Food & Drink
Flavours of Småland
There are three national dishes in Småland. Have you ever heard of 'ostkaka', 'isterband' and 'lingonsylt'? When it comes to food, there is nothing more typical of Småland than these dishes. Here you can learn more about them.
Cheese = ost, cake = kaka, a real Småland speciality made from milk, flour, cheese rennet, bitter almond, eggs, cream, almonds and sugar. It is served luke warm with jam and whipped cream, really tasty. Many have their own family recipes and therefore the Småland ostkaka can vary somewhat in both taste and look.
Feasts and other fancy partys require ostkaka, that is the way it has been as long as any Smålander can remember. The tradition is mentioned in texts from the 16th century, but it is probably even older than that. Furthermore, in these parts of Sweden it is strongly argued that ostkaka is a perfect hearty dessert, any day of the week.
Back in the day, large parties in Småland often were potlucks where families brought their contribution to the table. Being the one who contributed with a large ostkaka was highly regarded. And, of course, they wanted the reputation of making the region's best ostkaka.
The middle first
When eating ostkaka, you always start in the middle of the cake. This is probably due to the fact that they used to be baked in copper dishes that had a coat of tin. If there was a crack in the tin, the ostkaka was mixed with the poisonous copper. Letting the finer guests start in the middle made sure that they did not consume too much of the poison. Others claim that it is simply because the ostkaka is more creamy in the middle and more burned at the edges, which were saved for the children and the service people. Whatever the case, the poison is long gone, but to this day, many people argue that ostkaka has to be eaten from the inside and out.
The correct way to serve it
The ostkaka from Småland contains non-pasteurised milk, flour, cheese rennet, bitter almond, eggs, cream, almonds and sugar. It differs from other cheesecakes through its granular texture. It is best enjoyed luke warm with jam and whipped cream. However, this is where the traditions diverge. Some say it should be cloudberry jam, others say sour cherry jam is the only option. Most commonly, though, it is served either with strawberry jam or raspberry jam.
The tradition lives
Therer is no doubt that the tradition of the Småland ostkaka lives on, even though there are not as many who bake their own ostkaka anymore. 14 November is Ostkakans dag, The Cheesecake's Day, which has been celebrated by enthusiasts since 2004. This, if something, indicates that ostkaka still is a highly regarded dessert.
Isterband - the national dish
The traditional isterband, a tasty pork sausage prepared as it always has been prepared. It is best eaten with dill stewed potatoes and beetroots.
Småland used to be a poor landscape, situated between the fruitful Skåne in the south and the just as fruitful Östergötland and Västergötland in the north. But the hearty everyday food from old times in Småland - isterband - is now regarded as Småland's national dish. Traditionally, isterband are served grilled, either whole or divided in the middle. It is served at Christmas dinner and on smorgasbord, or as an own dish with dill stewed potatoes, pickled beets, and perhaps some lingonberry jam.
Isterband are often made out of pork meat, with added potatoes or grains - or both. Usually barleycorn is used, but rice is also common. Oatmeal may occur in some recipes. The sausages always have a certain piquancy, or acidity, to them. The original way of achieving this was by letting the stuffed sausages hang above the wood stove or in the attic to dry, with the naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria in the sausage multiplying and contributing to the sour taste. Today, the taste is achieved by other means. Non-smoked isterband are called "dried", but you can also smoke them lightly. Småland isterband is supposedly the only genuinely Swedish sausage without an equivalent in other countries.
Many makers in Småland still ferment the sausages in a completely natural way with lactic acid bacteria, and then cold smoke them for a few days. All of this to highlight the natural sour flavour. Some of the genuine isterband makers in Småland are: Ello in Lammhult, Stens Chark in Åseda, Stensåkra Chark in Vetlanda, Gullaskruvs delikatesser, and Åkes hemlagade in Tingsryd. Some can be found in supermarkets, others sell them themselves in shops or at markets.
Lingon - Lingonberries
Småland has plenty of lingonberries. To wander the forest and pick berries is something that has always been done in Småland. At one point you could even have become rich doing it - large quantities were sent by rail to Germany which paid well. Hence the term "the red gold of the forest".
The red berries are the national berry of Småland - we simply love our lingon! The berry is often boiled and sweetened before used with food and is a popular jam, but can also be used for lingonberry lemonade. The lingonberries ripen August to September and prefer half-shade and pine forest.
Here is a simple recipe for making lingonberry jam.
You need: 1 liter lingonberries and 1 liter water in a pot. Cane sugar.
-Slowly heat up the lingonberries and water on medium-low heat. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the foam from the surface. Take the saucepan off the heat.
-Add 3 dl sugar, a little at a time until the sugar dissolves. Let the jam simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. (To get firmer jam you can add pectin according to instructions on package.)
-Take the saucepan off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Carefully remove any foam and pour the jam into well cleaned jars. Put the lid on while the jam is still warm, and then turn the jar up-side-down. This will make the lids close tight!
Småland is known for the local dish ‘body cakes’ - ‘kroppkakor’ in Swedish. While kroppkakor are well-known for being a local staple on Öland, they are eaten across eastern Sweden, including in Småland, Blekinge, and Gotland. The savory ‘balls’, comprised of a potato-based dough filled with baked pork and onions or other fillers, are similar to dumplings. The Småland variant has more potato in the dough than those you’ll find on Öland, so they’re lighter in colour. All kroppkakor variants have a unique spice profile that gives them their characteristic taste.
butter, cream, and lingonberries...
Kroppkakor are typically eaten with butter, cream, and lingonberries. Like with Swedish Cheesecake, there are many recipes for kroppkakor – so there’s plenty of room for experimentation and play. Here’s a simple recipe for a potato-dough dumpling and pork filler.
• 1kg boiled potatoes, cooled. Cook them in their skin and peel once they’ve cooled down. This can be done the day before.
• 1 egg (large)
• 1 ¼ cups or 300 ml flour
• 1 tsp salt
150g pork (lightly salted) or bacon
1 yellow onion
½ tsp allspice
- Mash the potatoes
- Cut the pork (or bacon) into small pieces and finely chop the onion. Sautee the pork and onion in a frying pan, adding the allspice once it’s hot, and let it simmer.
- Lightly whisk the egg, wheat and salt. Add the mashed potato and mix thoroughly.
- Roll the potatoes into a thick log. Cut into 10-12 pieces. Then make a little pocket in each of the pieces and fill it with 1 tablespoon of the pork filling. Close the dough and shape into a ball.
- Boil a large pot of water with 1.5 tablespoons salt. Lower the heat slightly but ensure the water continues to boil.
- Lower the kroppkakor into the boiling water using a slotted spoon. They’ll sink to the bottom. Don’t put them in too quickly or they’ll stick together.
- After 10-12 minutes, they’ll float to the top, They’re ready 5 minutes after they float back up.
Serve warm with lingonberries and cream (not whipped) and melted butter in deep plates.