In Sweden, Surtströmming is considered a real delicacy, but they are many people who do not want even hear about it. Why? Simple.
Even Swedes call it “rotten fish”, because that is exactly what it is: fermented herrings, canned and so smelly that some airlines, including Air France and British Airways, do not allow it to be carried in the cabin, in case the tin gets opened by mistake during the flight. But how it this terrible smelling food prepared? The herrings are put in barrels to ferment for a couple of months, and are then canned under brine to allow fermentation to continue. Before being sold, the tins stay closed for a year. The fermentation process in this period of time is so powerful that sometimes even the tins get deformed by the pressure from the gases inside.
Usually, Surströmming is consumed along with the typical bread, known as tunnbröd (thin bread), boiled potatoes, dill and sour cream in order to make its taste more pleasant, but the smell is what most frightens people who eat it, and some of them hold their breath while eating it. This Swedish specialty is mainly consumed during Christmas and is now considered a typical dish that they can’t miss having on their tables during this period.
It is said that the production of this fermented fish arises from the fact that a few centuries ago, Swedes couldn’t afford to buy enough salt to preserve all the fish they caught, and so they invented a kind of brine that could be able to store it and prevent it from going rotten. The smell of this product is so strong that most of the time it has to be consumed outdoors.
This delicacy is so much appreciated and famous throughout Sweden as to deserve a special museum, which tells its story and the method of its preparation.