The November darkness is upon us and the days are getting much, much shorter. But don’t despair, because this is the time to bring out the heavy flavor artillery. Treat your palate to something well worth celebrating – the golden bleak roe, which for the next two months will be in the most intensive part of the processing season.
The Kalix Bleak Roe is well-known all over Sweden, but they also harvest roe where I come from, 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, we only use it for roe. Gentle thumb pressure is applied, and the roe is squeezed out by hand. It doesn’t get much more traditional than this! Last year, I was given the opportunity to witness the entire process, from beginning to end, with fishing trip, preparation and tasting. And it was only then, I really understood how much work is involved. Never before had I tasted bleak roe as fresh and incredibly tasty.
On three Saturdays in November, you can visit Spiken and experience a living, local food tradition in high season (just be sure to book in advance). Combine seeing the roe being harvested with a dinner based around bleak roe. Ulrika Gustavsson is one of the enthusiastic locals behind many of the interesting activities in Spiken. She grew up here and runs the fishmongers Ullis Fiskdelikatesser at the far end of the Fishing Harbor.
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.
But right now, Ulrika’s focus is on bleak roe. After visiting Kalix, the ambition is to raise the quality of the roe from Lake Vänern even further. And the best recipe? Keep it simple, is the answer, preferably mixed with crème fraiche and finely chopped onion and served with tasty bread in the traditional way. Her brother, Anders the fisherman, likes to enjoy his bleak roe in another way:
– Anders has free access to bleak roe and likes to spread it thick on a piece of crisp-bread. He begins by adding a layer of mayonnaise to the bread, adds the roe, and finishes with a few turns of the pepper mill, says Ulrika.
A delicacy like bleak roe can be enjoyed in so many more ways than as a luxury accompaniment to champagne. If we focus on serving our Scandinavian ingredients in a simpler way, there is so very much to discover. Like a mouth-wateringly good crisp-bread with generous amounts of bleak roe à la Anders.