Kräftskiva - Crayfish Party
The Late Summer Crayfish Party
Swedes have a long tradition of eating crayfish that stretches back to the 1500s, but the typical crayfish party of today didn’t begin taking form until the mid 1800s. Because of a risk of over-fishing, restrictions were introduced in the early 1900s, limiting the crayfish season to the end of the summer and the following months – hence, the “crayfish premiere,” which occurs in early August.
You will find imported crayfish from China, Turkey and the US but the most exclusive (and expensive), of course, is the shellfish from local rivers and lakes. Regardless of their origin, the Swedes prefer them cooked in a brine with plenty of crown dill.
The typical crayfish party takes place outdoors with the crowd seated at long tables, surrounded by decorations of paper lanterns in the shape of smiling moons, and the people wearing miniature, colorful paper hats held in place with rubber bands.
You will find the whole animals, shell and all, on your plate, so actually getting fed at one of these occasions means that you’ll need to figure out how to get the food out of the shell. There’s a specific technique to each part of the animal: the head, the claws, the chest, the abdomen. If you can’t be bothered to figure it all out, just go for the abdomen where the most meat is.
Luckily, there will also be fresh bread, butter, Västerbotten cheese and maybe also a salad and a Västerbotten pie. Västerbotten, if you wonder, is not only a northern region of Sweden but also the name of a traditional cheese from that area, which is strong and salty and thus a great complement to the crayfish.
The traditional beverages at the crayfish party include beer, white wine and, most importantly, the nubbe (schnapps). If you remember any of the songs from the Midsommer party you’ll recognize them again at the crayfish party. Swedes, like most people, are creatures of habit and see no reason to change up a winning concept just because it happens to be a different month in the calendar. There will be plenty of songs and plenty of nubbe at any crayfish party.