Skargardssmak’s Taste of the Archipelago overall winner in 2003 was Backers Bakers in Ekenas, Finland for their ‘exceptionally tasty malt bread loaf , much more moist than any of the competing breads’. The winning malt loaf, is made from cultured milk, water, flour of rye and wheat, rye malt, coarse wheat malt, syrup, brown sugar, salt and yeast.
Diana Lindholm is manager and husband Olle Lindholm is in charge of the bakery. Olle is also the farmer. The couple started Backers Baker in 1996 and bought another bakery in Ekenäs in 1997. Their business idea was to bake bread with flour ground from the harvest of Backers, Olle’s family farm. Since 2003 the Lindholms have grown grain organically on the farm and have it ground at a local organic mill, adding it to both organic and regular flour from a second local mill. The company logo features a windmill and all the ingredients are domestic.
While some of their bread, pastries and rolls are sold directly from the bakeries, a majority of the bread is delivered to grocery stores, restaurants, cafes and specialty bread stores, in an area ranging approximately 60 miles from the bakery, from Åland to the West through Helsinki to the East.
Diana Lindholm explains, “The ingredients give the bread its dark color and great taste. The Swedes in the Archipelago of Finland have made this type of bread for ages, for special occasions. The recipe varies from family to family and the recipe we use now was handed down from a baker who is now retired. We always use the best ingredients and bake the bread with great care to ensure the highest quality.”
In the Aland Islands, Marianne Fabritius and Gilbert Ahlström wanted to expand their organic vegetable farming with some kind of processing. They were familiar with the seabuckthorn, a small berry with a high concentration of Vitamin C, flavanoids and antioxidants. The bushes grow wild in the coastal regions of Sweden and Finland-including Åland, Denmark’s coast towards the North Sea, the northern coast of Germany and the west coast of Norway. The berries need the whole summer to ripen and the dates to harvest them are government controlled.
Stewed and sweetened, seabuckthorn has an orangey, intensely tart flavor, delicious mixed with natural yogurt or ice cream, on porridge, in sauces with meat, or transformed into jam.
Fabritius and Ahlstrom have built a processing house where they now make seabuckthorn jam, jelly, curd and plain juice. They make small batches in order to maintain the excellent, even taste and high quality. With the help of Skargardssmak’s marketing efforts, they sell their delicacies to shops in Åland and Stockholm, to restaurants for use in the kitchen, as well as to serve on the Swedish smorgasbord as a garnish, at fairs and at high-end food stores.
Restaurateur Ulf Danielsson could not be more enthusiastic about the support he has received from Skargardssmak. His new ‘relaxing and elegant’ restaurant, Indigo, in one of the oldest buildings in Mariehamn in the Alands, opens April 15, 2004. It will feature Scandinavian-style cuisine with global influences. In the restoration of the building Danielsson discovered his great-grandfather’s name printed on one of the original bricks!
Skargardssmak has facilitated Danielsson’s contacts with restaurants and hotels in New York, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Middle East. “The Project is the best thing in my life after my wedding and children. The education, the marketing; without this project, I would have left the business six years ago. And we are making money again!”
Danielsson insists on the best of local products for his ‘modern Scandinavian style’. “ Many of my fusion dishes incorporate preparations typical of the Archipelago, such as smoking and salting fish, meat and vegetables. Every year I tell the growers what I will need next spring and summer. Every day we talk to our guests about local products, how clean they are and about the fisherman and the farmers.” Skargardssmak has facilitated this dialog.
In the summer resort town of Hango on the Southwest Finland coast, chef Nixu Knicter has been an active member for two years. He also credits Skärgårdssmak with helping him expand his work with local producers at his charming, small restaurant, Magasinet (or Makasiini in Finnish), in an old warehouse restored with materials from 1800.
“Skargardssmak will help people to select a restaurant with good local connections. During a friendly dinner, you can also get information on local events or a short history lesson.” Last summer Knicter began keeping his own small herd of hearty Highland cattle. He also employs a local fisherman to provide whatever is available in local waters and credits him on the menu.
Skargardssmak continues to build its networks. The chef competition ‘The Best Restaurant in the Archipelago 2004’ will take place this year at the Stockholm Boat Fair February 27 to March 7, 2004.
Outlining the future of Skargrdssmak, Assistant Project Director Marika Sundqvist explains, “ At the moment we’re working with our new organization that will ‘take over’ Skärgårdssmak from May 1 2004. The participants have founded two Skärgårdssmak associations, one in Sweden and one in Finland and they also own the new private limited company Skärgårdssmak Ab. It’s very exciting for both our participants and for us who work with the project!”
Publicity for Skärgårdssmak is growing around the region and the world. A TV series on Swedish Television the last three years has followed a chef and a speaker around the Archipelago where they visit participating restaurants and create new dishes for the menu. Now Finnish Television is interested in a similar project which will be broadcast during the summer 2005.
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Judith Hausman, a Slow Food member, contributes regularly to Gastronomica, The Valley Table and Westchester Magazine.