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Surströmming premiere is here

Surströmming premiere
Photo: Hilding Mickelsson / Hälsingland Museum (CC BY-NC)

Today it is the surströmming premiere, which traditionally takes place on the third Thursday in August. The photo is from 1970 and shows herring being stocked in the fishing village of Mellanfjärden, Jättendals parish, Hälsingland, between Sundsvall and Hudiksvall.

Surströmming production is centred around the High Coast, but surströmming is produced all along the Norrland coast from Hästskär in northern Uppland to Kalix in the north, often in small family businesses in fishing villages. For those of you who are not familiar with this northern delicacy, surströmming is herring preserved by fermentation. Fermenting food is a very old method of preservation that has been around for thousands of years. The washed fish is salted, placed in open vats and fermented by autolysis, i.e. by its own enzymes, which, together with bacteria, produces the distinctive 'flavour'. Charles Emil Hagdahl's Kok-Konsten from 1896 states:
"Surströmming is an ancient dish, the preparation of which nature herself has always provided from the creation of the world. Our first parents tasted it even outside the gates of paradise, and it was early known as well at all the feasts of the flesh and of the papal huts, as by the Greeks and Romans, for all knew what rotten fish meant; but the taste of it was not yet so developed as now - no haut goût was then known. - Sour herring is eaten only by the initiated - au naturel, without any other sauce than that it waters the mouth. It is regarded by them as a delicacy of the most delicious kind; but it never becomes a meal, unless the host prefers to eat alone, or perhaps chooses guests who are without a nose."
In the parish of Jättendal, where the photo was taken, there are also settlements from the Stone Age and burial cairns from the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. There are some 230 burial mounds from the Iron Age. A runic carving is found at Jättendal church and a treasure with gilded clasps has been found. From the Middle Ages there are desert cemeteries and also old fishing villages on the islands, which have now been excavated.

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