So I guess I should get to the point. When I was a little girl, my sister and I would go with my mother to Stockholm in the summer. We were visiting her sister and would get to experience the awesomeness that is Midsummer, or Midsommar as they say. It happens all over Sweden on the third Friday of June, the eve of Midsummer’s Day…whole towns of towheads in traditional Folk dress, flowers in hair, jumping dancing running around a green leafy maypole, while singing in a language I still don’t know that well – never quite understanding what was going on, but wanting to be a part of the celebration, this is Midsummer to me. It is a celebration of light, of the longest, sunniest day of the year. For Swedes it is a magical day filled with wild flowers, aquavit, herring and fresh picked strawberries – a weekend long celebration really. But no, this was not really my tradition growing up, but it was my mother’s and so by proxy over the years I have taken it on. So when my good friend and fellow foodie said she wanted to have a summer solstice party – I said, Yes! Midsommar!
It happened and it was awesome. We sang Swedish drinking songs and sipped caraway flavored Aquavit, poked at Swedish meatballs with Swedish flag toothpicks. We ate pickled herring and snacked on knäckebrot with jarlsberg cheese. Why did everyone join me so wholeheartedly? Well, because it’s tradition.
Just a few links in case you're curious...
Swedish Midsummer Traditions
A Midsummer Night's Feast at The Tasting Table
Nordstjernan - Most popular Swedish Drinking Song
NYTimes 36 Hours in Stockholm
Matjestarta [Herring Torte] PRINT
[Prep + Assembly: 20 mins / Freezer time: 1 hr / TOTAL: 1hr 20 mins]
[Serving size: 8-12 appetizer portions]
Blend pumpernickel bread in a food processor until it turns into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and blend again to make “dough”. Cover a pie dish with a layer of plastic wrap and place dough on top. Press the dough down with your fingers to form a torte crust. Cover with another layer of plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 hour. [Note: You will use the bottom layer or plastic wrap to lift out the hardened crust a little later on…however I skipped this step because I had a pie dish I wanted to use to serve the torte]
Blend crème fraiche and cottage cheese in the food processor and transfer to a bowl. Chop the pickled matjes herring and transfer to the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the herring brine and 2 tablespoons chopped chives. Mix well.
Take the pumpernickel torte crust out about 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Transfer the herring mix onto the crust and spread out in an even layer. Garnish with alternating dollops of black and red caviar and sprinkle with remaining chives. Now you can lift out the Matjestarta by the bottom layer of plastic wrap and serve on a pie stand – as tradition expects, or if you skipped the step altogether then serve as is.
Kottbullar [Swedish Meatballs] PRINT
[Prep: 20 mins / Cook: 45 mins / TOTAL: 1hr 5 mins]
[Yields: about 70, or 100 teeny tiny]
Preheat oven to 250°.
Peel onions, trim off roots and grate or finely chop in a small food processor. Transfer ground beef to a prep bowl, add the onion, egg, milk, bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and mix well with your hands. Pinch off small pieces of the mixture and roll small 1 inch sized meatballs in your hands. Have a large platter nearby where you can set them down.
Heat a large cast iron skillet on med high heat and melt 2 tablespoons butter. When the skillet is hot fill it up with your tiny meatballs about 15-20 should fit. Cook for 1 minute on the first side and cover, then flip and cook for 1 minute more and cover. The meatballs should have a nice dark brown color and sear before they are taken off the heat. Let them cook for a few minutes more, while jostling them around a little and then letting them sit covered in the skillet. Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter or cookie sheet. Repeat. When the next batch is done you’ll want to transfer the first batch to another baking sheet or large casserole dish and place them in the oven to stay warm. Replace the paper towel and transfer the new batch onto the towel lined platter. Repeat.
Alternatively, if you are trying to cook dishes ahead of time the meatballs can be cooked and then frozen to use later in the week – you’ll just transfer them from the freezer to the fridge the morning you want to serve them, take them about fridge an hour or two before dinner and then reheat them in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes.
Serve with lingonberry jam and enjoy!
Bitter Greens and Snow Pea Herb Salad PRINT
[Prep: 25 mins / TOTAL: 25]
[Serving size: 8-12 app servings]
Wash, stem, cut into slivers and toss curly endive, romaine, and snow peas in a large salad bowl. Thinly slice the red onion and fennel – wash and roughly chop the dill, parsley and fennel fronds, keep these separate from the lettuce mix.
In a small bowl add the thinly sliced shallot, minced garlic, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar and whisk. While whisking slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil and then the olive oil. Add a pinch of salt, a few grinds black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. [Alternatively you can incorporate all the ingredients into a small jar, cover and then shake like crazy – the results will be pretty similar.]
Incorporated about 2/3 of the dressing into the mixed green salad and mix well. Garnish with the red onions and chopped herbs. Drizzle remaining dressing over the top.
Gurksalad [Cucumber Salad] PRINT
[Prep: 15mins / Fridge time: 2-3 hrs / TOTAL: 1hr 15 mins]
[Serving size: 8-12 app. servings or about 3 cups]
Using a mandolin slice washed cucumbers on the thinnest setting and transfer to a bowl. Combine all of the remaining ingredients and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Skagenröra [Shrimp Salad] PRINT
[Prep: 10 mins / TOTAL: 10 mins]
[Yields: 8 app servings]
Mix together all of the ingredients, and taste to adjust seasonings.
[Recipe from NPR]
Farskpotatissalad [Mustard Potato Salad with Sausage] PRINT
[Prep: 15 mins / Cook: 15 / TOTAL: 30 mins]
[Yields: 8 app servings]
[This is a modern take on the tradition Swedish new potato salad]
In a pot add the potatoes, 3 tablespoons of the cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, and enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, just until potatoes are tender when gently pierced with a fork. Drain well and let stand for a few minutes before adding dressing.
For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, the remaining vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. In a steady stream, whisk in oil until well blended.
Transfer potatoes to a prep bowl and incorporate the mustard dressing. Gently mix in sausage to avoid breaking potatoes. Season with a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add parsley and green onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.
[Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens]
Hovmästarsås [Swedish Mustard Dill Sauce]
[Prep: 10 mins / TOTAL: 10 mins]
[Yields: 1 cup]
Mix well all of the ingredients and serve! Goes well with grilled sausage, ham, gravlax or jarlsberg cheese!
[Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen]