Films circulate on the internet of famous Dutch people, including Thomas Berge and Dave Roelvink, who participate in the Surströmming challenge in which a can of fermented herring must be eaten in order to raise money for the Princess Máxima Center. Not an easy task for most people because of the smell.
The smell of surströmming has been compared to that of rotten eggs, rotten fish or a stink bomb. This is due to the sulfur compounds that are formed during fermentation. Yet the contents of the can are anything but rotten: in fact, surströmming is just pickled herring. Yet it is slightly different from our Dutch mate herring.
The barrels in which the herring is put are kept outside in the sun to speed up the fermentation process. Later the fish is canned and secondary fermentation takes place, which often causes the cans to bulge. The method of making surströmming is said to have originated in the 16th century, when there was a salt shortage.
Ⓒ Dutch Height / AFP
Despite the smell, it is not necessary to rinse the fish first if you want to eat it. Surströmming tastes a bit salty, but surprisingly mild.
Surströmming is liked by the Swedes tunnbröd (Swedish flatbread) with slices of boiled potato, raw onion, cream, chives and dill.
Surströmmingsskiva is celebrated throughout Sweden on the third weekend of August; something like a herring party, but in Swedish style. The new harvest is then celebrated with parties and stalls where you can eat the fish.
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