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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Sweden Series at SwedishPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Swedish holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 19, The Surströmming Premiere. In Swedish, it’s called surströmmingspremiär.
The Surströmming Premiere marks the beginning of the retail season for fermented herring and has long been held on the third Thursday of August. There is no law mandating this, but many manufacturers stick to this date anyway.
In this lesson you’ll learn about the world's most smelly fish, how it’s eaten and why!
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
Do you know what acids form when you ferment herring?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Surströmming is herring that has been preserved by fermentation, or jäsning. It’s first salted, then put in open containers which allows fermentation, and finally it’s canned. Fermenting food is a very old method of preservation that has existed for thousands of years. It’s believed that the fermented herring is a very old dish, but that the preservation method in Sweden first became prevalent during the 1500s when the salt shortage occurred. It was during this period that people started using less salt than usual to cure the herring.
During the 1800s, Surströmming became a party dish, or festmat. The annual Surströmming Premiere festival was established in the 1940s. Just like the crayfish, the fermented herring is associated with being Swedish, but it also has a regional identity. We associate fermented herring with Northern Sweden, or Norra Sverige, and the people there claim that they know the “real way” to eat fermented herring. In recent years, fermented herring has been sampled by international chefs who, despite the smell, claim to really appreciate this delicacy.
Fermented herring has a very strong smell and the taste is very salty. It has even been named the world's smelliest food, or Världens mest illaluktande mat. One way to eat the fermented herring is in a so called klämma, or clamp. A clamp can be made out of two equally sized pieces of hard or soft flatbread with a layer of sliced or mashed potatoes and another of fermented herring stuffed between, which together form a two-layer sandwich that you can eat with your hands. Drinks that are commonly drunk with fermented herring can vary from beer and snaps to soft drinks or milk.
Fermented herring cans have been added to the list of dangerous weapons like firearms, knives and stabbing weapons which are prohibited on any flight. This is because they can explode easily.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know what acids form when you ferment herring?
When the fish is fermented, propionic acid, butyric acid and acetic acid are formed from simple sugar cells inside the fish. Hydrogen sulphide is also formed. These acids are what make the fish smell so terrible.
How did you find this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Do you have any smelly foods in your country?
Leave us a comment letting us know at SwedishPod101.com. And we'll see you in the next lesson!