Lately, does it seem like the sun never sets and are you craving to feel the grass beneath your feet? Nature has burst to life and the Summer Solstice is upon us again, representing the middle of summer, and the shortening of the days on their gradual march to winter. The marking point of midsummer and the longest day of the year falls on the 21st of June this year, what is more, the solstice and full moon will coincide, which is a rare event that has not occurred since 1948. What will the mystique of the full moon bring to us on this seemingly never ending day I wonder?
Although, in most parts of the world it is the magic of the never setting sun that is celebrated on this day. With long dark winters where only glimpses of the sun are seen, it is no wonder that the sun is waited upon and much appreciated in countries such as Sweden. What the Swedes celebrate during the period of the summer solstice is Midsummer Eve. Midsummer Eve is always a Friday between the 19th and 25th of June.
Swedish Midsummer Eve
Since ancient times and pagan practices, around the time of the Summer Solstice, Midsummer Day was celebrated, which is considered the day that was the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvest. Traditionally, Midsummer was celebrated on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, but the holiday has its roots in a pre-Christian solstice festival. In Sweden, Midsummer’s Eve is one of the most important days of the year, rivaling Christmas with its festive spirit and traditions. Rooted in the traditions of planting and harvesting in Sweden, people celebrate the Summer Solstice by eating the first strawberries of the season.
A typical Midsummer menu features different kinds of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream and chives. Gravlax or dill-cured salmon is always featured on the Swedish smorgasbord. For dessert the first strawberries of summer with cream is sufficient, but if you want something more indulgent on this scintillating magical night, then serve Kladdkaka, a Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake.
Swedish Inspired Midsummer Eve Menu
Has as all this stirred up your desire to breathe in the warm summer air and think of nothing else while your fingers drip red with strawberry juice. If you find that time where dusk barely turns to dark and then into dawn to be a sliver of magic, then celebrate it with the same enchanting spirit that the Swedes do. I have some inspirations drawing from the elements of an emblematic Midsummer Eve party.
Potato Rounds with Smoked Salmon Canapes
Gravlax and new potatoes with sour cream and chives are delicious alone, never the less, make your party distinctive by serving Potato Rounds with Smoked Salmon Canapes. How pretty will this be when easily picked up with your fingers and eaten garden side.
Strawberries Drenched in Honeyed Cream
While Fresh Strawberries set by a bowl of whipped cream will be devoured in no time, on this mysterious night before Midsummer’s Day that is a legendary magical time for love, luscious cream drenched strawberries may be a much more sensual dessert for your Midsummer Eve table. Strawberries Drenched in Honeyed Cream is absolutely divine. This concoction of cream is sweetened with honey and infused with basil that simply leaves you breathless.
Kladdkaka or Sticky Chocolat Cake is a traditional Swedish gooey chocolate cake that’s like a cross between a fudgy brownie and a molten chocolate soufflé. Although the Swedish sticky chocolate cake is fairly easy to make and takes only 20 minutes, how about a Brownie Pudding to change things up?
No Midsummer Eve table will be complete without Aquavit – a sort of Swedish schnapps, which is a distilled liquor flavored with a varying blend of spices, from cardamom to fennel to dill. Each distillery or kitchen has its own signature combination. But, the flavor of caraway is usually front and center — which can be a lot to handle in a beverage. Swedes throwback shot after shot of the stuff during midsummer. You can find several imported kinds of aquavit, but there are a few American distilleries making it as well – Gamle Ode, House Spirits Distillery, Sound Spirits, The Hardware Distillery Co., and North Shore Distillery.
If caraway infused schnapps is more than you can handle, try a more floral cocktail. The cornerstones of a good midsummer are freshly picked flowers, like daisies and clover. Women wear garlands of flower in their hair and there’s a legend that if you pick seven kinds of flowers and put them under your pillow on Midsummer’s Eve, you’ll dream of the person you’re to spend your life with. Try a lovely Elderflower Cordial or switch up a Cosmo for an Elderflower cocktail. Swap Aquavit for the vodka in your standard Cosmo, and then replace the cranberry cocktail with the much-more-thematic elderflower syrup. Alternatively, you can use lingonberry juice instead of elderflower syrup.
5 1/2 cups water
6 tablespoons white sugar
2 unwaxed lemons
20 fresh elderflower heads, stalks trimmed
3 oz citric acid
- Put the sugar and water into the largest saucepan you have. Gently heat, without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved. Give it a stir every now and again. Pare the zest from the lemons using a potato peeler, then slice the lemons into rounds.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the pan of syrup to boil, then turn off the heat. Fill a washing up bowl with cold water. Give the flowers a gentle swish around to loosen any dirt or bugs. Lift flowers out, gently shake and transfer to the syrup along with the lemons, zest and citric acid, then stir well. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hrs.
- Line a colander with a clean tea towel, then sit it over a large bowl or pan. Ladle in the syrup – let it drip slowly through. Discard the bits left in the towel. Use a funnel and a ladle to fill sterilized jars.
- The syrup is ready to drink as a cordial or to mixed with alcohol. It will keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Or freeze it in plastic containers or ice cube trays and defrost as needed.