Swedish Kräftskiva | Undutchables

Swedish Kräftskiva

Categorie: Cultural

Another real Swedish tradition is ‘Kräftskiva’. It is actually quite similar to midsummer but the food is different. It is traditionally done in the month of August. Most shops have all the traditional material to celebrate this in a proper way. You buy your small flags, hats and napkins with the moon or crayfish on it.  An old tradition is to catch the crayfish in the lakes in Sweden, but nowadays most people buy them at the grocery store. It that case you very often get traditional Swedish crayfish from ……Turkey, Spain or China.

Catching crayfish yourself

This is a short story about a personal first Kräftskiva experience in Sweden. It was pretty exciting. We went out with our flashlights in the evening as the crayfish hid between the rocks during the day. In the evening when the crayfish felt “safe” to come out of their hiding between the rocks they came out to feed. This was pretty amazing to see! To be able to spot them you would have to focus closely as their color is grey, similar to the color of the sand and rocks. All in all it is an experience in itself. If you manage to find one, you then put out your crayfish traps with some bait overnight. This can be either a herring or some other fish. In the morning you get out and when you lift the traps, most of the time, if you are lucky they are filled with  a lot of crayfish that all went for the same bait. Still having this greyish color and crawling all over.

Lampionnen 1

Preparing the crayfish

Then it is time to prepare the crayfish. The main ingredients are salt water, preferably beer and head of dill. You can complete the dish with other herbs for your personal taste. When your mixture is cooking, you put in the crayfish. It still amazes me when I see the magic happen. All of a sudden they turn into a nice red / orange color and suddenly they look tasty.

Consuming the crayfish

Traditionally you can consume the crayfish with knäckebröd or baguette. You even sometimes serve it with Västerbottenpaj (Cheese pastry) and of course lets not forget the spirits. Next to your beer you can drink aquavit or brandy.

Now, the consuming of the crayfish themselves is a real event on itself. I can assure you, you need to have your napkin around you neck when you crack open your first crayfish. You will hear the sound of people sucking like they are sucking out the brains of the crayfish. Do not worry … this is quite normal. The crayfish are very tasty and so are many parts of it. Some of them still have small eggs on them and these too are a treat. That is why people do the sucking. You also suck the mixture out off the crayfish in which it was prepared and the combination of it is very nice. The tail is the highlight of the crayfish and most people skip the sucking and focus on the tail. So don’t forget to crack that one open next time you eat fresh crayfish. In between the hard work of opening the crayfish you sing and in general have fun.

It is  an experience in itself and I must admit another genuine Swedish tradition that has been around since many years. Should you ever be invited to a Kräftskiva , do not hesitate, unless you are allergic to crayfish. But even then, it is a great excuse to drink another beer or brandy with your friends or colleagues . But even more important, it is another step in getting to know the Swedish culture even better.

Have fun and enjoy!

Written by Guido, an Undutchable in Sweden


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