Pickled herring – A Swedish midsummer tradition

Boiled potatoes, ideally from this years harvest cooked and decorated with dill is a must.

Boiled potatoes, ideally from this year’s harvest
cooked and decorated with dill is a must.

Photo © JE Nilsson for CMC 2010

In mid June, Sweden arrives to an outdoor temperature and general climate we have more or less permanent in Singapore – warm, though less humid. To Swedes this but a short pleasure that lasts for a few summer months.

At this time of the year, the remarkably short nights slowly transform the warm evening sunlight to a warm dusk that after midnight eventually changes back into a Nordic lavender coloured morning. You can sit there and just look at it outdoors in your garden, cuddled up into a blanket, cupping your favourite hot beverage.

In the pot, boiled potatoes and dill for a Swedish Midsummer meal.

In the pot.

The long dusk-dawn period with its purple hues, apart from turning the entire Nordic region romantic, also begs for garden parties. It is the perfect time to chit-chat with friends about everything and nothing and eventually, you realize that you have stayed up all night and that the morning has broken into a new day.


Herring and Spring leek, Swedish Midsummer meal.

The herring used for this dish is of a special kind called ‘matjes’, which is particularly fat and tasty pickled in a special sauce.

Herring and cream, Swedish Midsummer meal.

Done, just enjoy with a glass of cold beer and a glass of iced schnapps. No cooking involved besides boiling the the potatoes for about 15 minutes.

The traditional dish that so much needs to accompany these evening parties is, besides beer or a good wine, plus everything that fits on top of a barbecue pit – is pickled herring and newly harvested potatoes boiled with some dill.

The pickled herring if served as a separate dish like this is usually served accompanied by a special yogurt called gräddfil flavored and decorated with chopped spring leek. And of course, a glass of ice cold 80 proof Swedish schnapps.

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