Dalsland is one of the smallest of the 25 provinces in Sweden. Yet, it is often referred to as “Sweden in miniature”. This is due to its varied landscape that incorporates vast agricultural areas, even vaster forests, mountains and an intricate system of lakes. Over and above the many small lakes that are scattered throughout the landscape, Dalsland is located on the shores of one of the biggest lakes in Europe; lake Vänern. What Dalsland does not have, though, is cityscapes. To give you an idea, I grew up in a small village called Tösse, some 10 km away from Åmål; the biggest town in the province. I’m not sure how many lived in Tösse, but we were only six kids in my class until grade 6 (when we, at the age of 12, started going to school in town). Åmål has a total population of just under 12,500 today. I guess you could say that I am a small-town-girl!
The rural landscape provides Dalsland with a wealth of different foods. There is meat, dairy, poultry and crops from the fields, fish from the lakes and berries, mushrooms and game from the forests. Many producers have a growing interest in small-scale, artisanal production, and we went on a journey through my homeland to discover this.
Our first stop was Baldersnäs Herrgård, a manor house and farm with a history dating back to the late 1700’s, beautifully situated on a small peninsula in the lake Laxsjön. Today, the manor house is a small hotel, and there is also a restaurant and a conference centre. In some of the old barns and other buildings scattered around, handicraft associations and artists are housed and there is also a farm where old (and often almost extinct) breeds of farm animals are bred. In their farm shop, we bought rhubarb and raspberry concentrate (for those summery cocktails), goat’s cheese from a small, artisanal farm in the area called DalsSpira and crisp bread (a very common style of bread in Sweden due to its ability to stay fresh through the long winters) made from revived ancient grain types.
Next, we travelled to Axel’s Chark, a small-scale butcher that also stocks a variety of local game. Apart from beef and lamb, you can find fresh and prepared (sausages and smoked meat) moose, deer, wild boar and beaver. The jovial owner will happily let you try everything that is on offer! We tried beaver, but weren’t impressed so instead we bought smoked moose and deer meat and a wild boar bacon.
For lunch, we had moose burgers at Steneby Grytan. I would have loved to try some of their adventure courses (zip lining, climbing and horse riding) afterwards, but we only had time to catch a glimpse of the moose farm. Interestingly though, none of the meat served in the restaurant comes from the farm which is strictly for “safari” purposes. In fact, all moose meat served is wild hunted. Before any of my anti-hunting friends throw a fit here, I want to emphasize that hunting is an integral part of wildlife and forest management in Sweden. It is strictly regulated, and not at all a blood sport as it is in certain other places.
Lastly, we made a stop at the stone oven bakery at the artist collective Not Quite. Brukets Godaste make a wide range of sourdough bread and also many sweet goodies that you can take home or enjoy in the cute little cafe on site. At Not Quite, you can also visit the resident artists and see large exhibitions that change through the year. I love the ceramics from Sanna Wijk, and although the other exhibitions are a bit too arty for me I really enjoy walking around as they are set in the old paper mill with all old machinery and other things still there.