Friday 29 August 2008

swedish crayfish party

Here is yet another Swedish post from our recent travels.

This time I am writing about something very dear to the Swedish heart, and something very seasonal, since the activity takes place in August.


That translates to “crayfish party” and is one of the most delicious and humorous cultural experiences you can have in Sweden.

The basis of the party is to eat as much crayfish as you possibly can, drink snaps (no, not schnapps. I’m talking about akvavit), sing songs and have a great time. Who can say no to such fun?

The table is laden with crayfish, boiled in a dill infused broth, then served room temperature alongside is beer, bread and delicious Västerbotten cheese (strong, like parmesan). But the most interesting part for foreigners is the multitude of drinking songs that the Swedes have as an excuse to take another sip/shot of akvavit.

Every 10 minutes or so will see the party break out in singing. And once you start understanding the words, you will be shocked at how dirty they can be! Men, woman and children of all ages singing about things you wouldn’t utter out loud in normal circumstances. It’s great!

But don’t make the mistake of many first timers and drink down every shot after each song. The Swedish word “skål” means “cheers” not “drain your cup”. If you do take the whole shot you can be sure your host will politely top you up again so be careful, the alcohol is around 40%.

On the 1st of August this year, we celebrated the crayfish season with our own little party where my sister, Stinky, was able to attend. Jonas’ father and stepmother hosted us in their Kungsängen home, where we sat in the garden, overlooking Lake Mälaren, and ate kilograms of crayfish.

Jonas’ father, Staffan, prepared the broth (or lag) and it was flavoured with the traditional herb: krondill or crown dill.

Kräftor i Lag (Crayfish in Broth)
Serves 2 as main or 4 as entrée. Recipe by Bonniers Stora Kokbok.

2 litres water
750ml coarse salt
1 sugar cube
1 small yellow onion
100ml bitter porter
2-6 bunches crown dill
1kg crayfish


1. Boil all the ingredients (except the crayfish) together for 10 minutes.

2. Add the crayfish and remove when they float.

3. Cool crayfish and broth separately.

4. When they are cool, combine again until just before serving.

5. To eat, drain crayfish and serve on a platter decorated with crown dill.

Swedes are obsessed with dill. It’s in absolutely everything. Everything!

If you don’t like aniseed or liquorice-type flavours, then Sweden is not the place for you. People there seem to love that flavour over all others.

In Australia, children pick out the black (aka liquorice) lollies/candies in disgust whereas Swedish children actively seek out liquorice, and salty types at that. It’s perverse to me.

Crown dill is regular dill that’s flowered. But regardless of Sweden’s overuse of dill, I must admit that crown dill is pretty special because is usually only used in crayfish recipes and a few special pickles.

August is the time when the dill flowers and the crayfish season, so people have always cooked the two together.

Since we’re on a seafood theme, I thought I'd include in this post my photos of the Swedish West Coast where Jonas and I went sailing with his mother, stepfather and little sister.

Despite my initial paranoias of seasickness and Titanic-like accidents, it was absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed myself so much. Can’t wait to go again!

We joined them in a port near Ucklum and sailed onto Björholmen for the night.

The next day we had an amazing seafood lunch on the boat at Gullholmen and then sailed to Stora Kornön, a gorgeously quaint little fishing island with rickety old buildings and great granite mountains and rock deposits left over from ancient glaciers.

The following day we visited the famous party town of Smögen, which was overrun with tourists from Denmark, Norway and the UK. It was lively, but way too crowded and touristy. It’s a shame because it really did look like a pretty little town.

That afternoon we sailed up Sotenkanalen (canal) and then moored for two nights in the lovely Hunnebostrand. Here we barbecued mackerel that we caught ourselves and explored the various rock mountains and harbours. It was just wonderful.

If you ever have the chance to spend some summer days sailing the Swedish West Coast I highly recommend it.

That's it from me. Without further ado I refer you over to one of my fav ladies in the blogging scene, the wonderful Katie from Thyme for Cooking for the Weekend Herb Blogging round-up.



  1. What a wonderful holiday you had!
    I have to admit, I always picked out the licorice - I love it. But I don't really like the Swedish salted variety - the Danes like that as well, which is how I've tried it.
    I'd be happy with the crayfish, too!

  2. Lovely photos. I must go there someday! I am surprised that they purposely let the dill go to seed and even have a special name for it. Very interesting!

  3. I like aniseed flavors. Please pass the loaf of limpa rye

  4. Rolig läsning! Men så sant. =)


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