...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Food journal number 44: Isterband

Q: What's long, fatty, and explodes in your pan?

A: Well, it's that thing in the picture above. Although I recently grossed myself out with a picture of calf nuts and can see a slight resemblance, I can assure you the things on my pan are nothing else but sausages. Lard sausages.

Yeah. Lard! In Swedish, this specialty called isterband literally translates to "lard ribbon", and it's all that lard that causes your sausage to explode its innards out in the pan. Or cause your grill to spew out flames, as what happened to us last year. We panicked to get some water and try to save our lunch:

Marcus' dad gets the shivers from the thought of eating isterband, but for my part, I love the thing! Who said sausages were health food anyway? – I go for sausage hedonism. Isterband is up there with Vigan "garlic breath" sausage where I'm concerned. Bland "pleaser" hotdogs are my least favorite sausages.

According to this still unrated recipe of isterband from scratch – nobody wants to try making such seemingly unhealthy sausages, apparently – the sausage requires equal parts of meat and lard. "Probably nothing for weight-watchers", the recipe author comments. And if lard as an ingredient doesn't sound exotic enough to you, wait till you read that the other main ingredient is barley groats, which are those coarse white things you see in the exploded sausages. I bet you're curious by now!

The mixture of weird ingredients probably comes from the fact that isterband originates from the province of Småland, a historically poor area in the south of Sweden. People cooked with what little they had, and possibly to stretch their meat resources, they used the less expensive fat and barley as food extenders. Today, even though those times of hardship are long gone for Smålandians, the tradition of eating isterband still continues in, among other occasions, the hyttsill feast. Different brands of isterband sausages are also readily available in groceries.

It's hard to describe the taste of isterband. I must say though, chewing on barley groats actually gives the illusion that you're chewing on a very meaty sausage. Since isterband production also requires curing for at least a week, the sausage has a slightly acid taste. I guess you'd better try it to appreciate it, that is, if you're not already at risk of heart disease. The traditional serving suggestion is to eat it with creamed potatoes (another heart disease suspect?) and pickled beets, which actually are healthy. These aren't a requirement though. I don't like creamed potatoes myself and I have isterband with almost anything that just happens to be in our pantry: bread, pasta, eggs, onions and other vegetables. You can use your imagination; this weird sausage is more versatile than you think!


Blogger Leplume said...

Hej! I've been enjoying your blog from your posts you've shared at Community of Sweden so I thought I'd check it out. This is Mary btw...and I find your stories entertaining and informative! Thanks for much for sharing them. Now, if I could only find some "lard sausage" here in the US! I'm for sausage hedonism too! :)

6:09 PM

Anonymous Esther Garvi said...

Well, of all Swedish/German things, Isterband is a little too heavy in fat for my taste... The first few bites however are great! If I get to choose between Isterband and Falukorg however, my choice is EASY!!!

9:40 AM

Anonymous Lizzy said...

I've had some "Wurst adventures" here in Germany, but I don't think I've seen or heard of any lard sausages in these parts. Man, talk about tripling your cholesterol intake.... Two fried eggs with your lard sausage? Are you getting ready, fattening up for a cold, cold winter? heh heh

3:05 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hello leplume, esther and liz!

See, got you guys commenting on something as weird as lard!

Esther: Isterband! Will blog about our isterband adventures soon. I haven't been eating it in a while though, I guess because the two of us have to finish up the whole package by ourselves, and I end up feeling up to my neck with it after eating falukorv variants for days in a row... It's good too though!

Liz: Yeah, had to laugh at your comment because it's true! :-) NOT about the fattening up before winter though (although we could use some extra padding, maybe!), but because I realized how unhealthy that plate was. I sure hope that oatmeal porridge breakfasts makes up for all the "cholesterolic" things!

12:28 PM

Blogger NutsBabyGirl said...

WOW!!! I found heaven here at Blogger and it's name is ISTERBAND..I had given up hope in ever finding a recipe for it...I grew up and lived with my Far-Mor during the summer...guess where? Yes Smaland and she cooked Isterband and I loved it then and can almost say I still will...Ungspankaka was yummy too..Another money saving dish I grew up with was Blood pudding with lingonberries. Memories of food oh how wonderful..How about KroppKakkor? Economical and yummy. I am really salivating now so I better find something to eat or drink and that has me remembering Hallonsaft. Well you have a great fan in me and I will be back often...Thank you so much for your Blog. NutsBabyGirl

2:10 AM


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