Cultural Kitchen: Sweden

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Mastering the Swedish meatball.

In January Nick and I kicked off our Cultural Kitchen Challenge with our first country. After shuffling our country flags and spinning around three times, I randomly selected Sweden.

To be honest, I was disappointed that Sweden was the first country we would be starting with. Since moving here in October, we’ve been making Swedish cuisine at home and trying the local favorites around town (pickled herring, anyone?). So I was looking forward to trying something different. But, I quickly realized that Sweden is probably the best country to kick off this challenge as Sweden is truly the country we are deep-diving into culturally.

Nick and I planned out a menu with the help of Pinterest, following closely to the recommendation of this dinner menu.

We made:

  • Swedish meatballs – Traditionally a combination of pork and beef, we cooked these meatballs to perfection in our cast iron skillet and topped them with homemade brown sauce.
  • Pickled cucumbers –  So simple and full of flavorful punch. Although the recipe says you only need to let the cucumbers pickle for half an hour, Nick and I found that they got better the longer they pickled. We would recommend making them a day or two ahead of time.
  • Swedish Red Cabbage – This is shredded red cabbage and green apple cooked down together with red wine, apple cider vinegar, and spices. While it was a tasty and light side dish…it apparently isn’t a traditional dish in Southern Sweden. We asked multiple Swedes about this dish and no one had heard of it. But perhaps we were able to teach them something new about the Swedish cuisine in the North. Either way, Nick and I definitely learned something about regional differences in cuisine, which is exactly what we were hoping to get from this challenge.
  • Cinnamon buns – For dessert, we made kanelbullar from scratch. And to jazz it up even more, we added hand-ground cardamom and saffron. We tried our hand at rolling them out into a cute knotted shape, but that was harder than it looked. Luckily, they tasted great.

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We invited some of our closest Swedish friends over and asked for their official opinion! They brought some other Swedish classics, like soft cheese, hard crackers, and a vegetarian patties (pannbiff). Together, we had a great meal!

This menu was relatively easy to put together and many parts of it could have been prepped in advance, simplifying the day-of cooking needs. Swedish cuisine may not be the most acclaimed cuisine across the world (although the New Nordic movement is bringing Scandinavia to the spotlight!), but it is quite hearty and delicious. I’d recommend you look up some recipes (can’t go wrong with the pastries!) and give it a try for yourself.

Skål!

-TM

Have your tried Swedish cuisine? What are your thoughts? Let us know below.

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