Venture into the fragrant pine forests that coat Sweden’s landscape and you’re sure to encounter a lingonberry before long. In the much sweeter form of lingonberry jam, these bitter little berries are a cornerstone of Scandinavian cuisine - and the great base for a cocktail!
It’s hard to imagine that much will grow in the oft-frozen forests of Sweden – which cover almost 95% of the country’s surface area. But come late summer, the pines offer up a bounty of beautiful berries.
The best known of these is the lingonberry, a bitter red berry that grows on small bushes scattered amongst the pine trees. In Sweden everyone has a right to the forest’s bounty; whole families venture into the pines with huge bags to collect the berries and haul them back home.
Rich in antioxidants, some say that lingonberries can neutralise the sun’s radiation and prevent skin damage. Old Swedish folk wisdom credits this little red berry with the power to stave off some kinds of infection, and parents urge their children to eat them with breakfast every morning.
But lingonberries – called mountain cranberries or partridge berries in North America – are too bitter to eat and enjoy in their natural state, especially for a child’s finicky palate. That’s where the sugar comes in.
While not strictly necessary – lingonberries have a naturally high levels of benzoic acid, which means that they keep well without sugar or any added preservatives – sugar transforms the bitter berry into something magical.
In jam form, lingonberries take on a sophisticated tartness that’s proven irresistible to generations of Scandinavians – and many more besides. A major component of Nordic cuisine, lingonberry jam has a place at every meal.
In the morning you might find it with the traditional breakfast of oat porridge. At lunch it makes a fine accompaniment to Swedish meatballs and fried herring, and you wouldn’t serve a dinner of moose or raggmunk – potato pancakes – without a dollop of this delightfully red jam beside them.
But in Sweden – where the citizenry is used to picking their own berries and storing them in a big bag in the freezer – it’s quite a challenge to manufacture a jam for sale. That’s where Felix, producer of the jam in your box this month, comes in.
As much a household name in Sweden as Volvo or Ikea, Felix has a rich history of producing jams so good that even a populace perfectly capable of making it themselves flocks to the supermarket for a jar.
Felix’s lingonberry jam is still made with wild berries, half of which are still harvested by hand in the forests of Sweden. Their tartness, in combination with the highest quality sugar and Sweden’s crystal clear water, produce a beautiful jam that none can deny.
While Felix recommends pairing their Lingonberry jam with salty cheeses like Roquefort and Chèvre, we reckon that it makes a pretty amazing gin cocktail.
80ml Hernö Gin
25ml lemon juice
15ml simple syrup
2tsp lingonberry jam
Shake all ingredients with ice. Pour into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with lemon peel and fresh (or frozen) lingonberries.