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MIDSUMMER

The essential dishes for Swedish Midsummer

Midsummer is the most Swedish of Swedish holidays, widely considered to be the real National Day to celebrate all things Swedish. So, what are the essentials for a Midsummer celebration?

The essential dishes for Swedish Midsummer
Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Traditional Midsummer fare is served buffet-style, similar to the food served at Christmas or Easter, with a focus on summer crops such as new potatoes, radishes and strawberries, rather than winter vegetables like cabbage and kale. 

Midsummer is always celebrated on the Friday closest to the summer solstice, which falls on June 24th this year. It’s not technically a public holiday so you may be in work, but lots of employers will give their staff a half or full day off anyway.

Here’s what you’re likely to see at a Midsummer celebration, as well as how you can make it yourself.

Matjes-style herring served with crispbread, boiled new potatoes with dill, cheese and diced onions. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Herring

It wouldn’t be a proper Swedish celebration without pickled herring or sill. In many families, one member of the family (often a grandmother) is tasked with preparing sill for the Midsummer meal weeks in advance.

If you’re based in Sweden, you can buy herring in the supermarket, although most will say that homemade pickled herring is superior. Vegetarian or vegan pickled herring substitutes such as svill (made from mushrooms) and tofusill (made from tofu) are also commercially available.

If you are planning on making your own pickled herring for Midsummer, you have a few options. Either you can buy ready-salted herring fillets in the supermarket which can be pickled straight away, or you will have to buy fresh herring fillets which you salt yourself – the latter option can take up to two weeks though, so you’ll have to save that for next year if you want to try doing it yourself.

You can also make your own vegetarian options: try pickling auberginecourgette or tofu. Most recipes will take at least two days, with the herring or alternative of choice needing to marinate overnight before serving, so get planning now if you want to have it on the table for Friday.

Here are a selection of pickled herring recipes from John Duxbury’s Swedish Food website.

Herring is usually served alongside bread or crispbread, cheese and butter, referred to as an S.O.S. (sill, ost och smör), so make sure you pick up some bread and hard mature cheese such as västerbottensost if you want to recreate this dish.

Summer crops

Some early varieties of potato are ready just in time for Midsummer, making them a feature on the Midsummer table. New potatoes, färskpotatis (“fresh potatoes”) in Swedish, are delicious by themselves, so you’ll often see them just served boiled, cooled, and sprinkled with dill.

Radishes are also a popular feature on the Midsummer table as they are ready at this time of year, although it can be difficult to find Swedish radishes in the shops. They’re often served raw, perhaps with a dip of sour cream or gräddfil on the side.

Finally on the summer crops front, strawberries are the crowning glory of the Midsummer table, with pundits closely monitoring the harvest in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Strawberries and cream are a classic combination, either served as-is or in some sort of strawberry tart or cake.

Strawberries are the crowning glory of the Midsummer buffet. Photo: Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se

Salmon

Most Midsummer buffets will feature at least two sorts of salmon, one is often a baked side of salmon. Along with baked salmon, you’re likely to find smoked salmon and/or gravad lax (literally “buried salmon”, preserved in salt, sugar and often dill) alongside hovmästarsås, a mustard and dill sauce which is also served at Christmas.

If you don’t eat fish, you can make a vegetarian or vegan version of gravad lax from carrots. This is usually referred to as gravad morot. Here’s a recipe (in Swedish) from the book Vegansk husmanskost by Gustav Johansson. Again, it needs to be marinated overnight, so make sure to plan this in advance.

Eggs

Although not quite as important at Midsummer as they are at Easter, eggs are another mainstay of a Midsummer buffet.

You’ll often see them served simply hardboiled and cut in half, or potentially topped with mayonnaise, prawns and cod roe, known as kaviar in Swedish. This is sold in small glass jars in the fridge section of the supermarket, and can be orange or black – and is not the same as Kalles kaviar, sold in blue tubes, which is much saltier.

To make these vegetarian, you can leave out the prawns and use a vegetarian version of kaviar made from seaweed. Look for tångkaviar, which may be in the fish section of the supermarket, or the vegetarian section, if your supermarket has one of these.

If you live outside Sweden, you may be able to source tångkaviar in the food market at your local Ikea.

For a vegan option, try sliced tofu topped with vegan mayonnaise (spiked with black salt, if you can get hold of it, which will give it an eggy flavour). Top with tångkaviar and a sprig of dill and you’re good to go.

Make sure to brush up on your snapsvisor if you want to fit in at Midsummer. Photo: Janus Langhorn/imagebank.sweden.se

Snaps

Finally, don’t forget the snaps. Midsummer is the booziest holiday of the year, with Swedes taking breaks throughout the meal to drink nubbar (small bottles of flavoured snaps or akvavit) and sing snapsvisor (drinking songs).

Make sure you eat a lot of food to soak up all that alcohol, and you’re certain to have a great Midsummer – maybe grab a couple of frozen pizzas for the next day, though, when you’re busy nursing your hangover.

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WEATHER

Sweden issues health warnings over Midsummer weekend heatwave

Sweden's state weather forecaster SMHI has issued a yellow warning for the high temperatures across large parts of Sweden this Midsummer weekend, as people's health could be seriously affected.

Sweden issues health warnings over Midsummer weekend heatwave

People in Sweden have been warned to keep cool over the Midsummer weekend, as soaring temperatures mean the heat will affect some people’s health.

“In general, we in Sweden have a bad idea of ​​how dangerous the heat can be. It can be dangerous for everyone, not just for risk groups”,  Elin Andersson, researcher in environmental health at the Swedish Public Health Agency, told newswire TT.

She advised that certain individuals such as elderly, chronically ill, pregnant women, young children, elite exercisers and those on medication, take extra care.

Certain medicines, such as antidepressants, diuretics, beta blockers and neuroleptics, can affect the body’s fluid and heat regulation.

“If you take this type of medicine, it is good to contact your doctor when there is a heat wave. Sometimes you may need to temporarily change the dose”, Andersson told TT.

Caution should also be taken with young children under the age of five, as they haven’t yet developed their ability to sweat properly.

“They need help to stay cool and replenish fluids continuously. Another tip is to serve extra liquid-rich food, such as vegetables and fruit”, Andersson said.

Pregnant women should also take extra care in the heat, she added.

The most dangerous consequence of prolonged heat is dehydration, which often affects the elderly and people who exert themselves physically.

“Our general advice is to drink more than usual when it is hot. But what is right depends on who you are. For example, people with certain types of kidney disease should not drink too much. You must check with your doctor.”

Elin Andersson says that heat stroke is unusual in Sweden but heat-fatigue is more common.

“You can feel tired, dizzy, weak, nauseous and have an elevated heart rate. Heat exhaustion can become severe and turn into heat stroke. This is when the heart rate gets even higher and the body’s heat regulation stops working.”

Other symptoms are that sweating may stop completely and that you lose consciousness.

“If you suspect heat stroke, you should always call 112”, she said.

In Båstad, the municipal water company is urging residents to be restrained with their use of water, as there is a risk the taps will be empty by this afternoon.

“We had normal behaviour until half past three yesterday, then a completely crazy consumption began that ended at midnight. Then the same trend started again this morning”, Jonas Håkansson, head of the Drinking Water department at NSVA, told newswire TT.

“This has to do with the heat. It is obvious that many people come to their summer houses where they plan to celebrate Midsummer and think that they can use the drinking water exactly as they want.

“One feels a great deal of frustration and disappointment that people do not take greater individual responsibility,” he said.

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