Ollonfläsk is the meat from pigs kept in the hardwood forests of Southern Sweden where the pigs eat a substantial amount of beech nuts and acorns. This particular feed has an important impact on the texture and flavour of the meat.
Pig breeding in forests in Sweden have traditions dating back at least 2000 years and was the only way of keeping pigs until around 1750. The characteristics of the ollonfläsk resulting from a substantial part of beech nut feeding is a very fat and loose meat with a distinctive nutty flavour so attractive to the upper classes of ancient Sweden that the founding king of modern Sweden – Gustav Vasa – during his regim (1521-1560) had a special ollonfläsk tax. Many priests in southern Sweden followed the king’s example and demanded that the farmers should pay a special tithe tax in ollonfläsk. Demands and discussions on this payment are frequent in the historical records from the 16th-19th century in southern Sweden. Father of botany – Carl Lineaus – was also a lover of ollonfläsk and notes its consistency and flavours in one of his travel books. The ollongäld state particular tax in ollonfläsk was finally abolished in 1844 and turned into a normal tax. The first half of the 19th century saw a rapidly diminishing amount of beech and oak trees due to them being cut down for timber utilisation. Pig breeding was also transformed together with the traditional organisation of farm lands, meaning that pig keeping in the forests not only was reduced but almost ceased in the early 20th century. Swedish Nobel prize laurate in literature, Erik Axel Karlfeldt, captured a glimpse of the diminishing culture in a poem about the ollonfläsk pig keeping culture in 1901. But some small-scale farmers focusing mainly on self sufficency have been keeping pigs the old was all the time through.
WIth the revival of the rare breed Linderöd pig (a member of the Ark since 2004) – a pig very suited for a part-time life in the forest is once again easily available – has also meant that the production of ollonfläsk is now increasing. This extraordinary delicasy is so far hard to find in the normal shop, but development and rediscovery is finding its way.
Ollonfläsk is typically eaten in airdried form, cut in thin pieces to make as much as possible out of the exclusive flavours. It is a perfect starter, a good combination with bread and perhaps a glass of lingonberry or blueberry juice from the same forests as the pigs have been living.
The meat is dark and stringy, more like moose meat than pork. The fried pork smell and taste like beechnut.