If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then the small town of Gränna, Sweden, may be your idea of heaven. Tucked away on the eastern shore of Vättern, the country’s second-largest lake, Gränna (population approximately 2,600) is known primarily for one thing: the polkagris, a striped candy cane (or peppermint stick) that has been made here for more than 150 years.
It all began in 1859 when Amalia Eriksson, an impoverished local widow, began making polkagrisar to support herself and her daughter. Eventually others followed suit, and today there are a dozen or so polkagris bakeries lining the main street of the town. Visitors can watch the candies being made, try a hand at the baking, and, of course, sample some of the finished product.
To make polkagrisar, the first step is to mix sugar, water, and vinegar and heat them to a 150°C (302°F). The molten sugar is then dumped onto a cooling table, where color is added to small pieces that are separated out and set aside.
Once the dough has cooled a bit, the peppermint is added and the dough is stretched to let in air, which gives it its texture and white color. This used to be done entirely by hand, but nowadays hand cranks are used to help in the stretching process.
Next, the dough is kneaded into a loaf shape and the smaller bits with the color added are placed on top in stripes.
The dough is then rolled and twisted for several minutes until it becomes long and thin and the stripes come out right. When the bits of dough become too long, they are cut into shorter pieces.
Once the dough has cooled, it hardens and can no longer be manipulated, so each stage of the process must be carefully timed. While the dough is still soft, it can be cut and shaped into a variety of forms, from bite-sized pieces to twists mounted on wooden sticks like lollipops.
These days the candies come in many colors and flavors. It’s fascinating to watch the bakers at work creating the different varieties. But remember: only the red-and-white striped ones are considered true Gränna polkagrisar!
3 thoughts on “Gränna: Sweden’s Candyland”
I visited your shop in the year 2000 as leader of the Rotary Group Study Exchange team. I live in Springfield IL and our Rotary District is 6460. Where can I purchase the sticks as a presentation for Rotary on December 7. Our club does a toast every month and it my turn to host. I want to honor my visit to the Rotary Club of Granna that evening. I like to give every member of my club a stick from your shop. Rod
Past Rotary District Governor 2003 – 2004
Real Scandinavia is an independent travel blog and this article is simply a travel article about Gränna as a destination. This site is in no way affiliated with the polkagris shops of Gränna. I don’t know which shop you visited in Gränna (there are several), and there wouldn’t be time for you to order anything from Sweden and have it arrive by December 7, but one place you could try is Sockerbit, a Swedish candy store in New York and L.A. You can order candy from them online and have it shipped to you. Their website lists several types of polkagris: https://www.sockerbit.com/seasonalgifts.html
You might want to check with them regarding shipping speed before ordering to make sure you would get the package in time. Good luck and thank you for reading!
Annika / RealScandinavia.com
It sure is interesting to see when they are making these candies. Really impressive as well how many shops there are selling these in Gränna. 🙂