Children may take milk with their meals; adults prefer beer or coffee. The main form of milk consumption is in a wide variety of mostly mild cheeses which are eaten for breakfast, as appetizers, as part of the smorgasbord (sliced cheeses and sliced meats), or for dessert with fruits.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are used fresh in season, grown locally, or imported. Also used are canned, dried and frozen fruits and vegetables. The most popular of the fruits are apples and lingonberries, while the humble potato still outshines imported artichokes and white asparagus in most homes as the daily standby. Fruit preserves and pickled and brined vegetables are much enjoyed year-round.
MEATS AND ALTERNATES
Pork and pork products are most important, but other meats are used: veal, beef, lamb, offal products, chicken, and goose. Game fowl and wild animals are quite plentiful. The Laplander’s domesticated reindeer meat is sold frozen, fresh, or smoked. Herring is the staple fish and is served fresh, salted, smoked, pickled, fried, or with a variety of sauces such as onion, mustard, cream, etc.
Other fish used include rakor (shrimp), svardfisk (swordfish), smelts, perch, flounder, halibut, sole, haddock, and lax (salmon). Not only herring, but also these other fish are frequently served with sauces of which the most popular are white sauce, mustard sauce, and horse radish. Fish may be prepared by poaching, steaming, grinding, and forming into balls; fish may be pickled, smoked, or smoked then baked, or made into soufflés. Only occasionally is fish served breaded and fried.
Eggs are consumed in baked goods, as omelets or soufflés, pickled or chopped into salads. The most-used legumes are the dried yellow peas made into the traditional Thursday soup: arter med flask. Small white dried beans are used for Swedish baked beans, a traditional dish which is part of almost any smorgasbord. Nuts, especially almonds, are used in desserts and in sweet bakery and pastries.
BREADS AND GRAINS
Rye breads and thin rye crispbreads are very popular. These may vary from very dark, heavy, and sour breads to light breads that are slightly sweet such as the Swedish limpa bread. Cooked cereals, gruels, and porridges are not used by the Swedes. The frequent serving of coffee is always accompanied with a selection of yeast coffee cakes, light plain sponge cakes, and crisp plain cookies – after meals, between meals, and as a form of hospitality.
Butter or pork fat (lard) is used in cooking and baking. Fats are also consumed in the many cheeses, in cream, which is used generously, and in whipped cream, which is enjoyed with desserts. Only occasionally is sour cream used.
SWEETS AND SNACKS
The Swedish sweet tooth is well satisfied by all the delicately sweet baked goods that accompany the many daily cups of coffee. A supply of these in any Swedish home is considered as much a staple as bread.
Brining, marinating, and smoking are ways of flavoring and preserving meats and fish, while dill and onions are the seasonings. Sometimes the addition of creamy sauces mellows the flavors of salt and smoke. Vegetables are cooked in soups or stews or otherwise well cooked then sauced with mustard and/or horse radish. Vegetables are also used in salads with a marinade of vinegar, onions, and spices. Fresh eggs, sweet butter, and cream lend their gentle rich taste to most bakery.
The centuries-old river trade with Kiev brought the first spices to Sweden: saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, cumin and coriander, anise and even pepper. There is variety on the Swedish spice shelf, but the hand that measures spices has a light touch: natural flavors from good ingredients is the overall preference.
Coffee is not only a staple in Sweden, it is a ritualized institution. No meal is complete without it, and it must be hot, strong, and black. Similarly, an evening appetizer or the famed smorgasbord is scarcely complete without the ritual of shoal: you hold an icy glass of Akvavit up high, eyeing your companion, say “Skoal!” and down the drink in one gulp with a final nod to your companion as you display the emptied glass. Some Swedes like to follow the Akvavit with beer, most others blithely continue with more skoal punctuated with salty morsels from the appetizer trays.