Autumn in Sweden is quite similar to the autumn I grew up with in New England, though perhaps a bit more abrupt in its transition. This year, summer seemed to drag its feet and kept autumn at bay for longer than expected, bringing about no complaints from anyone in my company.
I returned to Sweden in late August, when the light has started to dwindle but the nothern spirit no less determined. After 7 years away, I found my way back to the farm nestled upon a low hill on an island outside of Stockholm. Though much had changed, my heart was still able to recognize this place as home. It was on that land that I first learned to bake, fell inlove and disovered the magic of harvesting my own food.
If you venture out into the woods anytime mid to late September, you'll find the forest floor covered in little red lingonberries; so small and earth-toned that they could be easy to overlook. But keep your eyes to the ground and you'll spot them: pea size, plump little berries that grow beneath slim, green leaves. Often you'll find them under overgrown blueberries; the ones that are now well past their season and have become somewhat tasteless in their maturity.
Lingonberries are a staple in Scandinavian cuisine due to the abundance of berries that grow wild there. I've heard that you can forage some in certain parts of North America however and lingonsylt can always be purchased in specialty stores and of course, IKEA. But nothing compares to spending time in the forest, rummaging through shrubs and staining your fingers with dirt and berries.
Lingon has both a sweet and tart flavor, making it a versatile companion to a variety of dishes. Add some to your morning porridge with a bit of honey or spread it on toast. It's always served alongside traditional Swedish meatballs with gravy and boiled potatoes and can be a fantastic substitute for cranberry sauce. I'll often mix a teaspoon or two with some yoghurt and granola at breakfast if I'm in the mood for something sweet.
To me, lingonberries represent so much of what I love about Sweden. There's a simplicity to this sauce that matches that of the Swedish lifestyle; not a lot of fuss but so impactful and true to tradtion that it would be foolish to not consider it a culture of strength. I have been so consistently inspired by the nature of Swedish people throughout the years and each visit there has provided me with a sense of spiritual growth. I am grateful that I know the traditions of my ancestors because I know ancestral ways have been lost on many North American settlers. Know where you come from. Learn a song, a recipe or the folklore of your native people. Find something of your own culture that resonates with you and I promise you'll feel that gratitude too.
4 cups lingon
1/2 cup water
1 cup organic sugar
In a medium sauce pan, heat the lingon with water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and stir till disolved. Let simmer for 10 minutes then remove from heat. Let cool and store in a glass jar. Keep in fridge.
Drop in a few cinnamon sticks, cloves or cardamom while the sauce is simmering to add some spice!