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Why is Swedish Sour Herring (Surstromming) So Popular in Sweden?

sour herring, a fermented fish from Sweden known as 'surstromming' - wikimedia Wrote

Eating fermented sour herring might seem like a bad idea to you, but in Sweden they love their foul-scented surstromming.

There are many odd things about the people of Sweden, but the weirdest (and most bizarre) of them all must be their love for surstromming, aka sour herring, a fermented fish that smells so bad it has to be eaten outside.

Leaving it up to imagination will not help explain how bad sour herring smells. It smells so bad, it is prohibited from international flights, and people only eat it outdoors. Still, this remains one of Sweden’s biggest culinary traditions.

Herring filet before canning

Before getting fat, the herring are caught between April and May of each year. After they are put in brine for about a day to draw out their blood, they are gutted and have their heads removed before being moved into weaker brine.

There they sit in temperature-controlled rooms until July, when they start being canned. But since fermentation continues in the cans, you will notice a bulge caused by the trapped gases – and the foul stench.

A Japanese study once concluded that sour herring has one of the worst food smells in the world, so why is surstromming so popular in Sweden?

Opening a can of surstromming

Opening a can of surstromming outside

The raw fermented fish has been part of Swedish cuisine since before the 16th century. Why? Maybe they just needed a way to store fish over the winter and got used to it?

Weather eaten alone, or with milk, bread, potatoes, or whatever other bizarre food the Swedes are into, having surstromming is always a party.

Have a look at these people trying it for the first time.

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