Ooooh, lingonberry. You tart little condiment. Most people know you from the lunchtime special at the regional IKEA, but you've become a shorthand reference for nearly anything Scandinavian (witness this article from the NYT: "Death Metal Sweetened by a Taste of Lingonberry"). In my cupboard, I have two varieties of lingonberry jam: one from IKEA, one from President's Choice. I bought one, and the other came in a nice little holiday gift package courtesy of PC as part of an effort to promote their 25th Anniversary Insider's Guide.
Would you like the results of the taste test?
IKEA: round distinguishable berries, slightly sweet taste (more sugar, according to the nutritional label), bouncy and firm jelly.
President's Choice: slightly mushier berries, a touch of saltiness (borne out by the nutritional label), and a less firm consistency.
Both are easily spreadable, make a nice contrast to meatballs or potatoes. I'd have to say the IKEA lingonberries look better as an individual dollop, simply because of the berry size and condition (how's that for obsessive? I've spent a lot of time at IKEA).
Lingonberry, open faced sandwiches and a bewildering array of pickled herring may be the culinary markers that fix Sweden in our minds, but the Swedish government has far greater designs:
"Perhaps Sweden isn’t the first country that comes to mind today when you think of food and food tourism. And that’s what the Government wants to do something about. As the Government sees it, Sweden has every chance of becoming Europe’s leading food nation." (Sweden: the new food nation, August 2008)