Kolbulle, the Forgotten Swedish Pancake
I smell pancakes. It’s not the kind of scent one encounters in the forest — batter wafting down trails and between towering pine trees. We’ve been hiking for hours and just crossed the border into Sweden’s Skuleskogen National Park. Instead of a place to camp we’ve found birdwatchers and kolbullar.
A kolbulle is a traditional Swedish pancake from the 1800s, cooked over an open fire and topped with crimson lingonberry jam. The name “kolbulle” literally translates to “coal bun,” a nod to who would eat it and, also, how it was prepared. The recipe is simple: water and flour mixed with a pinch of salt, added to a hot pan greased with lard and cured pork. The meal was meant to sustain coal miners through long days, using ingredients that, cleverly, did not require refrigeration. Today, a kolbulle isn’t something you’ll find in Swedish cities. The pancakes aren’t common in restaurants or places where tourists frequent. So, it was serendipitous that we were in the forest on the day local bird enthusiasts were exercising their culinary heritage.
“Are you sure?” I ask. “We have plenty of provisions for the night.” It’s miles to the nearest town and food is a valuable currency. “Please,” says the man, gesturing to the pancake on the fire. “You’re a guest in Sweden. Try a kolbulle.”
Recipe for Kolbullar (Swedish “Coal Buns”)
Makes about 1 pancake
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup water
3/4 tsp salt
50 grams (1/3 cup) diced smoked or salted bacon
Lard or butter
Lingonberry jam for serving
- Mix flour, water and salt in a mixing bowl.
- Using a 8-9 inch (22 cm) pan, heat a generous amount of lard or butter over medium heat. After the lard melts, add bacon and fry until crispy.
- Ladle about 1 cup of batter over bacon. Fry on one side until nearly cooked, 5-7 minutes.
- Flip pancake and let cook on other side, 2-3 minutes.
- Remove pancake from pan. Cut in half and serve with lingonberry jam.
Evenly disperse bacon before adding the batter. Otherwise all the salty bacon bits will clump to one side of the pancake.
This recipe reflects the traditional way of making Swedish kolbullar (sans open fire). Feel free to substitute ingredients for a lighter, weekend snack. Smaklig måltid!