At market today, fresh lingonberries to make a batch of traditional Swedish lingonberry jam or lingonsylt.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2015
I have now watched with interest, several documentaries on individuals who have chosen to live alternative lifestyles. These documentaries feature individuals with a different type of life philosophy, where some for example choose not to own any property but rather live in a vehicle that gives them the freedom of adventure and of getting in touch with themselves whilst on the road. Others featured spoke thoughtfully on how individuals in society often did what others wanted and expected of them and not what they wanted themselves. They chose a different way of living in order to do something for themselves. These documentaries then reminded me of a paragraph in the book Walden, written by Henry David Thoreau in 1854:
“Most men even in this comparatively free country through mere ignorance and mistake are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers from excessive toil are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance which his growth requires who has so often to use his knowledge We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes and recruit him with our cordials before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature like the bloom on fruits can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.” – Thoreau (1854:12)
If there was a small thing that I thought was important in life, it would be to get to know exactly how you like things to be, from living arrangements to the food you eat. To get to know, you.
To put that thought into practice, it’s the weekend in Västerås and for the moment in autumn, it means farmers market day. This time around, I managed to pick up some lingonberries that literally had the label ‘fine fruits’ at the stall in Stora Torget to make the quintessential staple Swedish jam that goes so well with Swedish meatballs served in most local global IKEAs.
What has fascinated me with my stay in this city is how even as I enjoy long walks, I have not walked quite as long and as far as I have done in the past few weeks when living in Västerås. And while it might seem innocuous of a change in cities in Sweden from Gothenburg to Västerås, the effects felt from the change in the overall rhythm of living seems to be more quantum. An example of that is how navigating the entire city on foot on the one hand slows you down as compared to driving from point to point, yet on the other hand, brings to you many more experiences along the way that gives you the feeling of having done much more on much less. I have for example, discovered no through-ways between housing estates (whyever would they do that?), as much as have discovered scenic short cuts between destinations, or destinations that I had no intention of making a destination in the first place.
That one becomes more human in a city known for its multinational enterprises in heavy industries such as powering global electric grids and providing global nuclear technologies raised my eyebrows. Nonetheless, I couldn’t be happier, because today, I have a jar of lingonsylt sitting pretty in the kitchen cabinet, waiting in complement to a meal.
Rinse and potted.
The ratio is two parts fruit to one part sugar. The sugar can also be stirred in after the berries are boiled down when still hot on the stove.
Ten minutes of cooking time is all that’s needed for this jam.
Perfect with pancakes in the morning at breakfast or to meat dishes such as Swedish meatballs and potatoes.
Jarred and sitting pretty. No need for fruit pectin or preservatives, as the berries will do that well for you. And as for the way I like it, it will be two parts lingonberry to less than one part sugar. Add to that, a dash of cinnamon and thyme.
Thoreau, H. D. 1854/1897. Walden, Or Life in the Woods, Houghton, Mifflin and Co.