In two weeks’ time it´s August, meaning that it´s time for the traditional crayfish parties in Sweden. The tradition to eat crayfish, which is similar to a small lobster, has been around in Sweden for over 500 years making it one of the oldest Swedish traditions. It all started in the 16th century as an exclusive dish that King Erik XIV used to eat, but has in later years turned into the probably messiest party of the year in Sweden. So what is a crayfish party or kräftskiva as it is called in Swedish?
Here’s the ultimate guide:
1. First of all you need to get hold of the main ingredient, enormous amounts of crayfish. If you feel like a fisherman, you can always go out at nighttime with wire traps with rotten or raw fish as bait and try to catch them. Or, if you are a bit lazy as I am, you just go to the store and buy some cheap Turkish or Chinese ones (the Swedish ones taste a lot better but are very expensive).
2. After getting the crayfish you need to get some more food since eating the crayfish alone will make you lose more calories than you gain, but I’ll get to the eating part later. Usually, you eat the crayfish with pies such as Västerbotten Cheese pie, knäckebröd, schnapps and more schnapps! As every Swedish tradition the kräftskiva is accompanied with copious amounts of alcohol. To make the event even more festive, funny hats and colorful bibs are worn. Also, all the colorful plates, table cloth and napkins have to be made out of paper so that everything can be thrown away together when the party is over.
3. You are now ready to begin the feast! There are several techniques for eating the precooked crayfish, but the ground rule is that the more you eat of the crayfish the more experienced you are. Usually, you start by breaking the back of it and slurping the cold and salty juice from the crayfish underbelly. Thereafter you go for the only meaty part of the crayfish, which are the claws. Lastly, you scrape for the delicious “butter” from the back of the crayfish head. Don´t forget the schnapps every fifth minute together with a snapsvisa (drinking song) it helps you forget how sticky and stinky you get from the eating!
4. If you are still awake it´s now time to finish off the evening with sauna. Don´t despair if you´re already asleep, the crayfish party period goes on for about two months beginning in August!
Have you ever been to a kräftskiva? Do you have a similar tradition in your country?