How to prepare crayfish for your own Swedish kräftskiva

The Local Sweden
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How to prepare crayfish for your own Swedish kräftskiva
A traditional crayfish meal is a staple of the late summer season in Sweden. Photo: Mats Schagerström/TT

August crayfish parties are one of the highlights of the Swedish calendar and appeal to people of all ages. Food writer John Duxbury shares his best tips with The Local for making your own crayfish party a success.


The annual crayfish party (kräftskiva) is an age-old tradition that has been held in Sweden since the 1800s. Actually, crayfish season used to be regulated in law and start in early August. This has since been done away with and nowadays you can buy frozen crayfish just about anywhere.

If you want to know what you're letting yourself in for before accepting that invitation to a Swedish crayfish party, read this handy guide first.


Serves: 6

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking: 40 minutes

Total: 45 minutes



2kg (4.5 lb) live crayfish

1 large bunch of dill crowns (flower heads)

1 onion

330ml (12 fl oz) bottled dark beer, porter or stout

1tsp anise (aniseed)

3 litres (5 pints) of water

100 g (1 cup) coarse sea salt

2 tsp of sugar


1. Divide the crayfish between four large plastic freezer bags. Seal each bag and pop the bags in the freezer for 2 hours to put the crayfish to sleep.

2. Set aside some of the best looking dill crowns to use as a garnish. Put the rest in a large bucket, large enough to take all the crayfish, and add the chopped onion, beer and anise.

3. Put the water, salt and sugar in a large pan and bring to the boil.

4. Remove a bag of crayfish from the freezer and immediately drop the crayfish into the boiling water. Cover the pan, return to the boil and cook for about 8 minutes, until the crayfish turn a bright orange/red colour. Remove the crayfish from the water with a slotted spoon and place in the bucket with the dill crowns and beer.

5. Repeat step 4 with the remaining crayfish until they are all cooked.

6. When you have finished cooking the crayfish, carefully pour the hot cooking liquid into the bucket and allow to cool.

7. When cold, transfer the crayfish, dill crowns and all the marinating liquid to containers to fit in your fridge. Leave the crayfish in the fridge overnight.

8. When you are ready to serve the crayfish, remove them from the marinade, drain and stack them on serving plates. Garnish with the reserved dill crowns.

This recipe was originally published on food writer John Duxbury's Swedish Food website.


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