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SURSTRÖMMING

Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring

A fermented herring expert has teamed up with a Swedish tourism company to show the world how surströmming is supposed to be eaten in response to a BuzzFeed video in which Americans turn their noses up at the Swedish delicacy.

Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring
Screengrab: Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling AB/YouTube

Surströmming expert Ruben Madsen and the Swedish tourism company Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling AB have produced a video showing Swedes tucking into fermented herring in a bid to educate foreigners about the traditional dish.

The clip comes two months after Madsen told The Local of his outrage after BuzzFeed published a video showing the American news site’s staff sampling the Swedish delicacy for the first time.

“Sewage”, “baby diaper”, “dead body” and “a national park bathroom that someone just dumped a bunch of dog food in” are just a few of the pungent comparisons used by the team in the video (below), which has now been viewed over 3 million times.

According to Madsen, who works for the Surströmming Academy on the island of Ulvön, where he promotes the dish, the fish in the video was not served correctly.

“Never, ever should surströmming be served like that,” he told The Local at the time.

“It must always be stored in a cool environment. If it is stored in a warm place, then the lactic acid destroys the proteins and there is no fish left inside the can. In the film, there’s just a mess inside.”

Madsen said that the tourism company approached him about making the video after reading his interview on The Local.

“They called me and said that they had read the article and wanted to finance a response to the video,” Madsen said on Monday.

“We tried to make the film as much like the BuzzFeed film as possible.”

In Madsen’s video (see below), which was published last Thursday, Swedes are filmed eating the dish in the traditional way – with onion, sour cream, bread and potatoes and a glass of snaps.

In contrast to the BuzzFeed video, the responses are all positive with the participants gasping excitedly as the tin is opened and the smell released.

“It makes you happy,” comments one man, while another says his “mouth waters” when he smells the fish.

Using the hashtag #surstrommingchallenge2k15, Madsen is now encouraging diners to spread their love of surströmming by posting photos and videos of them enjoying the dish on Instagram and Twitter.

On October 31st Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling will select a winner who will get a trip to the High Coast. 

“We’ve had a very positive response so far with people sharing images of the fish,” said Madsen.

Although Madsen admits that the dish is not for everyone.

“In Sweden of course there are people who don’t like surströmming. But if they don’t like the fish then they are not negative about the fish itself.”

That’s not to say that only Swedes like the dish.

“Even [British celebrity chef] Jamie Oliver tried it while he was over here. He found the smell very strong but said it tasted fantastic,” Madsen notes.

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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