjukkaka - There's nothing quite like fresh baked bread, and if you want to try a local bread, this is the one to go for in my opinion. Some enthusiasts still bake this bread themselves, the old-school way, by renting a "bagarstuga" "baker's house" with a brick oven, to prepare this traditional bread. It's a soft, round bread made from rye and wheat flour, and it is one of the most delicious things you can eat with nothing but butter on it. You can find this bread at any grocery store, but it tastes best if bought straight from the bakery. Visit the bakery in Kåge, buy it at the bakery house in Rismyrliden in the summer, or look for mjukkaka at the various craft markets around northern Sweden.

3. Filmjölk - The Swedish version of yogurt, this is one of the most common breakfast foods in all of Sweden. A bowl of filmjölk with cereal or muesli is how many Swedes start the day. Look for it in the grocery store, or at most buffet breakfasts at the hotels.


4. Hjortronsylt/cloudberry jam - Hjortron, AKA "the gold of the forest", AKA cloudberries, grow mainly in the marshy areas of the northern Swedish forests. They are one of my daughter's favorite berries, ever. (And that's saying something!) They have a slightly tart and very particular flavor, and they are delicious raw, when made into jam, or simply eaten with a bit of sugar. Many Swedes think they are especially good served warm over vanilla ice-cream.


5. Fläskpannkaka - This thick, oven-baked pancake (usually made with fried, salted pork) is a common dish in many homes in northern Sweden. You can also buy it ready-to-serve in many grocery stores. Swedes eat it with butter and jam. My favorite way of enjoying it is to cut up day-old pancake and fry it with some butter. Delicious. A recipe in English is available at the website Gretchen Cooks.


6. Renskav - Not all kids will take kindly to eating reindeer, but it really is delicious when cooked the right way. Renskav is thin-sliced reindeer meat that is usually sold frozen, and used to make stews. One simple way to prepare it is to fry the meat with some onions and mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, and then pour in some heavy cream to make a gravy. Season with soy sauce if you like, and you have a wonderful dish. Boiled potatoes and lingonberries make a great accompaniment, and your kids might even like it (if they don't know they're eating Rudolph...)

7. Surströmming - No, your kids probably will not enjoy eating this canned, fermented herring, but they will certainly have a story to tell their friends when they get home! Surströmming smells so bad you will not believe people actually eat it, but they do. It is traditionally eaten on white crispbread with boiled potatoes and raw, chopped onions. This is not a dish for the faint of heart, but you will earn bragging rights if you can eat a couple of fillets!

Cloudberry jam photo thanks to user Ankara, at Wikimedia. Photo of renskav thanks to user Wikbigidy, at Wikimedia.

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