Kräftskiva is a summertime eating and drinking celebration. Originally, it stems from Sweden but has also spread over the other Nordic countries.
Crayfish parties take place outdoors. Coloured paper lanterns – most commonly displaying a smiling full moon, the so-called “man in the moon” embellish the tables. There are further paper-made decorations such as the tablecloth and colourful plates. Guests usually dress up in bibs and comic paper hats. Eating and drinking is usually accompanied by a noisy atmosphere and communal singing.
The crayfish is served cold after it has been boiled in salted water and decorated with fresh crown dill. Swedes usually eat it with the fingers but before taking off the shell, it is common to suck the juice out of the crayfish. Usually, the crayfish is accompanied by a buffet of bread, mushroom pies, surströmming, mature Västerbotten cheese, salads and many other dishes. Typical drinks are Akvavit, other types of schnapps and beer.
The History of Kräftskiva
Eating crayfish has been around since the 16th century in Sweden. It used to be limited to the aristocracy in those days as crayfish was a rather expensive delicacy. Originally, their meat was used to produce sausages, ragout, patties or puddings.
The way we eat crayfish today stems from the mid-1800s. This was also the time when it slowly started to turn from an exclusive delicacy to a wide-spread national dish. During that time, prices fell through cheaper imports from other countries. Due to that, all classes of society throughout the country were now able to afford crayfish.
Due to the high consumption and the increasing risk of over-fishing, restrictions on harvesting crayfish were introduced in the early 1900s. Sweden only allowed harvesting crayfish during a limited period at the end of summer. For that reason, crayfish parties evolved in this allowed period and traditionally took place in August from that time on.
Although the so-called kräftpremiär has no legal significance anymore and crayfish is available throughout the year, crayfish parties usually still take place after the season opening in early August. The media and celebrities start it by providing tests of the year’s offerings, recommendations and rankings of the different brands.
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