Crayfish are big business across Scandinavia; in August there are parties dedicated to them in all shapes and sizes. What they all have in common is crayfish decorations galore – from hats and bibs to garlands and lanterns – as well as bowls of crayfish, Västerbotten cheese tarts and well chilled aquavit.
Come August, Finns and Swedes start getting excited – it is finally Crayfish season. Crayfish season means two things- 1; you get to go to parties with all your friends, eat lovely crayfish, cheese pie and drink aquavit, and 2; you get to wear crayfish everything. Hats, bibs, socks, ties, shirts, earrings and a full on crayfish body-suit (well, maybe not all at the same time).
Crayfish parties in Scandinavia (mainly Sweden and Finland) are traditionally held from mid-August through September, during which time they pop up everywhere. From just a few friends on your garden to masses and masses of people in big commercial ones, they all involve a load of little red dill-clad crustaceans – preferably locally sourced. The Scandi difference to the crayfish you buy elsewhere in the world is that in Sweden they are cooked in a dill brine and served with some fresh dill for taste and colour. Dill-icious!
A traditional ‘Kräftskive’ – Crayfish party – is really quite simple. It is all about the main event. Big bowls of crayfish with fresh dill sprigs, generous hunks of mature Swedish Västerbotten cheese, crusty white bread, rye crispbread, a Västerbotten quiche, some boiled new potatoes and perhaps a leafy green salad. Well chilled aquavit and crayfish themed decorations to top it off – and a stack of Swedish drinking songs to get the mood going. Skål!
How To Host A Crayfish Party
Invite a bunch of friends over to yours.
The setting: Outside in the fresh air, ideally – but if you have to be inside, decorate with lots of greenery and bring the outdoors inside. This is a celebration of the last of summer.
Get the crayfish: a good guide is around 500g per person (1 box is a kilo). Defrost for 24 hours in fridge before using. Decorate with fresh dill sprigs.
Hats, bibs and serviettes and man in the moon lanterns all add to the festive feelings. Bibs are practical, hats just make you look silly.
What to serve? Bowls of crayfish, VästerbottenCheese tart, some nice salads (beetroot salad and potato salad are good choices). Crusty bread and crispbread on the side – with more cheese (Västerbotten is the traditional choice) on the side. Some dips and dressings – mayonnaise, aioli and romsås. If you’re worried there won’t be enough food, just add some Smorgasbord essentials such as meatballs, smoked salmon, herring and sliced meats.
Aquavit is a must. Little shots are essential – one per claw, the Swedes say, but mind how you go on the strong stuff, it tends to affect people from the feet and up. Singing is not optional – it adds to the mood. Swedish language skills improve greatly as the evening goes on.
Music: Sing-a-long-stuff works. ABBA is a must!
Crayfish Party Food
The Crayfish – most people buy them ready cooked. The cheapest and simplest way is to get the frozen, cooked ones – they are really very good and saves you having to fill your apartment with live crayfish and cook big batches.
Västerbotten Cheese Tart
Västerbotten is the undisputed king of Swedish cheeses and is served at most Crayfish Tables. Always serve a block of cheese with bread and crispbread on the side on the table – and make one of these delicious tarts to serve alongside your feast.
Beetroot & Apple Salad
A staple on any Scandinavian Smörgåsbord, pickled beetroot and apple salad can be enjoyed on its own or with meatballs – or even as part of a larger salad. As it is quite a heavy mayonnaise based salad it is rarely eaten just on its own, however, it is so versatile, you can add a dollop of this to just about any dish or salad or sandwich.
Simple Scandi Potato Salad
This is the simplest and loveliest potato salad we know. It tastes of summer and picnics – we like to pair it with anything from salmon to meatballs. It takes only a few minutes to prepare and can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Product List for your Crayfish Party
Crayfish in dill brine (500g per person is a good starting point)
Västerbotten cheese (for the pie and to serve)
By Bronte and Jonas Aurell from Scandi Kitchen