You Thought You Knew Milk, Cheese and Marmalade: Swedish Grocery Items

First of all, I want to mention that eggs don’t have to be refrigerated in Europe, so I’ve been buying unrefrigerated eggs and keeping them at room temperature out of spite. I was aware of the egg situation, but I thought I knew how to navigate basic grocery items like milk, cheese and jam, however slight differences in the most ordinary grocery products have been the source of a lot of confusion.

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Milk (mjölk)

Although it seemed at first that Swedish dairy isles carried more variety, I’m begging to think that the similar Swedish words – making dairy products nearly indistinguishable to a foreigner – are what make the dairy isle seem like a sprawling landscape of choice. If you read the article above, you’ll probably be a little taken aback by the subtle differences of mjölk and fil. But don’t you think that someone unfamiliar with North America would also feel confused when they witness the huge selection of milk, milk alternatives, and yogert (greek, drinkable, kefir).

Anyway, buying milk isn’t so hard once you pick out the one you identify as “regular milk” based on it’s prominence and abundance in the dairy section, and choose a milk fat content.

What really took me by surprise is how quickly milk expires here! Today I bought milk that expires in seven days. Having already owned two cartons of milk, I trust that by that seventh day, the milk will be chunky, guaranteed. It’s amazing to be faced with a ‘best before’ date (this is a link to a good vlogbrothers podcast) that isn’t just a guideline.

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Cheese (ost)

Along with the usual wide variety of cheeses at the grocery store, there is one type of cheese that is always prominently featured and unique to Sweden. They are these big, white, firm triangular wedges of cheese. They are all packaged similarly, and the differences between the coloured packages is extremely elusive.

I’ve used google translate on these packages and haven’t been able to pick up any real signifying names. A girl in my class told me this might be called “priest’s cheese” which would make sense with the “Präst” label. I chose the black label cheese because it had won a food award (label upper left). Otherwise, the only differentiating features are milk fat (either 28% or 31%) and a little pie chart/clock diagram demonstrating how mild or aged the cheese is.

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Marmalade (marmelad)

I decided to buy marmalade because I’m getting sick and the thought “oranges have vitamin C” convinced me to purchase this. I also had a positive marmalade experience last week at a Rotaract meeting. The host provided a lovely fika consisting of bread, butter, marmalade and white cheese. It was delicious all paired together!

I bought the marmalade with the best value, 500g for 16kr ($2.5CAD). All the cheapest ones came in these plastic tubes, rather than in jars. I thought “there must be a secret method to using these jams, the internet will be able to tell me” and I bought it. When I got home the internet told me that these were in fact refill packages.

Oh well, until a jar becomes available in my fridge, I’ve just punctured a small hole in one end of the package to squeeze the marmalade out. It works like a charm.

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