...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Where every day is Christmas day

Pictures of Gränna posted at my Multiply.

There won't be fat Santas and silver bells at the summery streets of Gränna, but there will definitely be candy cane. Lots of candy cane. Here there are stores in every corner that specialize only in candy-cane making. You will get lost in shelves upon shelves of candy cane of all sizes, flavors and colors. They come in bottles, paper wrappers and plastic cylinders. They come in flavors like licorice, violets, raspberry, super sour and tuttifrutti. And if you can't make up your mind after all the given choices, you can always stick to the Gränna classic of peppermint. They love their peppermint candy canes in Gränna. In fact, a yearly town contest is held where the local candy producers compete for the reputation of having the best-tasting peppermint candy canes. The winner gets no less than the grand title of "World Champion in Candy Cane Making".

In a country where the average consumption of candy is at 7.8 kilos a person a year, Gränna then is definitely the undisputed candy capital. Our friend Per who grew up in Gränna tells us that there actually only used to be one assorted-candy store in the small town, of the sort they have in other cities with walls and walls of candy. On the other hand, there had always been candy cane stores in Gränna for as far as anyone can remember.

The tradition goes back to 1859 when a widow by the name of Amalia Eriksson got herself a permit to set up a candy business in order to earn money for herself and her daughter. The candies were called polkagrisar, after the dance Polka. So though the candy name translates to "peppermint rocks," the more literal translation means "polka pigs," which in turn gives explanation to the idiomatic "slaughtering" of the rock-hard candy when it is divided between friends. Also, the classic polkagris isn't actually a cane (and not pig-shaped either!) but long and cylindrical. Nowadays, though, they may take any shape from pre-cut pieces, to spirals, lollipops, and roses.

If you're curious to know how candy canes are made (my parents watched it on TV a long time ago and I remember how amazed they were by it), the candy cane stores display signs outside the door if candy cane "cooking" is ongoing inside ("Kokning pågår"). Unfortunately, you'd probably have to spend the better part of your day trip there if you want to see the whole process. You also have to watch what little you have time for behind glass windows, in order to keep the candy canes safe from tourist sweat.

First, they cook sugar and corn syrup in vats, then they pour the hot gooey melted sugar on marble tables to cool and flavor them. A machine then pulls the candy until it is white, and the candy makers will slab on another strip of colored candy (sometimes to indicate what flavor has been added). After manual rolling and twisting, the colors will spiral into one another, and after an even longer time of rolling and twisting, the candy blob will turn into many long tubes of candy for candy cane, roses, or lollipops. The German tourists in front of me were wondering if the candy makers never get cramps in their fingers. In another store, the workers were busy shaping candy canes and lollipops in production-line pace. I wondered if the guy pressing sugar balls into lollipops didn't have bicep pain yet.

After touring the town, we climbed a steep mountain path to a lookout and watched Gränna from above as we sucked on our polkagris loot. The taste is classic, just as the classic view below: the idyllic town with its almost identical houses lying at the foot of the cliff; the church's wind vane that glimmers gold in the afternoon sun; and beyond the fields of yellow grain, the lake Vättern and the island of Visingö.

What more can one ask for?

See Tags: Food, Places


Anonymous Lara said...

great post, joy!

you made me enjoy reading info about a candy?! (for goodness' sake)

7:24 AM

Anonymous Esther Garvi said...

Love that picture of you, Joy!!!

6:16 PM


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