Swedish traditions: 'Kräftskivan' - your own crayfish party.
Prepare 'kraeftskivan' your own crayfish party
Crayfish, crawfish, in Swedish simply kräftor [kr'ef:tor] and, in Sweden served different from most crayfish you have had elsewhere. Swedish crayfish are boiled with dill, sugar and salt and you serve them cold—guests eat with their hands. The party itself is all about having fun and socializing. (Hard not to, if you follow the checklists below… remember, if you try serving Swedish aquavit or, if hard to find, the Norwegian Linie or Danish Aalborg aquavits, which are more readily available, aquavit is hard liquor, serve and drink responsibly!)
Want to find out more about the tradition first? Go to An Ode to the Crayfish
Checklist / incidentals:
1. Paper moons (colored paper lanterns that usually wrap around regular light bulbs)
2. Bibs and napkins; in Sweden often with the crayfish motifs.
3. Funny hats (items listed here are only the beginning, in Sweden you’ll find special paper plates and table cloths with the appropriate crayfish motifs)
4. A nutcracker for the tougher parts of claws or tail of the crustaceans.
5. At least a couple of traditional Swedish songs, written up phonetically if a majority of your guests are foreign to the tradition. For the ambitious, you’ll find a collection of songs at The very best of Swedish Schnapps Songs’
In a hurry? You'll find a couple of songs here: Visor för kräftskivan...
Checklist / food:
1. Crayfish; you’ll find frozen crayfish at most IKEA stores. Mail order and over the internet, you can also order from www.scandinavianbutik.com
(really the best in the U.S.) or, catch your own and get plenty of ideas on how to catch, where and with what at www.trapperarne.com
2. White toast, crisp bread (‘knäckebröd’) and butter
3. Cheeses—Several kinds of hard cheeses to accompany the bread. A typical Swedish cheese for the crayfish table would be the aged ‘Västerbotten cheese,’ which is available at most online Swedish American food suppliers and IKEA stores throughout North America. Add an aged Cheddar and a good chunk of Jarlsberg and you are all set.
4. Most parties will offer a choice other than crayfish – a quiche or cheese pie, Swedish meatballs. By our own experience, this recipe for a Västerbotten cheese based pie will even interest the serious crayfish aficionados: http://www.nordstjernan.com/articles/3/35/.
5. Cold beer works well with the saltiness of the crayfish
6. Schnapps. No Swedish crayfish party is complete without the shots of aquavit, the ‘nubbe,’ which is always accompanied by singing.
The funny, conical paper hats are part of the party ensemble and will put you in the right mood to enjoy this Swedish tradition. The hats can be quite deliberate or you can have your guests prepare their own… You find a simple template for the hats to the right.
A bib is a must and since you’ll be eating with your hands, piles of napkins or rolls of paper towels are often available on the table. If it’s your first time, make sure you are near one or grab one of them and don’t let go. Focus on the claws and tail and too avoid a visit to your dentist’s, use a nutcracker to reach the sparse meat inside the crustacean. Practice Swedish drinking songs if you are inviting Swedes or going to a party arranged by Swedish born. It doesn’t matter whether you speak Swedish. It only matters that you try hard, hum along and can say Skål [Skoal!] at the end of every song.
Several of the Swedish organizations in North America, from Chambers of Commerce, to SWEA and Vasa lodges organize their own crayfish parties. You'll find crayfish the Swedish way and much of the accessories here: Scandinavian Butik
For 'the light version,' the North American IKEA stores are hosting crayfish parties on August 19. For more info, see http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/IKEA_Food/index.html
If you’ve been there before and would like to try your hand at boiling your own crayfish, below are two recipes.
• 2 lbs. of crawfish (approx. 25 pcs.)
• 3 quarts of cold fresh water
• 5 tablespoons salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• A lot (10-15) of dill-"crowns" (when you grow fresh dill, you let it start to grow flowers, but you pick the dill before the buds evolve into flowers. The buds should have turned yellow though. This is very important, do NOT substitute for ordinary dill.)
• 1 tsp of anis (optional)
Make sure all of the crawfish are alive.
Boil water, salt, sugar, dill-"crowns" and anis.
Place the crawfish in a sifter, and lower them into the boiling water. let them cook for 10 minutes once the water starts boiling again. Let them cool off in the seasoned water, keep refrigerated until serving. The dish is served cold. Decorate with fresh dill crowns.
Even Martha Stewart ran a piece on the Swedish kräftskiva or as she calls it, the Crayfish Boil, in July, 2008. Her recipe is a bit fancier. We like the addition of stout, which adds a little bit of flavor to the creatures:
• 8 pounds live crayfish
• 1 gallon water
• 4 cups stout, such as Guinness
• 2/3 cup coarse sea salt, plus more for seasoning
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 dried Thai chile, seeded
• 1 bunch fresh dill sprigs
• 10 crowns of dill, plus more for garnish
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 3 tablespoons creme fraiche
• 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• Lemon wedges, for serving
• Rinse crayfish under cold water. Discard any that don't move. Bring water, stout, salt, sugar, and chile to a boil in a large pot. Add dill sprigs and crowns and crayfish. Cover pot, and return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.
• Fill the sink halfway with cold water. Place pot in sink, and uncover. Dampen a large piece of crumpled parchment with cold water, and place it on surface of broth. After 20 minutes, replace water in sink with cold water and ice. Repeat every 30 minutes until crayfish and broth cool, about 2 hours.
• Mix mayonnaise, creme fraiche, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Season with salt.
• Drain crayfish, arrange on a large platter, and garnish with crowns of dill. Serve with lemon wedges and mayonnaise mixture. To eat crayfish, pinch the head and twist the tail to separate. Carefully remove meat from tail by pinching from the bottom and breaking through the rings on the shell. (The head carries flavorful juices. Either suck the head, or discard.)
Read more at Marthastewart.com