Since the mid-1960s, bleak roe has been the main source of income for a group of professional fishermen in the small fishing village of Spiken, on the southern shore of Lake Vänern, outside Lidköping. On the first Sunday in November, the Day of Bleak Roe will be celebrated for the second year in a row and there is now a new brand to light up the autumn darkness – Vänerlöjrom!
Vänern vs. Kalix
The Kalix Bleak Roe is well-known all over Sweden, but roe is also harvested in the fishing community of Spiken on Kållandsö, by Lake Vänern. In the past, Coregonus albula, or vendace as it is also known, was a common fish on Swedish dinner tables. Today, it is only used for roe. Gentle thumb pressure is applied to the fish’s belly and the roe is squeezed out by hand. It doesn’t get much more traditional than this! Book a package deal and witness the entire process, from beginning to end, with fishing trip, preparation and tasting – this is when you really understand how much work is involved. You will never taste bleak roe as fresh and incredibly flavoursome as this – guaranteed!
Ulrika Gustavsson is one of the enthusiastic locals behind the many interesting activities on offer in Spiken.
What is happening in Spiken?
– We are working on an initiative where Spiken and Kållandsö together develop sustainable tourism. The aim is to set up a Naturum, a natural visitor centre, with lots of different activities around it, such as accessible cycle ways, explains Ulrika, who grew up here and runs the fishmongers Ullis Fiskdelikatesser at the far end of the Fishing Harbour.
Vänerlöjrom – a new brand!
And right now, Ulrika’s focus is on bleak roe. After visiting Kalix, the ambition was to raise the quality of the roe from Lake Vänern even further. And now, they’ve done it! On November 3rd the brand new product Vänerlöjrom (Bleak roe from Lake Vänern) was launched!
Vänerlöjrom is a recently formed association of 14 fishermen who all have long experience of traditional roe production and who have now come together under the same brand.
– Because of the high quality of our roe, I’m convinced that we will be able to give Kalix a run for their money within just a few years and make roe a natural ingredient in the kitchens of West Sweden, says Ulrika.
And the best recipe?
– Keep it simple, she answers, preferably mixed with crème fraiche and finely chopped red onion and served with tasty bread in the traditional way. Her brother, Anders the fisherman, likes to enjoy his bleak roe in another way:
– He begins by spreading the bread with a layer of mayonnaise, adds the roe, then finishes with a few turns of the pepper mill, says Ulrika.
When I leave Ulrika behind her delicatessen counter later that afternoon, the fishing boats are just arriving back into the harbour, ready to shake the fish out of their nets before quickly harvesting the roe in the boathouses. A team of workers is waiting for them, ready to start squeezing the roe out of the fish. The roe is then rinsed before being left to dry for a couple of days, after which it is salted, packaged and frozen.
I warmly recommend a visit to Spiken. The Red Gold of Lake Vänern will make you feel alive and this salty autumn delicacy ought to be enjoyed in large amounts – preferably where it is produced!
Text: Maria Zhiammou, Mikael Almse
Photos: Jesper Anhede, Tina Sjöstedt, Per Nadén, Harald Sandö