How to do a Scandi Midsummer at Home
Midsummer is one of the most important days in the Nordic calendar – especially for the Swedes where it is a huge holiday (and hangover).
Here’s a guide on how to make your own Swedish Midsummer Buffet and celebrations at home.
When to celebrate
Swedes always move Midsummer to the nearest Friday for Summer Solistice. This year that means Friday 22nd June. This day is a holiday in Sweden and everybody will be out all day celebrating in the sunshine (read: rain). When celebrating abroad, most move it to the Saturday (23rd June in 2018) so we can benefit from a full day of sitting outside, hoping it will not rain.
How to set the scene
Flowers and green stuff. Everywhere. Outside is preferable – in a park, in your garden, by a lake or even on your balcony if you have no outside space. Midsummer is all about the outdoors.
What to wear
Something light in colour, flowers in your hair. Real flower garlands are a must for all! Be at one with nature (avoid walking around naked – that’s too much. Especially before the first bottle of aquavit has been opened).
What to eat
Make a Smörgåsbord buffet or a picnic (Smörgåsbord just means ‘laid out table – a buffet). Both will contain the same sort of foods. We have added ** for things that are essential – the other stuff are fillers: add as many as you fancy or have time to do.
• Pickled herring** (Mustard herring and Matjes Herring are two solid choices). Recipe for Mustard herring is here or get it ready to serve here. Arrange in bowls, decorate with onions rings on top and dill sprigs.
• Gubbröra – boiled egg with pickled sprats. Eat with crispbread. Find the recipe in our first cookbook.
• Gravad Lax cured salmon and Dill & Mustard Sauce ** (goes well with rye bread)
• Västerbotten Quiche – a beautiful Swedish cheese pie, perfect eaten cold. Top with caviar sauce (red lumpfish roe mixed with a few large spoonsfuls of crème fraiche or sour cream). If you can’t be bothered to make the quiche, just serve the cheese on its own with a dollop of cloudberry jam. Or, like us – do both! Cheese pie with a side of cheese.
• New potatoes ** – Cook and cool down, dress with melted butter and fresh dill. When you serve them, you do so with a bowl of what Swedes call Gräddfill on the side – it’s similar to crème fraiche – but lighter. You can get the exact same thing by mixing half natural yoghurt and half crème fraiche (or simply buy your gräddfill from us here). Add lots of chopped chives with the gräddfill, too – essential. A great match for Matjes herring. Here is a recipe for a simple potato and dill salad.
• Swedish Meatballs**. Well, you didn’t think you could avoid meatballs, did you? You can find a recipe on how to make your own here. We stock some really delicious ones, too – very meaty and with just the right spice from a slow food producer called Per I Viken (budget 2-3 meatballs per person of these – they are quite filling). If you use the smaller supermarket variety, budget about 120g per person.
• Beetroot Salad** It wouldn’t be Midsummer without a good beetroot salad. You can find a recipe here – or get your hands on our own version here. If you pop by the café, we’ll usually be able to sell some of our homemade salad to you by the kilo, also, if you ask nicely.
• Extra salads – if you fancy making a more elaborate spread, try the Courgette & Västerbotten salad here or the Curried cauliflower with rye grain for something different? Or even a nice fresh kale salad with apple here – or how about a lovely slaw?
• This Beetroot Tart is a fab veggie option that both tastes and looks stunning.
• Bread **. Make a bread basket of lovely crispbread, rye bread and crusty bread so there is something for everyone.
• Cheeses – if you want to add a cheese selection, we recommend Västerbotten (truly a phenomenal cheese, especially with Cloudberry jam on top), and then an Åseda – a mild, super creamy cheese that everyone loves. You can also perhaps add a bit of Danish cheese – the Riberhus with caraway is lovely and has a good bite to it. Don’t forget you need cheese slicers.
• Dessert has to incorporate strawberries** – that’s the law. The more strawberries the better. In Sweden, most people will make a strawberry layer cake – 3 sponge or genoise sponge layers, with half pastry cream half whipped cream in the middle. Add chopped strawberries in side in the layers, and cover the whole thing in more strawberries. An easier option of Strawberries and cream also works! Here’s the cheat’s version for the cake and the full recipe.
What to drink
Aquavit** is needed for your cheering and singing – for Midsummer, the delicious light Elderflower aquavit is great (Hallands Fläder) or try the most traditional OP Andersson. Serve slightly chilled in shot glasses. Be warned, it gets you drunk from the waist down.
Here’s a link to the songs you need to know for the aquavit cheering:
Aquavit Songs (Snapsvisor) for Midsummer
Also, serve nice beers (God Lager, Tuborg, Lapin Kulta etc) – and wine, if preferred, but this is less traditional (and doesn’t work so well with aquavit, so do be careful of who you’re playing footsie with under the table).
A nice non-alcoholic drink is Elderflower or Lingonberry Cordial – great both with still and sparkling water.
How to arrange the table and buffet if you’re having the party at home and not in a park:
If arranging on a separate Smörgåsbord buffet table (recommended for 10 people or more), always arrange the fish at one end, starting with the herring, followed by any other fish dishes. Follow it with cold meats, then warm meats, side dishes and finally bread and butter. Cheese can be placed by the bread section or served separately at the end as a cheese board. Dessert is not usually brought out until the main smörgåsbord has been eaten.
Always start with herring and a shot of aquavit (butter some rye bread or crisp bread, add a few slices of herring on top, eat with a knife and fork, drink a shot of aquavit, and everybody cheers together). After a few sing songs, tuck into the rest of the meal.
PS if you’re still in doubt on what to do, here’s a Midsummer for Dummies guide: