The woman behind the polkagris
The person who made Gränna known to the world was a woman named Mrs Amalia Eriksson. In the late 1950s she started making candy sticks, which she for some unknown reason namned “polkagrisar”. It became the symbol of the whole town, and today, about 600 000 – 800 000 people visit Gränna every year.
Amalia was born in 1824. She grew up in Gränna and ended up marrying the tailor. They had a daughter named Ida. Amalia was only 34 years old when her husband tragically died, and Amalia became a widow and a single mother. She was a driven woman, and started making and selling sweets for funerals, weddings and baptisms. She soon wanted to increase her production, and created the polkagris.
In 1895, Amalia applied for permission with Carl-Johan Wennberg, the mayor of Gränna, to make and sell polkagrisar full-time. He signed, and Amalia was able to run a company of her own. This was extraordinary for a young woman at the time, and it didn’t take long before people from all over Sweden knew about the striped candy from Gränna. Nobody knows for sure where Amalia got the recipe, but some say it might come from Munich in Germany.
Amalias daughter, Ida, maintained the craft and developed what her mother had started. The first person outside the family who knew the secrets of making polkagrisar, was Mrs Greta Nordstedt. She lived in the “Nordstedt’s House” at Brahegatan 39 – the very same house Grenna Polkagriskokeri is situated in today.
Still the same handcraft
Today, after about 160 years, the Polkagris is still made almost exactly the same way in Gränna. A genuine Polkagris is made by sugar, water, vinegar and natural peppermint oil. The amount of each ingredient depends on, among other things, the weather and humidity.
The ingredients are mixed and boiled to 150º C. The hot mass is then poured out on a chilled table made of iron, with cold water running inside it. Amalia used a table of marble.
A little piece of the dough is coloured red. This will later become the red stripes.
When the dough has cooled to about 70 ºC, the baker can start working air into the dough, which makes it white and porous. At first the bakers use their hands, and when they feel ready they move on to a machine with automatic arms, or a big hook on the wall, just like Amalia did in the nineteenth century.
When the dough is ready, the baker moves it to another table made of wood – this is to keep it from cooling too fast. The baker now has about ten minutes to finish his work, before the dough gets too cold and hard. A standard dough of 3,2 kilos is enough to make about 64 candy sticks, which must all weigh 50 grams each.
To become a professional Polkagris-baker you need loads of practise – several years actually. You have to start as an apprentice and learn the handcraft step by step.
When the baker is done, the polkagrisar are placed in a roller to cool. It’s important that they keep rolling, so that they get a nice and round shape.
Once the candy sticks are wrapped, they go trough a quality control. The experienced eyes of the inspector can actually see if the Polkagris weighs between 47 and 54 grams.