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xoxosweden.com / News / Traditions / ..wherever you are, happy Midsummer!

A Swedish Midsummer!

..music, dance and the long hours of sunlight and joy. Is there anything prettier than Swedish Midsummer? Is there anything more Swedish than a maypole? 'Svensk Midsommar' - the traditions, the table and a selection of the most popular recipes.


..music, dance and the long hours of sunlight and joy. Is there anything prettier than Swedish Midsummer? Is there anything more Swedish than a maypole? Well, since the maypole (or midsommarstŚng) has its roots in German paganism, perhaps there is, but who really cares? On Midsummer we eat and dance with abandon, leaving all worries behind. The sun never sets and there are flowers everywhere. In the past, Midsummer dew cured diseases, and when you put it in dough, the bread came out full and nice. We donít bake bread with Midsummer dew anymore, but young girls still put seven flowers under their pillows in hopes of dreaming about the man theyíll marry.
Summer in Sweden is soft, sweet, long overdue and like nowhere else. Clean and crisp nature is showing off its almost outrageous purity in this season of long sun-lit nights, wild flowers, pine scented forests and sail -dotted seas. More on Midsummer: This is what it's all about - Swedish Midsummer 101!

Midsummer, the traditions
During regular years, Swedes and Swedish Americans gather everywhere to celebrate the return of light, the sun and summer. Whether the event occurs in a park in the midwest where many of the early Swedes settled, far west in California, Washington, Oregon or at the tip of Manhattan with Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in sight, or in Sweden where similar observances have been held in the same places for centuriesóthe atmosphere is the same, an abandon of the usual activities and a return to the great feeling of joy.

Midsummer or the summer solstice has been part of the common mythology for hundreds, of years. The ancients were able to observe and to chronicle the fact that the sun rose higher and higher in the sky and the days became longer until that day in late June when the shortest night and the longest day occurred and the days became shorter again. How these tribes with none of the instruments with which we are equipped today were able to predict so accurately is still somewhat a mystery, but they did. We are not sure how these earliest peoples celebrated but almost certainly it was a type of sun worship.

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In the beginning the Roman Catholic Church celebrated June 24th, Midsummer Day, in commemoration of the birthday of John the Baptist. After the Reformation the tradition continued, and Midsummer Day was celebrated on June 24th until 1953. After that Midsummer Day became a rotating holiday, with Midsummer Day falling on the first Saturday after the summer solstice. The custom of decorating a maypole and gathering to dance and play on Midsummer dates way back. Midsummer Eve was filled with mysticism. Young maidens picked 7 (or 9 depending on the custom) different sorts of flowers to put under their pillow in order to dream of their future husband that night.
However it happened the celebration did arrive in the new world, and just as the Swedes in the old country now celebrate, the midsummer pole and the celebration of Midsummer has spread across the country.
So let's lighten up, and hold hands with the tiniest tots as we are all small frogs together dancing around the midsommar pole, rejoice in nature, food and abundant sunlight Ė if youíre a Swede, itís a time to celebrate.

According to renowned folk lore professor Jan ÷jvind Swahn Midsummer is the easiest of all Swedish holidays when it comes to food as the menu is practically given; herring, preferrably matjes herring, spring potatoes with sour cream and chives. For dessert fresh strawberries with whipped cream or cake such as the one we included here.
Another staple on the Midsummer table is the ever present Janssons Frestelse (Jansson's Temptation). For a brief introduction to this delicious dish and recipe, see: The first temptation of the Swedes

Around Midsummer, and in Northern Sweden especially, this was the time to put the cows out to pasture and seriously begin to milk once again. It was the time to make the first processed sour cream of the season.
A variety of pickled herring can be found at any specialized Scandinavian store, some retailers often of German origin such as Schaller & Weber in NYC or one of the IKEA stores throughout America. Feeling adventurous? Hereís a recipe on pickled herring from Served from the Swedish Kitchen, published by ICA BokfŲrlag in 2000:

Marinated herring (inlagd sill)
4 servings

8 presoaked salt herring fillets

3 dl (1-1/2 cups) 7% vinegar
1 dl (1/2 cup) water
2 dl (1 cup) sugar
2 onions, sliced
1 teaspoon crushed white peppercorns
2 teaspoons crushed allspice berries

1 red onion, sliced
2 carrots, shredded
3 cm (1-1/4Ē) cube fresh horseradish, shredded
2 bay leaves

Remove all small bones from fillets. Rinse well under cold running water.

Combine ingredients in brine and bring to a boil. Cool.

Cut fillets on the diagonal into 2 cm (3/4Ē) slices and place in a jar. Add brine and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Garnish with onion, carrots, horseradish and bay leaves.

For a large quantity of herring, leave fillets whole and place in a large jar. Just before serving, cut into slices and garnish with fresh vegetables and crushed spices. Drizzle a little brine on top.

And here, a variation on the serving of the mandatory strawberries that will make everyone happy. Our first encounter with the variation of the Pinoccio torte was at the Swedish Consul General to Michigan's residence where the Consul's spouse Karin Johansson added some delicious details to this traditional cake.

Strawberry cake Š la Karin
(A.K.A. Pinocchio Torte)

Line a 12Ē x 16 ď sheet cake pan with baking parchment. Grease well and add flour.
Sponge cake:
3 Egg yolks
Ĺ cup or 1 dl Sugar
5 Tablespoons Half & Half
2/3 cup or 1 Ĺ dl melted Butter
2/3 cup or 1 Ĺ dl All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder

Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar well until light and fluffy. Add the half & half and the cooled to room temperature melted butter a little of each at a time with the combined flour and baking powder. Pour into the prepared pan, spreading the batter with a spatula.

3 Egg whites
ĺ cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla sugar
Ĺ cup sliced almonds.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold in the sugar and vanilla sugar and beat for a few more minutes. Spread the meringue, slightly unevenly over the cake batter. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake on the lowest oven rack on 400F for 5 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350F for another 20 Ė 30 minutes until the meringue is golden. Let the cake cool slightly. Carefully remove the cake from the parchment paper and cut in half.

1 1/3 cup whipping cream
1 Ĺ liter Strawberries (1.5 quartóyou donít have to be picky hereÖ experiment!)

Whip the cream and combine with mashed strawberries (leave some for decoration). Spread the filling on one of the cake half and top with the other half, meringue side up. Decorate with Strawberries.


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