It’s been almost two years since I announced to the world that cloudberries are my crack. Since then my dependency has grown worse, exacerbated by a recent trip to the northern hemisphere where I had more access to the goods than I could handle. I’m literally on a cloudberry high as I write this.
I’ve waxed lyrical about these babies before. Their rarity. Their delicacy. Their sweet, sweet, but tart taste that has my eyes lolling in my head. My habit started with cloudberry jam in London and peaked with fresh berries in Helsinki. I’m too far gone to stop now.
But this year I took it to a whole new level. Cloudberry yoghurt? Yep. Cloudberries and fried cheese? All over it. Cloudberry soap? Absolutely (but only topically mind you – even I have limits). Cloudberries found their way into my world no less than nine times this July.
Clouberries are called hjortron in Sweden, pronounced ‘you-tron’. I don’t even have to hint to my Swedish friends anymore, they know how much I love them. On my first morning in the northern Swedish city of Sundsvall, I was greeted with a delicious breakfast spread by my adopted Swedish mother, Ing-Mari. Amongst the crisp rye bread and västerbotten cheese was a carton of hjortron fjäll – a thin rich yoghurt flavoured with my favourite berries. What a way to start the day!
This is how is all began for me and is probably the most well known and well travelled cloudberry product. If you’re lucky you can even find it at IKEA (if you live in Sydney don’t even bother trying the Tempe store, I generally clean them out). It’s ubiquitous in Sweden and I had to start restricting my purchases as it’s not very practical to transport around the world.
Cloudberry jam… with cheese!
Cheese and jam is a winning combination, nothing makes me go weak at the knees like a hunk of blue cheese stacked with quince jam. That was until the day I discovered fried camembert with cloudberry jam at a street market in Skelleftea, up in Swedish Lapland. The fried cheese had a crispy exterior, gooey cheesy interior, and worked delightfully with the heady sweetness of cloudberries.
It’s not uncommon to see cloudberry jam or sauce featured on Swedish dessert menus. The ante was upped, however, on a dining experience in Umeå, where I came across rullrån with mascarpone and cloudberries. Crispy cigar wafers were filled with mascarpone and served on a bed of macerated cloudberries and it was a sensational combination. Can’t wait to recreate this one at home.
I didn’t just get my cloudberry kicks in Sweden, I also had several pleasant encounters in Russia. Makes sense as much of it is on the same latitude as Sweden and therefore has similar weather conditions that allow for this fussy berry to prosper. Cloudberries in Russia are called моро́шка, pronouced ‘maroska’. When I first spotted these frozen berries in a Moscow supermarket I was almost certain they were cloudberries from the picture, but without knowing the word in Russian I couldn’t be sure. The price gave it away though – they were four times to the price of every other frozen berry so I knew I was right!
I was en route to dinner with friends in Saint Petersburg when I saw them. Perched innocently on the side of the road alongside cups of wild strawberries and blueberries.
I stopped dead in my tracks and my eyes grew wild with excitement. Have I mentioned how RARE these babies are?? How short their season is?? This was a momentous occasion for me (and an amusing one for my dinner companions).
I would have handed over every rouble in my wallet but all that was asked of me was 500 roubles. That’s equivalent to $10AUD or €7. They were pricier than the other berries on offer but a steal for me. I was literally beside myself. These were smaller and slightly more acidic than the fresh cloudberries I tried in Helsinki a few years back but still had the distinctive sweetness and tang of this iconic berry.
It’s really no surprise that the Russians thought to put cloudberries and vodka together. There isn’t much that the Russians haven’t tried with vodka. This bottle cost the same as the fresh berries above. That’s ridiculously cheap by Australian standards as we’re taxed through the roof on booze. And it’s 40% strength. I’ll report back when I try it, assuming it doesn’t blow my head off.
Okay so not technically edible but this fine soap has so much shea butter, Swedish honey and cloudberry in it I bet I could indeed eat it. Soaps are kinda a big deal in Sweden (there’s a popular egg white facial soap which allegedly tightens, clears and brightens) and hark back to old Swedish beauty traditions for pure and glowing skin. Sign me up please.
Cloudberries have a natural tartness to them so work perfectly as vinegar. And unlike most fruit vinegars where the finished vinegar is infused with fruit, this begins life as a wine made from cloudberries. It’s delicious in salad dressings or anywhere you might already be using a wine vinegar or verjuice.
Has anyone encountered another a cloudberry item that I am yet to discover? Let me know!