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THE LOCAL RECIPES

WINTER

How to make popular Swedish sloe snaps

If you have Swedish friends you have almost certainly been made to taste snaps. But have you ever made your own? Food writer John Duxbury shares one of his favourite recipes with The Local.

How to make popular Swedish sloe snaps
Swedish sloe snaps, or slånbärssnaps. Photo: John Duxbury

Slånbärssnaps (sloe snaps) is a popular type of snaps that Swedes like to make at home in the autumn, so that it is ready for Christmas. Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn, one of the very first bushes to flower in the spring. They are extremely tart when they first ripen in October, but winter frosts mellow their taste to give them a rich almondy sourness.

Traditionally therefore, sloes were not picked until after the first heavy frost of the autumn. However, most people now pick them earlier and pop them into the freezer for a couple of days instead.

Summary

Makes: 1 bottle

Preparation: 15 minutes (spread over two months)

Ingredients

½ bottle ripe sloes

2 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar

1 bottle unflavoured vodka or brännvin


Sloe berries are a great addition to snaps. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Method

1. Pick over the sloes and remove all stems (if they need rinsing, leave them to dry in the shade on paper towels).

2. Freeze them for at least two days.

3. Add the sugar to a sterilized glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid and then half fill with frozen sloes.

4. Fill up the bottle with clear, unflavoured vodka or Swedish 'brännvin'.

5. Lay the bottle on its side in a dark place at room temperature, turning it through 180C every couple of days for at least four weeks, preferably eight weeks (you can shake the bottles every two days if you prefer).

6. Have a taste and look at the bottle to decide on what to do next. There are three possibilities:

a) it may be perfect as it is, in which you can leave it with the sloes in the bottle for the flavours to mature

b) if it is cloudy or has sediment then filter it through muslin into a new sterilized bottle (it may need filtering more than once)

c) it may need sweetening, in which case heat equal quantities of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Leave the sugar solution to cool and then add a teaspoon at a time to the slånbärssnaps until it is sweet enough

7. Store in the dark at room temperature until required.

Tips

– Make sure the sloes are ripe. They should give slightly if squeezed.

– Make the snaps in a bottle or jar with a wide neck or the sloes will get stuck in the bottle.

– Serve slånbärssnaps at room temperature and remember to keep your bottle tightly closed and in a dark place before and between servings.

– Unlike many other snaps flavourings, the sloes can be left in the bottle and in time the almond flavour from the stones will penetrate the drink and make it even better. But most people drink it before that happens.

This recipe was originally published on food writer John Duxbury's website Swedish Food. Here's another one of his best snaps recipes

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

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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