Kräftskiva Stockholm!The Crayfish Party

| September 3, 2007

Heather Fitsell visited Stockholm and experienced her first crayfish party. Here she reveals it all. 

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In Sweden, August is the month of kräftskiva, which roughly translates into English as ‘crayfish party’. These parties are a veritable feast of food, washed down with copious amount of schnapps and beer.

A relatively modern tradition, kräftskiva was introduced in the early 20th Century. As a result of over-fishing in Swedish waters, the crayfish season was reduced to just two months, meaning it soon became a much sought-after delicacy. Today, visitors to Stockholm can enjoy crayfish in many of the city’s restaurants, as it is now available year round.

Traditionally, Swede’s hang up paper lanterns and dress their tables with matching plates, napkins, tablecloths and hats, before devouring bowls of crayfish. The crayfish is eaten cold, having been marinated in brine and dill. In order to extract the most meat and juices, lots of slurping will be heard, which is considered quite acceptable.

To compliment the fish, an array of breads will be served including the traditional hard bread knäkerbröd, and a variety of cheeses including västerbotten. Shots of schnapps and numerous drinking songs including Helan Går ensure that all have a good party, often into the early hours of the following morning.

This was my first experience of the Swedish kräftskiva and, whilst I was unable to attend a full-blown party, I was treated to the tradition by my partner Mik’s mother, albeit on a small scale and with just he and his father singing the songs. My comprehension of the language only lends me to singing ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’, at present.

Our miniature party was held at the family’s summerhouse on the island of Rindö, a former military base and one of the 24,000 islands that form Stockholm’s archipelago. The setting is wonderful and from here you can see the archipelago come alive, with everyone out on their boats, fishing, wake boarding or just enjoying a trip along the beautiful waters. It cannot fail to delight you, particularly on a summer’s day. I love to just sit and read down by the water and am lucky enough to be able to enjoy such trips on the family boat. For visitors to Stockholm, there are many white steamers or modern vessels, which I have often seen out on the water, giving visitors a taste of the beautiful archipelago. A drink outside a bar on one of the many islands is a perfect way to finish your day.

Next to Rindö is the island of Waxholm, this charming town is closest to Stockholm’s centre and a lovely place for a day trip. About a one-hour boat trip from Stockholm, Waxholm is popular with tourists. Mik and I take the ferry from Waxholm to get to Rindö and frequently stop here for an ice cream from the little corner shop, by the water, where you can choose from many different flavours and it comes highly recommended from both of us.

Earlier in the weekend we made a visit to Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, for lunch and a deliberate shopping trip to a place that hand makes leather sandals. Here I was treated to a lovely pair of sandals, which have been worn on several occasions since.

Gamla Stan is filled with tourists in the summer, particularly as this is where the palace (left), home to Sweden’s royal family, is also located. In the narrow streets, the volume of people can become a bit too much. Nevertheless, the sight of royal finery wherever it is seen never fails to delight me, particularly if there are horses involved. On this occasion, I was lucky enough to see many of King Carl XVI Gustav’s horses and men, as they left Drottningholm Palace.

Off-season a visit to Gamla Stan is, in my opinion, a more pleasant experience and there are many cafes to warm up in if it is a little cold.

Stockholm, for me, provides the luxuries of a city, with the relaxation of the great out doors just moments away - and the crayfish is fantastic.

Cox & Kings offers short breaks to Stockholm.

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