How to eat Surstromming and it’s origin.

Surströmming (fermented Baltic herring or soured Baltic herring) is one of Sweden’s most infamous products and is wildly popular in northern Sweden.

Surströmming is the same thing as strömming (Baltic herring), which are smaller than sill (Atlantic herring). The strömming used for surströmming is caught just before spawning, and the fermentation starts from a lactic acid enzyme in the spine of the fish, which releases aromatic smelling acids and hydrogen sulphide! Despite this, many Swedes still love surströmming!

Fermented fish is not a new trend. The ancient Greeks and Romans made a famous sauce from fermented fish, and Worcestershire Sauce also has a fermented fish ingredient.

There is a misbelief among many that surstromming should be eaten directly from the can, although nothing could be more wrong. First, have everything prepared, such as freshly boiled potatoes, butter, bread, chopped onion, cold beverages, before opening the can, as the initial smell of surströmming tends to take over all other fragrances in the room.

​Check out this enthusiastic swede below for a more detailed explanation of how to eat surstromming.

When opened, surströmming releases an intense and sometimes overwhelming odour, a recommendation is to enjoy the surstromming outside. Surströmming season is at the end of August, but we Swedes like to bury a can out in the snow and eat some at Christmas!

Remember that a Swede in Gothenburg opened a tin of surstromming in his apartment block, which evacuated the whole apartment block because someone smelt the fish and thought there was a gas leak! Indeed, according to a Japanese study, a newly opened, can of surströmming has one of the most putrid food smells in the world! I don’t know how they measured this, but I can easily believe the result.

For most Swedes who eat surströmming, the reason is simple: it is because they like a surströmmingsskiva (a fermented herring party). Swedes love an excuse for a party, and opening a can of rotting fish can cause reason. Really.

“Yes, ok, it smells awful and doesn’t taste very nice,” the argument goes, “but we always have a good party when we open a can of surströmming!”

So if there are lots of snaps on offer, it can be worth eating surströmming, according to some. The team of Stinky Fish Challenge can’t think of better reasons for a party.

Another recommendation is to eat the surstromming in a sandwich (called surströmmingsklämma) made with tunnbröd (thin bread), which usually is buttered. The surstromming tunnbröd contains:

• sliced mandelpotatis (a type of potato grown in northern Sweden which is slightly sweet and waxy),

• fillets of surströmming (sometimes they are cut up into small pieces),

• finely diced red onion.

In southern Sweden, some crème fraîche or gräddfil (which is a bit like soured cream) is prevalent along with chives, tomato and chopped dill.

Surströmming sandwiches are usually served with some Västerbottensost (a type of hard cheese), snaps and lager, although some people claim that milk is the best thing to drink surströmming sandwiches.

If you get invited to surströmmingsskiva, why not try it? You might like it!

The herring are caught in May when they are in prime condition and just about to spawn. They proceed into a strong brine for about 20 hours, which draws out the blood. With its heads removed, they are gutted and put into a weaker brine solution. Canning starts at the beginning of July and goes on for about five weeks. The first cans go on sale on the third Thursday in August.