The town of Gränna has only 2,500 residents, but as it's located by Lake Vättern and close to one of the most traveled highways in Sweden, it gets a million visitors a year. One of the things that still attracts visitors to stop here is the special kind of candy – polkagris (pl. polkagrisar) – that have been produced here for nearly 160 years. The traditional Gränna polkagris is white and red, and peppermint flavoured.
It all started in 1859 when the 35-year old widow Amalia Eriksson (1824–1923) needed to find a way to support herself and her family after her husband’s death. She then applied for and got permission to open a bakery and shop in Gränna, to make and sell pastries and polkagrisar. She kept her special polkagris recipe a secret all her life, and it was not revealed until after her death. The candies contain peppermint, sugar, water, and a very small amount of vinegar.The dough is boiled, then kneaded on a marble baking table, pulled and twisted by hand to the right size. Nowadays they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours; but the red and white peppermint is the classic original polkagris.
The name "polkagris" refers to a lively European swirling dance, polka, which was still a novelty when the candy was invented. (It is still a common genre in Swedish folk music and folk dance). "Polka" in the candy's name probably refers to the twisting of the red and white sugar dough ribbons. "Gris" means "pig", but seems also to have been used as an expression for candy back in those days.
Nowadays there are several places in Gränna where you can not only buy the candy, but also watch it being produced (handmade). (We didn’t go to any such show now, but I have seen it in the past.)
We both try not to eat too much sugar these days. However, at the hotel, we were greeted by sweet little samples awaiting us in our rooms… Just the right amount to let us have a taste, without having to buy a big bag of them. (If you’re wondering about the first photos, I just let my camera do a bit of calory free browsing in a shop we went into for other purposes.) (Yes, seriously!)