Have you heard about crayfish parties? No?! Well, then it’s time for you to hear about them. Crayfish parties are an essential part of Swedish food culture, just as Midsummer, Julbord or Kanelbullens Dag is.
Crayfish season starts in the beginning in August, around the 5th. From then onwards, and only then, you’re allowed to throw a crayfish party (Kräftskiva). The main attraction at such a Kräftskiva is the crayfish that is boiled in salty water and a special kind of dill, crown dill. Crown dill doesn’t really look like the classic thin dill leaves, but looks more like an odd green flower with green tips on top. It’s taste though is very intense and distinct and definitely a must when cooking crayfish.
Sides dishes can vary, but the most important one is warm, creamy and quite heavy Västerbotten cheese pie with bleak roe (Löjrom). These two products are the only two ones in Sweden that are of protected origin, like Camembert in France or Mortadella in Italy. Bleak roe is pretty expensive, so very often you find substitutes for it as well, although then it’s not the real deal. Then, there is Knäckebröd, Swedish crisp bread made from rye flour, covered with more of that cheese and butter is a part too. Sometimes, people serve warm or cold smoked salmon or chanterelle Mushrooms, fried in butter of course, on toast.
Very essential as well is beer and snaps like Aquavit, a spirit with a high alcohol content. Like this, Swedes can get drunk, even happier than they’re in summer anyways and maybe naked at some point. But don’t just drink the snaps! Every sip of the high percentage alcoholic drink is preceded by a drinking song. This year, after knowing some more Swedish, I realised the songs can be quite inappropriate and very creative: “If only I could tie my vodka to a string, so that every time I swallowed a shot, I could pull it back up again. I’d have it going up and down so it felt like many more”.
As for every Swedish party, there is themed decoration. The tablecloth and napkins have crayfish prints on them. You wear a paper party hat and an actual nappy to not get dirty – both, too with crayfish prints. Eating crayfish requires some skills, but Swedes are happy to explain the procedure to you. Basically you cut off the front of the head, pull up the shell, pull here and there, bite into it, slurp, bite in again, slurp again, crack open the claws with your teeth and after what feels like 5 minutes you finally get to the tail and are done. Next. Whatever you do, keep in mind: SLURPING is very very very important. Slurping out the salty dill liquid that’s full of taste. All eating etiquette gets forgotten during this special dinner that will be repeated over and over in August. Just until the crayfish season comes to an end somewhere at the end of August.
Aha, everyone fights over the women. Not the Swedish ones, but the crayfish ones because they have roe and that is very tasty. They can be identified through their bigger butt. And finally: where you buy your crayfish can make a huge difference to their taste. Usually the pre-packaged supermarket ones are not advisable. Convinced? Take a trip to Sweden and follow the slurping sound.