From Sofiero we drove south, via Helsingborg, past Malmö to a place whose name was mentioned reverently throughout our travels; a place called Ängavallen. This award-winning organic farm is not quite self-sustaining (wine, and ingredients like fish and olive oil are caught or made elsewhere), but they come extremely close. Nothing made at Ängavallen is sold anywhere but on the farm – it’s either used in the meals you eat at their restaurant or sold at the farm store, where you can buy mustards, pickles, cheeses, breads and of course their farm-raised meats, sausages and pates. On Sundays, the cost of brunch will also get you a tour of the farm. You can pet the animals, see how they mill their flour and watch them make cheese.
When we arrived their youngest son, Niclas, took us to a small tea room that faced the herb garden. Niclas runs the hotel, so while he attended to some duties, he left us to enjoy the chocolate cake and some coffee.
The pace of change
Rolf Axel Nordström went to school to study animal husbandry back in the late sixties, and quickly became disenchanted with the industrial methods that were becoming mainstream at the time. When animal proteins were being used to feed the pigs, Rolf Axel had a visceral reaction. Soon afterwards, in 1971, Rolf Axel bought Ängavallen as a place to raise pigs using alternative methods. In 1983, when the family opened their shop, they were the first farm to sell directly to consumers – a venture now commonly called a “gardsbutik” – a term Niclas told us had never been used before.
There’s evidence that the land on which Ängavallen stands has been farmed for a long time, much longer than the hen house they found on the property, which dates back to 1876. But the buildings you see today are almost all new, or totally renovated – when Rolf Axel bought the farm, there were only dilapidated old structures. Together he and his wife Birgitta turned it into a working farmstead, and over time their sons, Niclas and Mathias, began chipping in their expertise. Today, Ängavallen is not just a farm, it’s also a conference center and a boutique hotel. They have an art gallery and in addition to their mill, they are ramping up cheese production with the employment of an affineur.
Maybe you think you’d like an Ängavallen ham on your table this Christmas? Book now! They might be the most in-demand pigs on the planet.
Dinner in utopia
Niclas told us that one of the things that makes the region of Skåne so unique is the fact that they were virtually cut off from mainland Europe until the construction of the Oresund Bridge in 2000. The countryside around Copenhagen, for instance, was altered along with the tastes of the Danish king, while Skåne’s isolation enabled them to stay true to the region’s roots.
Dinner at Ängavallen was served with the amount of earnestness you’d expect from a place where all the effort of their labors is reflected on your plate. Sourdough breads and homemade butter; carrot soup with chives, apples and violets on top; Smoked salmon and raw salmon served with tempered egg yolks, leek ash, dill mayonnaise and dried horseradish. Blood pudding with bacon, apple gelee, apple puree, lingonberries three ways. Beef tenderloin and brisket served with spring garlic and Spanish chervil – all from their animals and their gardens.
Their commitment to organic food extends to their wine list: every wine at Ängavallen is organic, right down to the Champagne (Duval Leroy). For their efforts they received a Wine Spectator award of excellence in 2010.
For me the best part of our visit to Ängavallen was the chance to hälsa på (say hi to) the animals. We could have (but didn’t) pet the pigs and the cows. We got to see inside their cheese-making facility and their mill. We even walked through the restaurant kitchen. What struck me was how no place is sacred in this world while almost everything they raise or make is treated as such.
Indeed, a visit to Ängavallen feels like stepping into the high church of the organic – or since the church is out of favor these days, let’s call it a temple. It feels like holy ground and it isn’t like very many places on this earth. At Ängavallen, the Nordström family takes their mandate seriously, in that they might show the rest of us that it is possible to do things the right way. It is possible to reap what you sow, and eat it, too.