Yesterday was the Summer Solstice! The longest day of the year marks the beginning of Midsummer, and this day has been celebrated throughout Europe since pagan times. Midsummer is especially important in the cultures of Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltics where it is the most celebrated holiday apart from Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
So when I was invited to a potluck style Summer Solstice party hosted by Emily of Joyful Abode, I knew that I wanted to get all 7th century old school with the potluck dish. When it comes to historic Midsummer celebration fare, Swedish traditional foods consist of the year’s first fruits, new potatoes, soused and pickled herring, chives, sour cream, beer, vodka and shnapps. After trolling the interwebs for inspiration and simple dishes that would satisfy the living history geek as well as the average modern day potluck goer, I settled on the potatoes.
New Potatoes are a delicacy in Sweden, being essentially baby potatoes that never had a chance to grow up. And their premature picking and wasted potential tastes SO GOOD.
Because they can be harvested very early in a short season, they have come to represent the long-awaited summer after what is generally a cold and dark Scandinavian winter. Since the potato gets its flavor from the minerals in the soil, the young potatoes are much more flavorful than the adult varieties. Early picking results in a flavorful, delicate potato that is high in water content but extremely low in starch content and only has a very thin film for a skin.
Traditionally Midsummer New Potatoes are simply served boiled with dill and sea salt, with a dipping sauce on the side. So that’s what I decided to stick with: Swedish Sea Salt and Dill New Potatoes served with a Lemon Caper Dipping Sauce!
To Make This Simple Dish You Will Need:
2 pounds of New Potatoes
¼ cup of butter
Sea Salt, to taste
Dried Dill Weed, to taste
1 ½ cups of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of capers
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1. Boil the potatoes.
Nothing special here. Simply bring some unsalted water to a rolling boil, and plop the potatoes in. Since New Potatoes are harvested at various stages of development, it really depends on the size of your potatoes as to how long they will need to boil. Usually they will take anywhere from 30-45 minutes. When a fork sinks into a potato at a consistency that you’d like to eat it, that’s when it’s done!
2. Melt the butter over the potatoes.
This dish is really as simple as they come, but the one thing I will say you need to be careful about is be sure to TOSS GENTLY! Since these babies have little to no skin, they are easy to crush, pierce and mangle if you don’t handle them with care. Thinly slice your butter and place it over the potatoes and allow it to melt, turning and tossing the potatoes GENTLY, until they are evenly covered and glistening with buttery goodness.
3. Sprinkle with sea salt and dried dill weed.
For the sea salt, I used some specialty freshly ground Grey Bretagna Sea Salt, a hand harvested Celtic salt obtained through natural evaporation. But any sea salt will do! Sprinkle the coarsely ground salt and the dried dill weed over the potatoes while turning and gently tossing them, until they are evenly coated. This part is all a matter of personal taste. I like flavors to punch me in the mouth and make me it’s woman, so I tend to be heavy handed when it comes to seasonings and herbs.
4. Stir the capers and lemon juice into the mayonnaise till well mixed.
Nothing special here. Just get your mayonnaise into a bowl, plop in the capers and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice (I used lemons from the tree in my back yard!) and stir stir stir till it’s smooth and well combined. You can add more or less capers or juice to taste. This dip is a fantastic accompaniment to the bite sized New Potatoes, just dip and enjoy!