Rømmegrøt is a porridge where the base used is sour cream, and is a delicious, creamy sweet and tangy porridge which, in the old days, traditionally were served at special occasions such as the birth of a child, midsummer night and when the farmers would cut the grass in the early and late summer. Porridge is the oldest hot dish in Scandinavia and it is also thought that the Vikings would eat porridge during midsummer. While this type of food based on rich dairy product was considered a luxury in the 18th century, today we eat it more frequently, and is also a staple during the Christmas holiday, either for lunch on Christmas Eve or the surrounding days. We tend to call this dish “julegrøt” (Christmas porridge) when it’s served in December, and it is thought that only about 6% of Norwegians do not indulge in some sort of Christmas porridge every year. Rømmegrøt would be put out for Santa the night before Christmas to make sure he was fed and ready for his journey delivering presents for all the kids, but he was also thought to take care of the barn on the farm.
We find several Norwegian fairy tales where porridge is at the center of the story; “Askeladden” and the troll would compete as to who would finish their porridge first, and “Tommeliten” would drown in the butter drizzled in the center.
October 23rd is our national porridge day, and while Norwegians eat porridge all year round, consumption doubles in the month of December. Many people think porridge should become our national dish, as it has been a staple in Norwegian households for thousands of years.
The recipe for rømmegrøt varies greatly depending on where in the country you are; in western Norway where I grew up, we use semolina as a base, whereas in other parts of Norway you will see short grain rice being used. We also have another type of porridge called “risengrynsgrøt”, literally “rice pudding”, which is a dish most Americans would associate with either breakfast or dessert and not a main dinner course as is the case for the Norwegians. Rømmegrøt is served drizzled with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar – in my house hold we would also sprinkle some raisins on top, but many “purists” see this as ruining the delicate flavors of the porridge… to each his own! Different types of charcuterie/salty meats (we like to use cured, dried leg of lamb or mutton) is a great addition too, the salty and sweet flavors simply delicious when combined.
Below is a recipe for rømmegrøt – this is definitely the taste of Norway! A few tips; 1) use low heat, to let the tangy flavors slowly develop, 2) carefully add the flour and keep whisking until desired consistency, 3) make sure to skim off all the fat and add more flour / as much as the porridge can take in, 4) save the skimmed off fat and serve on top of the porridge. We call it “smørøye”, meaning “butter eye”, and it’s placed in the middle of the porridge.
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sour cream
½ cup (100g) all purpose flour
4 cups milk
½ cup semolina
1-1 ½ cup buttermilk
2 tsp salt
Bring the heavy cream and sour cream to a simmer in a pot covered with a lid, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the flour and let the mixture cook until butter generates on top. Skim off the butter. In a separate pot, bring milk, buttermilk and semolina to a simmer and cook until a porridge is formed. Whisk in the sour cream mixture and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste. Serve the porridge topped with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar, alternatively you can also add some raisins.