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The "Sour Herring" Premiere 


Crayfish do not thrive north of the province of Dalarna, and thus northerners are not inclined to celebrate them quite as much as Swedes in the southern parts of the country.  Northerners, for their part, have surströmming ("sour herring"), which is the focus of similar festivities.  This dish is prepared from the small Baltic herring, which is salted and set aside for a rather long time.  When the souring process (a process of controlled rotting or fermentation,) has got under way, the fish is put up in hermetically sealed tins, which are distinctly "swollen" by the time they are ready for sale.  A pungent aroma - delectable to some, repulsive to others - fills the room whenever a can is opened.

By ordinance, the year's supply of sour herring may begin to be sold on the third Thursday in August, and this signals the start of festivities.  Accompaniments to sour herring are tunnbröd ("thin bread"), chopped raw onion and mandelpotatis (a small almond-shaped variety of potato, slightly sweet in flavor).  Mature Västerbotten cheese is another common accompaniment.  Many eat the meal as a sort of wrap-around sandwich, with all the ingredients snug inside a folded piece of tunnbröd.  Many drink beer and aquavit, while some connoisseurs claim that milk is the thing to drink.

Once confined to the Bothnian coast, in recent decades sour herring has spread throughout the country.
Source: "Traditional Festivities in Sweden"; Author: Ingemar Liman; Published by: The Swedish Institute, ISBN 91-520-0113-X
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