What do you think when you hear the word Swedish food? Meatballs and potatoes with lingonberry jam? Surstromming? Or maybe a smorgasbord?

We were curious and reported to a cooking course for Swedish food, in a nice old mansion outside the capital Stockholm.

The first thing we started with was a smorgasbord.

Smorgasbord

The smorgasbord is a 19th-century dish that developed from the bourgeoisie’s brandy tables, an appetizer which was popular from the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century. This consisted of snacks to the snap before the food, it was a dish that over time grew in scope and eventually became characteristic of the Oskarian era’s abundance in terms of food and drink.

The smorgasbord, which contains a larger number of dishes than the burning wine table had, took place in the first half of the 19th century. It was then built on with new mayonnaise dishes and pickled food, but also with the new fish preserves of industrialism and with omelets.

smorgasbord was historically a Swedish starter. Since the mid-20th century, it is instead a collective name for a buffet meal with different dishes. There should be butter and bread, cold cut meat and smaller warm dishes. Salads, cheese (compare cheese tray), desserts and herring are other common ingredients, sometimes alcohol in the form of snaps. This buffet variant was spread during the 20th century internationally, as a symbol of Swedish food culture. The word has in the Swedish language – as well as English smorgasbord – also come to be used as a general concept with the meaning “large and varied supply”.

Meatballs

Really from where the meatball originally comes from no one knows for certain, but history shows that during the Middle Ages, meatballs were invited to Richard the II’s court in England and the pastry books from Baghdad contained flavored meatball recipes. The travelers by that time ate and drank of other countries’ food cultures and in turn brought the goodies and knowledge home. An exchange of dishes has always been going on.

The meatball itself is available in many food cultures and it is when it’s served with cream sauce and lingonberries that it sets the Swedish mark on the dish. The meatball is mentioned for the first time in print in Sweden in Kajsa Warg’s cookbook from 1754 but it began to be eaten among ordinary people until the mid-1800s when the meat grinder and the wood stove were common and facilitated work.

Fermented herring

Surstromming (fermented Baltic herring), is one of Sweden’s most infamous products and is especially popular in northern Sweden.

Fermented herring can only be made from Baltic herring (strömming), which are smaller than Atlantic herring (sill). The herring used for fermented herring are caught just prior to spawning and the fermentation starts from a lactic acid enzyme in the spine of the fish which releases pungent smelling acids as well as hydrogen sulphide! Despite this many Swedes still love surströmming.

Fermented fish is not really so strange. The ancient Greeks and Romans made a famous sauce from fermented fish and Worcestershire Sauce also has a fermented fish ingredient.For most Swedes who eat surströmming the reason is simple: it is because they like a surstrommingsskiva (a fermented herring party). Swedes love an excuse for a party and opening a can of rotten fish can provide an excuse.
“Yes, ok it smells awful and doesn’t taste very nice”, the argument goes, “but we always have a good party when we open a can of surströmming!”
So if there are lots of snaps on offer it can be worth eating surstromming, according to some.

Kanelbullar

Also called cinnamon roll or cinnamon swirl, kanelbulle is a little bun that is topped with softened butter, sugar and cinnamon. In Sweden, where it seems to originate, kanelbulle simply means “cinnamon bun”. Kanelbullar were made popular in Sweden in the 1920s, after World War II, but it has really become a fairly common pastry in the early 1950s. In the nineteenth century, ingredients such as flour, sugar, cinnamon, butter, and eggs were considered luxurious and their enjoyment was generally reserved only for wealthy families.Kanelbullar

Afterparty

Although we had started all day and drunk a lot of wine during dinner, I couldn’t fall asleep. Perhaps it was the idea of the ghost stories told about the mansion during dinner. My room was found to be haunted as well. I can’t claim that I felt worried by then, but, when it was time to sleep, I was actually a little nervous.

To get the thoughts elsewhere, I started playing on the mobile, from  sudoku.com to pokerstarscasino.com, then I do not remember more until someone shouted my name in the morning. I had overslept. I fell asleep with the phone in my hand, but the main thing was that I had not encountered any ghost. After a quick shower I was ready for day two of Swedish cooking.