This page lists my genuinely Swedish favorites that can give you a taste of Sweden. A lot is being said online about what’s truly Swedish. Not all of it is accurate, sadly. But these items are Swede approved.
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Swedish Fika Essentials
We Swedes love our fika, a break for snacks and your favorite beverage.
A hundred years ago, a proper fika would include seven different types of cookies, cakes and pastry not included.
The word fika is word play on kaffe, Swedish for coffee. But if you’re into something else, I won’t tell anyone.
Pepparkakor are Swedish ginger snaps. They are essential for any type of Christmas snack, but Swedes have them for fika year round. Make sure to get the right brand for the perfect flavor. The Swedish Royal Court and I both use Anna’s ginger thins.
Wait, this doesn’t look like a bun? To taste the real Swedish cinnamon rolls, you may have to get a little creative and bake them yourself. It’s easy though.
Swedish cinnamon rolls are topped with pearl sugar. Nothing else will do. Lars’ Own Swedish Pearl Sugar is the real deal and it comes with a genuine recipe on the back.
Check out the directions by Fredriks Fika on Youtube for a different shape of bun.
A few of those seven cookies will be buttery shortbread cookies. The Danish Butter Cookies are close enough to the Swedish version.
You may have heard of the Swedish meatballs. Is there more to the Swedish cuisine? Here’s are some of the Swedish classics that you can try.
My simple meatballs: Roll ground beef mixed with salt and pepper into balls 2 cm/ 0.75″ in diameter or smaller, saute in butter on medium-high heat making sure to brown on all sides, lower the heat and cover with a lid to cook through, remove meatballs from skillet and add cream to make the gravy, cook for a few minutes, add salt and pepper to taste.
This tart berry is a super food and a staple in Swedish homes. By tradition, Swedes have been allowed to pick berries in all forests, regardless of who owned it. Lingonberries are abound in Swedish forests. Other fruits and berries are gaining popularity for deserts. But lingonberries are still served with many meals, including meatballs and fish. Felix is a popular brand in Sweden for lingonberry preserves.
Gooseberries are a Swedish classic. They are best eaten sun warm from the bush in July. But on other days gooseberry jam is a good substitute.
Sill – Pickled herring
All Swedish holidays are celebrated with pickled herring. To be perfectly honest, it’s not for me. But most Swedes love it. This Senapssil herring in mustard sauce is a great choice, if you want to give it a try.
Swedish Fiction for Family Historians
I’m a firm believer in looking at data to understand the world. That includes the world our ancestors lived in. But some things are hard to capture in charts and tables. Fiction is a great tool for understanding how our Swedish ancestors lived their lives, how they talked and what they saw.
The Emperor of Portugallia by Selma Lagerlöf
Taking place in 1860 or 1870, The Emperor of Portugallia follows crofter Jan in Skrolycka. Like so many others, his beloved daughter moves to the city for work at age 18. Jan in Skrolycka is convinced that his daughter will have great success in Stockholm. With every sign that her fate is less fortunate, his belief grows stronger.
The Saga of Gösta Berling by Selma Lagerlöf
Lagerlöf’s debut from 1891 was The Saga of Gösta Berling. Gösta Berling is a priest in Värmland in the 1820s. But this man is not the archetype of a priest. He is an alcoholic and makes a pact with the devil. The book describes the rural forest landscape of Värmland, the vanity of the socialite, and the hardship they all shared. Like in most of Lagerlöf’s work, there’s a hint of magic. If you want to read only one book, pick this one.
The Way of a Serpent by Torgny Lindgren
The way of a Serpent is the tragic tale of the family of Jani, born 1849 in Västerbotten. It’s about poverty and evil. While the plot is uncomfortable, the writing is witty and it describes the region in northern Sweden well.
The People of Hemsö by August Strindberg
The People of Hemsö from 1887 plays out on the fictional island Hemsö in the Stockholm archipelago. If you’re familiar with Strindberg, this one is easier than most of his work. The widowed Mrs. Flod hires Carlsson from the city to run her farm and controversy ensues. An island Strindberg used to visit was the inspiration for Hemsö. The islanders didn’t appreciate the portrayal. But with some distance to the moral of the story, this book gives an insight to the life on the islands.
Emil of Lönneberga by Astrid Lindgren
This is a series of twelve children’s books that follows the boy Emil from the village Lönneberga, Småland. Emil is something of a pseudonym for Lindgren’s father and is always up to mischeif. The books play out in the Swedish countryside around 1899-1911. Many holidays, legendary creatures, and foods are described throughout the books.
I’m Swedish genealogist Annika Höstmad. These are some of my favorite genuinely Swedish things to give you a taste of Sweden.