Surströmming is a Swedish fish food that is preserved by acidification. It is especially known for its distinct smell that could be described as intensive, putrid and stinking. Surströmming (Swedish for pickled herring) was regarded by farmers in northern Sweden as an everyday food and was often used as provisions.

Surströmming can be consumed in different ways. One traditional dish is the so-called tunnbrödklämma. It is made with Surströmming, almond potatoes, butter, white or red raw chopped onions, sour cream and tomatoes. The fermented herring is commonly served with cold milk, aquavit or beer.

Oskars Surströmming, a Swedish fish specialty with fermented herringProducing Swedish Fermented Herring

Surströmming is made from full-blown Baltic herring, especially at the Norrland coast. The herring is captured in the spring and placed in brine, where it begins to ferment. About a month before the so-called “Surströmming Premiere” which denotes the sales start of the season, the fish is packed in cans, where the fermentation process continues. The fermentation inside the cans causes  the typically domed tops and bottoms of the cans.

The Traditional Surströmming Premiere

The sale or “Premiere” traditionally begins on the third Thursday in August. The date is due to a Royal Directive of 1937, which should ensure that the fish is ready matured and suitable for consumption. In 1998, this state requirement was lifted. The lobby of Surströmming producers continues this tradition, however, so that Surströmming is available in retail stores throughout Sweden after the “Premiere”.

 

Fun Facts

The smell of Surströmming is so strong that many landlords in Sweden forbid the consumption of the fermented herring in their apartment buildings. Apart from this, even certain Airlines such as British Airways or AirFrance have banned Surströmming from their airplanes as the risk is too high that the pressurized cans leak and spread the smell inside the aircrafts.

You love discovering extraordinary delicacies like Surströmming? Then check out our collection of the most curious foods from around the world!


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Photos by Mr Thinktank, Thomas Angermann

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