Lapskaus – a Norwegian recipe for comfort food

Lapskaus is a hearty Norwegian beef stew known to everyone in the country as a reliable every day dinner choice that never disappoints. Easy to throw together using leftover vegetables, meat and stock and the stew can either be light or dark. Regarded as one of the most popular classics in Norway among both young and old, each household will claim they have the ‘true’ recipe for lapskaus.  Light means the broth is clear (chicken or vegetable broth or water is used), and the stew consists of both smoked and fresh meat, onion, bacon and potatoes. The “dark” or German version is made from leftover meat, onions, potatoes, vegetables and a gravy is included.  My mom would make the dark, German kind – and I don’t really feel I have eaten lapskaus unless the gravy is present.  It separates it from any other “stew” out there, makes it rich with layers of flavor and more importantly, brings back many fond memories of times spent with my family around the dinner table.   I should mention there are several theories as to what light and dark lapskaus is and consists of – but this is my experience having come across the two versions. Regardless,  there’s nothing more fulfilling and comforting than a bowl of lapskaus, preferably paired with a full bodied red wine of your choice (Norwegians love their Amarone).

Every country has their version of “beef stew”, each one interpreting and showcasing the history and culture of the people making and eating it.  This is what I love about food – it not only nourishes you, but it tells a story. About your family, your town, your region and country.  Countless times I have turned to recipes and research around food to help me make myself feel closer to my family and friends in Norway, whom I see too seldom. Lapskaus definitely is one of those dinners that warms my heart, and will also warm the body on a cold winter night.

According to gastronomy historian Henry  Notaker,  lapskaus is originally a German dish, served on ships for the sailors and fishermen.  The stew, sometimes also referred to as “storm stew”,  dates back further than the potato, and back then, it was supposed to consist of meat and what we called “ship biscuits”. These relatively neutral tasting biscuits (also sometimes referred to as “school biscuits”) are simply made from spelt flour, baking soda, syrup, egg and sugar.  They were often softened in water and salty meats or bacon were added to them. Not exactly haute cuisine, but this was a typical ship-board staple in the 19th century. Here’s a photo of the boxes used to carry these famous biscuits on board the ships:

skipskjekskasse

The background for the name lapskaus is uncertain, however it is thought to have origins in the Dutch labskaus and the English lobscouse, which might again have come from the term lob’s course, meaning “a dish for strong men”.  Lapskaus is a similar word as saus (sauce), suppe (soup) and grøt (porridge), which all translate to  “a messy mixture of something”, or – a hodgepodge.  Further south, German labskaus (also lapskaus) originated from the northern parts of Germany like Bremen and Hamburg, and consisted of ox meat, potatoes, herring, onion, rutabaga and spices.

Funnily enough, there was a street in the Norwegian-American working class neighborhood of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn in the 1920s, called the Lapskaus Boulevard. This street, located around 8th avenue, got its name because of its many shops and restaurants selling lapskaus, lefse, lutefisk, komle and other Norwegian traditional foods.  At the time, over 100,000 Norwegians lived in the area. Today, ironically the street has been re-named “Little Hong Kong”, and Norwegians are a minority among mostly Chinese, Arabs and Americans.

lapskausblvd

Today, lapskaus competitions are still being held in this area and across other Norwegian-American communities in the U.S., where we can see the many varieties and interpretations of this dish.

It’s  worth mentioning that both here and in Norway, lapskaus can also refer to a wonderful fruit salad, mixed with whipped cream, nuts, and/or vanilla custard. This makes for a lovely, light dessert, and a perfect ending to a heavier main course.

Below is the classic recipe for lapskaus from my family. You can also try adding in sausages and bacon (a favorite among kids), or  add in other herbs and garlic for a different flavor profile.  Sometimes lamb and fish will be substituted for beef,  and sour cream might also be added into the stew for a tangy touch. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with this base recipe, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do!

MY MOM’S INCREDIBLE LAPSKAUS

1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cubed

1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced

2 tbsp butter

2 carrots

2 parsnips

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 2 inch  cubes

2 cups sauerkraut (make your own or you can buy it already in stores)

1 small bag frozen peas

For gravy:

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

3 cups beef stock, heated

Handful Fresh herbs chopped (rosemary, thyme, oregano)

Here’s my homemade sauerkraut ready to get cooking  — 1 head of cabbage, 1-2 tbsp caraway seeds, 1 cup water, 1 apple peeled, cored and diced and season with salt and a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Let simmer/cook down about 30 minutes until cabbage is wilted.

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Season beef cubes with salt and pepper.

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In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, add butter (or oil) and place cubed meat in one single layer, be careful not to overcrowded.

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You may have to sear the meat off in two rounds. Saute until golden brown, about 1 min each side.  Remove meat and set aside.  Add 2 tbs of butter,  add in onions, saute for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Whisk in flour until combined, and gradually add in beef stock. Whisk until it starts to thicken:

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Add in the vegetables, sauerkraut and herbs, season with salt and pepper.

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Cover the pot and let simmer for about 2 hours until vegetables are cooked through and tender.

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Check on it from time to time, but resist from stirring too much, so as to not break up the vegetables. If the stew seems to thick, you can add some water or additional stock.   Note: add in the peas just near the end, about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with flatbread or your favorite, crusty loaf!

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Potetball – a beloved, strange delicacy

Potetball is a dish I naturally grew up with, being from the region of Sunnmøre.  This dish was perfected by my mother, who made the lightest, most delicate potetball. My mother hails from a village called Hjørungavåg (close to Hareid), an area where this dish is a staple in everybody’s home and maybe even more popular than in the town I grew up in.  Potetball has many names, it can go by raspeball, komler, klubb or komper, depending  where in the country you are.  Essentially this 300 year old dish is a potato dumpling made from shredded raw  (and adding a couple of cooked) potatoes mixed with rye flour, stuffed with a bite of dried sausage, salted lamb or bacon.  The cooked potatoes are added to help make the dumplings lighter, and not so dense. In my house, we used “Strandamør” inside the potetball, which is a cured sausage from Stranda, a neighboring town. It’s now famous all over Norway and is the most delicious cured sausage I know (pictured below):

potetball2

The strandamør is dark red, almost black in color, mostly made from mutton or sheep, but sometimes pork and beef as well. The word “Mør” or “morr” comes from the norse name “morr” which means chopped innards (like hearts, lungs and kidneys), and sausages made from these ingredients.

Strandamør as it’s sold in stores in Norway:

Strandamor

Potetball is cooked in a broth of salted mutton which gives it an amazingly unique, rich flavor.  Traditionally served with sausages, boiled rutabagas and melted butter or bacon fat, some people even add boiled potatoes. In my house potatoes were never added, as my mother thought that was identical to putting “butter on bacon” 🙂 The condiments vary greatly regionally, as with most dishes in Norway.  Some people insist dipping the dumplings in sugar or syrup, while others must have them with sour cream or lingonberry jam. Admittedly not a very pretty dish to look at, luckily beauty is only skin deep, as the dumplings taste delicious and definitely cover any carb cravings you might have!

Raspeball

Image:  dinmat.no

This is really a dish that fits into the “you don’t understand it unless you’ve grown up with it” category. Most Norwegians even in eastern Norway/around the Oslo area, finds the dish strange or not very appealing, but as the people of Sunnmøre (my region) say: More for us! 🙂 I remember making the dish for my husband, who by the way is an omnivore and appreciates pretty much any food that’s put in front of him. It was probably the first time he only took two bites and seemed disinterested in finishing. When I asked him, he said he just didn’t get it – it didn’t seem like a complete dish, and it was quite heavy.  I took the comments well, thinking inside “oh well, he just doesn’t know any better.”  A popular comment about the potetball is “You either like it, or you don’t.” Simple as that. I guess I will be making potetball when I find myself at home on my own, and otherwise I am definitely going to enjoy it in my mom’s or sister’s house this spring when I go visit!

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Traditionally, potetball was served every Thursday. Why Thursday was chosen  as the holy “potetball day” remains a bit of a mystery, and when asking why, many people just shrug their shoulders and reply “That’s just the way it was”.  One theory is that people ate mostly fish all week- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  On Thursday, potetball was served to give everyone a “break” from fish, and also marked a bit of a ‘celebration’ as the week was nearing the end and the weekend was almost here.  Potatoes that were going a bit soggy were used to make the potetball, and meat leftovers were added into the pot to flavor the broth and dumplings.  Sundays were reserved for a nicer meal if the budget would allow.  Potetball was named the “poor man’s food” because it was so cheap to make, and typically a big pot was made on Thursday so you could eat leftovers all the way until Sunday. My mom would slice the dumplings and fry them the following day and serve the sides with it, I would put ketchup (gasp!) on the potetball and it was just as delicious as, if not better than, the meal the day before.  In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of potatoes in the Norwegian household, and how the priests across the country helped spread their knowledge about cultivating and cooking the potato to the people.  Potetball seems to have originated during this time.

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Another unique tradition is the drink that goes with the potetball.  We have something called ‘surmelk’,  which is the same as kefir, although perhaps a bit runnier/smoother than the kefir you get here in this country (somewhere in the middle of kefir and buttermilk). Surmelk is milk that has become acidified by lactic acid bacteria.  It has a longer shelf life and is safer to drink than unpasteurized milk and therefore had an important place in the Norwegian diet in the old days.  The reason why surmelk is such a perfect companion to this dish is that the lactic acid bacteria in the milk is said to aid in the digestion of potetball,  known as a very heavy meal. It’s not uncommon to hear of people not being able to move for hours after they’ve had potetball for dinner…

Surmelk being made the old fashioned way:

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The finished product as sold in stores (you can get this in whole milk or skim milk versions):

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A quick side note:  Potetball (or raspeball), should not be confused with blandaball – the latter being a dumpling that consists of a mixture of seafood, onions and potatoes and looks exactly like the potetball. I recall one time I was served this thinking it was potetball – and boy was I disappointed!! (no offense to the blandaball)

Upon researching this dish, I found that potetball is related to the Lithuanian cepelinai, as well as the Kloesse dumplings in Austria and Germany. All countries have their versions of dumplings, some more closely related than others.  Sweden has their “kroppkaka” and of course we all know of Italy’s gnocchi.

Lithuanian cepelinai:

cepelinai

German klosse:

klosse

While this is not a quick dish to make, the labor you put into it is worth it, as you can make a second dinner out of it the following day by slicing and frying the dumplings, as mentioned earlier in the post.  And your house will smell really good, I promise!

RECIPE FOR POTETBALL

Serves about 4 (12 pieces)

2 lbs raw russet potatoes, peeled and grated

1-2 potatoes, peeled and boiled

2 tsp salt

250 g (1 cup) rye flour

100 g (1/2 cup) all purpose flour

Dried sausage or pieces of bacon

*Leg of salted mutton

*Realizing  mutton can be tough to locate for most if not in Norway, you can substitute salted pork here

Peel the potatoes and grate them in a food processor or by hand.   Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and shape into a medium sized ball, and push a piece of bacon or thin slice of dried sausage into the center.

Start with cooking the meat first in water for about an hour, then place all the dumplings one by one into a big pot together with the salted mutton meat and water to cover. Bring to just below simmer (the pot should not boil!) and cook for another hour. The meat should be falling off the bone at this point.

You can add whatever vegetables you’d like to serve with the dish into the pot the last half hour, such as potatoes,  rutabaga and carrots, as well as sausages.  Melted butter and bacon is delicious with it too!

potetball
Image : Dinmat.no

Seibiff – the forgotten fish dish

Having grown up along the coast of north-western Norway, naturally my family served fish at least twice or three times a week. My family are big fish lovers, and as a result, dinners consisted of a variety of dishes that included ingredients that were caught practically right outside our kitchen window. I am grateful I learned to love fish at a young age. Besides being healthy, I find fish to be very versatile and provides a very satisfying, yet light meal.

My home town of Sykkylven and the  beautiful “Sykkylvsfjord” where my dad and I sometimes would go out in our boat and do some fishing (our town also has the smallest salmon river in the world – Aureelva!):

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One of the dishes that stands out in my memory is seibiff –  literally translated as “pollock steak”. Served with caramelized onions and a white gravy, it is definitely one of the heartier and tastiest fish dishes we have in Norway. It’s an every day classic that I think has been somewhat forgotten, which is a shame, because it is so flavorful and is a hit even with kids and people who are typically more fond of meat.  Norwegians today have expanded their palates, have access to more exotic ingredients and have developed a demand for food beyond the “normal” scope of what was traditionally available to them.  I think it’s fantastic to see jalapeno peppers, cilantro, curry paste and sushi now offered widely in my country but I also would love to see people preserve the wonderful, traditional dishes of Norway. Seibiff is one of them!

While we reserve halibut for special days, the pollock is more of a fish for regular weekday dinners. It’s hard to mess this fish up and it can stand up to big flavors, which is the reason it’s a favorite among cooks.  Perhaps it’s not the most beautiful fish (which is why you seldom see it featured on restaurant menus) and the cheap price might not make it as popular by demand as our salmon and halibut.  But in a dish, it never disappoints and the fish is widely available any time of year.

The pollock fish:

sei

Below is a classic recipe for this sebiff dish, with caramelized onion, a tangy gravy (you can substitute heavy cream if you prefer a richer sauce) served w/ boiled potatoes and shredded carrot salad. You can also bread the fish with a flour/egg mixture or coat it with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, another favorite.

SEIBIFF MED LØK   (Pollock with Onions)

2 lbs pollock

2 tbsp butter

4 tbsp sunflower oil

1 cup all purpose flour

salt, pepper

2 large onions, halved and sliced thinly

2 tbsp butter

Melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat in a large saute pan and add the onions. Season with salt and perhaps a pinch of sugar. Cook until the onions caramelize, about 25 -30 minutes.

Season the haddock with salt and pepper, place the flour in a large bowl and season the flour as well w/s&p. Dredge the fish in the flour, and brush /pat off excess flour before placing the fish into the saute pan.  Add the oil into a saute pan over medium heat and place the fish into the pan. Cook until golden and crisp on both sides, about 3 min on each side, then add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and baste the fish with the butter, another 2 minutes. You can also add a tbsp or so of capers into the butter, which adds a nice tough. Sprinkle the fish with some chopped chives before serving.

For the sauce/gravy:

2 cups beef broth

2 tbsp sour cream

salt, pepper

In the same pan you sauteed the fish, bring the beef broth to a boil, remove from heat and whisk 2 tsbps of the broth with the sour cream in a small bowl, then whisk the mixture into the remaining broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with boiled potatoes or a potato puree, shredded carrot salad mixed with sliced apple, 1 tbsp sugar and juice of half a lemon and the caramelized onions. Spoon the sauce over the fish and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over it.

(Some people prefer broccoli and /or cherry tomatoes with the dish – you can pick whatever vegetable you like.)

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Image: p3.no

Ritz Cake – why crackers aren’t just for cheese!

My sister first introduced me to this wonderful cake. She is a fantastic baker, and manages to make everything from scratch with a house full of kid wanting her attention 24/7.  At one point she had two jobs and no help with cooking or cleaning, while making breakfast, lunch and dinner and baking in between!  Not sure how she does it – a real wonder woman indeed!  Admittedly, she  is not a fan of making savory dishes, but she enjoys baking, and her love for it certainly shows in her food. I always go to her for tips and recipes when I need a Norwegian inspired “twist” on desserts and baked goods, and she never disappoints.

I am grateful for having discovered the Ritz cake; sweet and salty with a lovely texture, it’s almost like eating a Snickers bar (in fact, the Ritz cake is a simpler version of the Snickers cake).   Incredibly easy to make, but guaranteed to vow your guests and entice their taste buds, this cake is a favorite among the majority of my friends.  Most modern households in Norway today will serve one version or another of Ritz cake – and while the base recipe will be similar, the toppings will vary depending on which home you visit!

This is also a great cake for anyone allergic to dairy –  just be mindful of which topping you choose (see below). I tend to love glazing the cake with chocolate and drizzle with chopped nuts. Alternatively,  decorate with fruit and/or berries.

ritz-crackers

RITZKAKE  (Ritz Cake)

5 egg whites

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar (or substitute vanilla extract)

About 30 Ritz crackers

6 oz walnuts, chopped  (if you prefer peanuts, you can substitute)

Directions for cake:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter and line a spring form cake pan with parchment paper on the bottom.

Whip the egg whites until soft peaks. .Add the sugar, and continue whisking until a meringue forms. Meanwhile, add the Ritz crackers in a food processor and process until crackers are pea sized lumps. Add in the baking powder and vanilla sugar and chopped walnuts and pulse until combined.  Fold this mixture into the meringue and pour into the cake pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan, slowly loosen the cake from the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and place on a cake tray.  Top with your decoration of choice.

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Decoration choices:

1) Vanilla Custard     (recipe adapted from epicurious.com)

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat milk in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not boiling.

While milk heats, whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl until smooth.

Add 1 cup hot milk to yolk mixture in a stream, whisking, then add remaining milk, whisking constantly. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and registers 170°F on thermometer, 6 to 10 minutes (do not boil).

Immediately force custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in butter and vanilla. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold and thickened, at least 3 hours.

Spread the vanilla custard on top of cake, grate some of your favorite dark chocolate over the vanilla custard and garnish with fresh berries of your choice (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.).
vaniljekrem Image: Matprat.no

2) Chocolate glaze w/toasted, chopped nuts

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted. Turn off heat, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth.

Let cool and spread on cake.

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Toast any nuts you enjoy (Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews, etc.), chop them roughly and sprinkle on top of chocolate glaze.

3) Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries (traditional)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp powdered sugar

Whisk everything in a stand mixer until firm but still soft.

Garnish with berries or fruit – strawberries, sliced kiwis, raspberries, sliced home canned pears or apricots are nice too

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Norwegian Cheese 101

There’s more to Norwegian cheese than Jarlsberg and brunost.  Some of you may have recalled my blog post a couple of weeks ago about the infamous Norwegian caramelized goat cheese, also called “gjetost” or “brown cheese”.  Today, I was inspired to write about other Norwegian cheeses after having come across the following news article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/europe/norway-cheese-fire-shuts-tunnel.html?_r=0

Funnily, this story made news all around the world, hopefully people will not associate brunost with burning tunnels from now on!

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Back to our cheeses…Years ago, most cheeses were made on individual farms during the summer, at special dairy cabins high up in the mountains. The most common types of cheeses were a firm, mild, white cheese, as well as a pressed, granular large-curd cheese called gamalost (“old cheese” – see further down for more details). There was also a fermented cottage cheese, and another made with beer.  The white cheese was made with sweet or sour milk – typically the sweet milk was heated, then the sour milk added afterwards. The mixture was placed in a bag or container with small holes for the whey to escape, and the whey was reserved to make other types of cheeses (brunost, for example).  Not a drop of  milk gathered on these farms were wasted, and the entire process was overseen by the women, who were responsible for the animals on the farm.  The dairy industry has always been extremely important to Norway and while we may not see a lot of products represented in this country, we have a tremendously interesting selection and a rich, culinary history tied to cheese making.

I’ve always found dairy products in Norway (on average) to be richer and more flavorful than many other countries’ dairy products. The yogurts are smoother, the milk creamier and the cheeses have a nice, velvety texture that brings out every layer of flavor. I truly believe this has to do with our unspoiled nature our animals are fortunate enough to roam around in, but the Norwegian government also supports our agricultural industry in a way where it’s possible to make wholesome products without compromising too much of the quality.

I would like to focus on a few of our more well known cheeses in this post. However, while doing research I happened to come across a myriad of small dairy farms now producing incredibly exciting cheeses of the highest quality,  so I most definitely will come back and focus on individual producers in future posts!   For now, you should know about the following:

Nøkkelost

This cheese is also sometimes called “cumin cheese”, as it’s flavored with cumin, cloves and caraway spices. A semi-hard cheese, its name translates into “key cheese” (nøkkel = Norwegian for cheese) and has been made since the 17th century. The cheese is modeled after the Leyden cheese from Holland. The name comes from the symbol on the gates of the city Leiden. In the late 1860s, Leyden cheese used to be accepted as payment when trade was done between the two countries, and when the trade stopped, the Norwegians began making their own version of this cheese.

Nøkkelost is available in the U.S. either through Scanspecialties.com,  igourmet.com or at various gourmet stores around the country.  You can also try to make your own if you are being adventurous! Below is a recipe:

Homemade Nøkkelost

10 quarts kefir or buttermilk

2 sticks + 1 tbsp (250 grams) butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp cloves, crushed

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp salt

You can substitute cloves w/caraway if you prefer, but just know that the cheese will have quite a different flavor profile.

Heat up the milk and cook until the milk separates. Add in the other ingredients and heat up, but not hot enough so that the butter separates. Stir the mixture until it thickens, becomes smooth and releases from the bottom. Press the cheese into a container and let sit until cool.

Have this cheese with one of your favorite craft beers (Norwegian is best, of course:)), a very tasty combination!

nøkkelost

Gamalost

With roots going back to viking times, it’s not for nothing that the name of this cheese is Norwegian for “Old cheese”.  Most famously, this cheese was known for enhancing sexual prowess, and is dubbed the “Viking Viagra”.   This cheese is not for the faint of heart, as it is very smelly and requires an open mind. There is an old “recipe” for how it is made, which made me laugh:

“Take some cheese, stuff it in an old sock, bury it in manure under the barn, and when it is ready, it will crawl out.”

So for all those who can’t get their cheeses stinky enough – here’s a perfect one for you!!

This cheese is one of our oldest, most traditional food products, and is now protected by law, in an effort to preserve our food culture.

According to an article in the Norway Post, in the old days “skimmed cow’s milk was left to sour, heated, and then the curds were placed in cloth-lined wooden boxes, wrapped in dried marsh grass, and the aging process would begin. Every other day, for many months, the dairy maids would pull the boxes out from under their beds, where the cheese was stored, and rub the cheese by hand to help spread the bacteria evenly. By Christmas the cheese had fermented to a brownish gold color and was ready to eat.”

Gamalost is a hard cheese made from low fat buttermilk or kefir. It is sharp, somewhat bitter in flavor, with a granular consistency. It is quite low in fat, and sometimes dipped in aquavit. Because of its low fat content, it can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.

gamalost

Namdalsgomme

One of many local varieties of ‘gomme’ (“gomme” being the cheese that is created from cooking down the milk)  – this cheese has a round, sweet whey flavor, with hints of cardamom and cinnamon.  It is easy to cut, without being as smooth as cream cheese.  Namdalsgomme has an even, light brown color with a layer of cinnamon on top.
Not the most widely available cheese out there, it is still popular.  Namdalsgomme is perfect to spread on Norwegian lefser, lomper, and vafler as an accompaniment to your afternoon coffee.

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Ridderost

Ridderost was developed in Norway in 1969, and has developed quite a reputation ever since, scoring high in taste tests and winning medals all over Europe. A semi-hard cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk, it is light yellow in color with a bright yellow-orange rind, and has a buttery, soft texture with 60% fat content. Ridderost has a unique, rich aroma because of the coating of the bacteria culture on the outside. The cheese is putty aged, which is also very popular in Denmark, Germany and France. When the cheese is removed from its containers, it’s placed in a salt solution for about 4 hours, followed by a wash in the putty culture which gives it its individuality.  The cheese is usually sold in a wheel shape of about 4 lbs.

ridderost

This is a great cheese to add into salads, as an interesting addition to your cheese platter and even for dessert with some dried fruit. Dredged in a flour and egg mixture,  this cheese can also be fried and served with fruits and nuts.

Norvegia

A classic in Norwegian households, and probably Norway’s most popular cheese.  Made from cow’s milk, it has been made in Norway since the mid 19th century. With a mild flavor and creamy texture, it’s suitable for pretty much any dish; topped on open face sandwiches, shredded on pizza or mixed into sauces or made into a delicious grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve seen this cheese in a lot of U.S. stores, so should not be difficult to get a hold of for most.

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norvegia

Try this recipe for a delicious grilled cheese, courtesy of Tine (the largest dairy producer in Norway):

Grilled Cheese w/Caramelized Onions

Serves 4

8 slices sourdough bread

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, halved and sliced thinly

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp vinegar

8 slices Norvegia cheese

8 slices of bacon

1 pear, sliced

2 tsp Dijon mustard

In a large saute pan over medium-low heat, add the butter, onion, sugar and vinegar, and caramelize the onion, this will take about 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.  Saute the bacon until crisp and reserve.

Heat up a saute pan or a sandwich /panini maker on medium heat.  Spread dijon mustard on the bread slices, add the Norvegia cheese, bacon and pears, and finish with another slice of Norvegia. Spread a bit of butter on the outside/top of the sandwich before placing it in pan or sandwich maker.  Cook until golden on the outside and the cheese is melted on the inside. Slice in half and serve with a salad or soup.

norvegiasandwich

Recipe and image courtesy of TINE

Pultost

Originally from Hedmark, this has a sharp, slightly fermented flavor.  Low fat and high in protein, it was, like gamalost, traditionally made from the remnants of butter production (butter was the most important dairy product in the old days in Norway, regarded as a luxury it was often used as payment for other goods). Both gamalost and pultost are made from sour milk, or buttermilk, and a cultured yeast is added to the milk. After being stored in a warm spot for a few days, the fermentation is stopped by adding salt to the milk and cooling it down. The cheese is then aged for several weeks, at which point caraway is added and the cheese is packaged and sent out for sale.  The traditional pultost is a loose, lumpy /crumbled cheese with a unique taste.

The origin of the name ‘pultost’ is unclear, but may come from the Danish word for lump, which is “pult”.  Other theories insist that it comes from the latin word “pulta” which means porridge. Today, three versions of pultost are made; from Hedmark (the original), from Løiten (this one is spreadable) and from Lillehammer (similar to Hedmark, but a bit milder in taste).

Try pultost on slices of rye or whole wheat bread, rolled in a lompe (or tortilla),  or with boiled or baked potatoes, sour cream and flatbrød. Cured meats and aquavit are also great partners.

pultost

Snøfrisk

Made from 80% goat milk and 20% cow’ milk, this cheese was introduced in 1994 in time for the Olympics in Lillehammer. It’s a soft, creamy, spreadable cheese with a fresh, but tangy flavor.  Milder than chevre, it is probably more closely related to the fromage fraiche family. Snøfrisk happens to be made close to the area where I’m from, in a town called Ørsta in north-western Norway.  The great thing about this cheese is that the only additive used here is salt, no stabilizers or preservatives are utilized. This is a source of pride for the cheese makers in Ørsta.

Other flavors are available too, such as juniper berry, dill, horseradish, thyme and forest mushrooms among others. There is now a firm cheese under the Snøfrisk label as well.

Try Snøfrisk in your cheesecakes or other creamy desserts,  as a nice creamy cheese addition to your cheese plate, in sauces or as a spread in your sandwiches. Snøfrisk is readily available in grocery stores across the country.

snofrisk

Clearly, there is a LOT more to say about Norwegian cheese, but hopefully this post helped introduce you to a few interesting items. As always, you can get many great Norwegian food items through online shops such as  Scandinavia Specialties, Ingebretsens, Vaersaagod and Scandinavian Food Store, among others.

 

WIENERBRØD – a little (sweet) piece of Denmark in Norway

I might be pushing it a bit to insist that wienerbrød is Norwegian – in fact, they are more common in Denmark, then again the name itself implies it’s “Viennese bread”.  This flaky pastry, often filled with vanilla custard, almond paste, dried fruits, raisins or raspberry jam, is not the easiest to make, requiring the dough, filled with pieces of butter,  to be rolled out several times, chilled, and rolled out again. Much like a croissant, this is often an item people choose to buy at their local bakery rather than attempt themselves. Today, however, I felt really adventurous, and needed a somewhat challenging project.   A bit of history and background about wienerbrød is in order before we go into detail about how to make this favorite.

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Wienerbrød, really, is equal to a Danish, as we know it in this country, but have throughout the years become a bit of a bastardized version of the real thing. I mentioned that although the name might imply that wienerbrød is from Vienna, Austria, it in facts look as if it originated in Denmark (the Austrians have a similar pastry but it is called Golatschen, which again may have roots in Turkey!)

According to Danish sources, the pastry was created in and around 1850 when the bakers in Denmark went on a strike. Back then, it was common to compensate bakers with room and board only, and they had to work seven days a week. Eventually, the workers grew more and more dissatisfied, demanding a salary and one day off. When negotiations went awry, the bakers decided to strike.  Bakeries had to employ foreign labor to keep their businesses running. Some of the foreigners came from Austria, and since the Austrians weren’t familiar with Danish pastries and recipes, they brought along some of their own from home.  While the original recipe consisted of only flour, water and butter, later eggs, milk and more butter were incorporated and developed into the recipe we have today.

wienerbrød2

The reason why the Danish is so popular in the U.S., was that the Danish baker L.C. Klitteng, happened to be in the U.S. around the same time president Woodrow Wilson was getting married in 1915. He surprised the bride and the groom with his Danish pastries. Following this event, the Danish was featured in magazines such as Bakers Weekly and the National Baker, and as a result became a huge success in this country.  Klitteng later opened his own culinary studio on 5th avenue on Manhattan and delivered Danish pastries to large restaurant chains, aiding in their widespread popularity.

With all of this history belonging to Denmark and the Austrian bakers, wienerbrød is also a classic in bakeries all over Norway. I recall this to be my dad’s favorite, and my mother would only get these when she had been in Ålesund, the nearest city to our hometown. At the time I grew up,  most of the bakers in my town didn’t even offer these delectable, complicated pastries, so we had to go to fancier places to buy them.  It was certainly not something my mom would attempt to bake at home – this was definitely a special treat we all looked forward to.

Don’t let this discourage you from trying these at home – it may take you a couple of times before you master the butter dough, but the most important thing is to not attempt to bake this in a very hot kitchen (and certainly not on a hot summer day!), as the butter in the dough will quickly melt and you will have a mess on your hand.  Otherwise, these are not that hard, just takes a little bit of time.  I am still working on getting them as beautiful as the bakery version!

WIENERBRØD

(Makes about 30 pieces)

50 grams fresh yeast (or 2 packs dry yeast)

1 cup cold milk

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

4 tbsp butter

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cardamom

1 egg

2 sticks plus 3 tbsp butter

Crumble the fresh yeast in a bowl and whisk it into the cold milk.  Separately, in a big bowl, knead the butter into the flour with your hands until well distributed, add sugar and cardamom, and if using dry yeast, add the yeast here. Making an indentation in the center, pour the milk/yeast mix and egg into the indentation.

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Combine everything quickly and shape into a smooth dough. Do not let it turn sticky or chewy. Let the dough rest in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Grab the butter from the fridge, and cut it into 9 or 10 pieces, and place on parchment paper.

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Remove the dough from the fridge, and roll out quickly with a rolling pin to a rectangle about 12 x 16 inches (30x40cm). Place the butter on one half of the dough, about 1- 1/2 inch away from the edge. Fold the edges over the butter. Fold the side without the butter over (imagine an envelope), and pinch together the inches.

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Add some flour onto the table – turn the dough so that the envelope is placed at about a 45 degree angle. The “closed” part should be facing toward you. Roll out the dough carefully – there should not be any cracks in the dough.  It’s also important to roll out gently and not too hard and long, otherwise the wienerbrød turns flat and hard. Fold the dough into three pieces. Turn it again 45 degrees. Roll out until you have about a 1/2 inch thick dough. Fold again into three parts and let the dough rest in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes.  Repeat the rolling out and the folding one more time.

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Roll it out one final time into a 1/2 inch thick piece. Divide the dough in two, and place the pieces in the fridge wrapped in plastic or foil while you make the filling.

Vanilla custard:

2/3 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp all purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

2 egg yolks

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small sauce pan and place over medium-low heat. Continute to whisk until you have a thick sauce. Let it cool.

Almond paste:

120 grams/ 1/2 cup almonds

1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar

2 egg whites

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and combine until you have a rough paste. It should be firm, not too runny.

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Returning to the dough – I chose two different shapes, one called “combs” and the other “spandaus” (Spandauer).

To make the comb shape:

Preheat oven to 500F.

Have a big bowl with the almond paste and some pearl sugar ready.

Roll out one of the pieces of dough to a 9×12 inch piece.  Spread the filling of your choice along the middle and fold the edges over the filling:

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Turn the dough so that the edges face the table. Cut the dough into about 2-1/2 inc pieces, brush them with egg white and roll them in pearl sugar and the almond paste.  Place the pastries on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and let them rise, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours.  Place the sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.

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To make the “spandaus”:

Roll out the second half of the dough you have reserved in the fridge into a 14×14 inch square.  Dive the piece into 4 x 4 squares. Add a little spoon of the filling of your choice  (vanilla custard, raspberry jam,  dried fruits, or almond paste) in the center of each square, and fold the edges in towards the center, and pinch them together.

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Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and let rise for 1-1/2 hours uncovered.  Brush with egg whites and place in the middle of the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.

Remove the pastries from the oven and let them cool.  Mix about 1 cup of confectioners sugar with a few drops of water in a bowl until a smooth, runny paste, and drizzle over the pastries. Alternatively, you can also add some raspberry in the middle of the pastries well before serving.
These taste best the same day they are made, fresh out of the oven!

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Suksesskake – a success every time!

Every time I go home to Norway, I’m reminded of how much I miss our cakes. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but our cakes are something special, and we certainly take pride in them. I could probably spend a lifetime writing about all the varieties that exist, as each household has their own creations and versions.   Norwegians  love using nuts in their cakes, most often almonds, and instead of using butter cream and icing, we often turn to whipped cream (bløtkake or cream cake) or some sort of other glaze which makes the pastries less rich and sweet.  All our cakes are famously moist, fluffy and light – making it possible to eat more than one piece at a time!

kaker2

Suksesskake, or suksessterte,  is a great example of a Norwegian cake most people are familiar with, and I have yet to meet anybody who doesn’t absolutely love this cake.  I previously posted about the Kvæfjordkake, which has been named “the world’s best cake”, but many would argue that suksesskake is better and deserves the title.  I will leave it up to you to try out both and decide!

A staple on the table not only at weddings, confirmations and baptisms, but also  a suitable item to serve on weekends when visitors come over, suksesskake is also called “gulkake” (yellow cake) because of its bright color.  Popular with kids as well as older people, it’s easy to please anyone when choosing to serve this classic cake.  With a moist bottom chock full of nuts (yes, almonds), topped with a flavorful, silky and light egg cream, it’s a great addition to your cake repertoire.  Serve it with a little dollop of vanilla ice cream and it becomes even better!

suksessterte2Image: http://www.dinmat.no

SUKSESSKAKE  (Success Cake)

For the almond cake:

5 egg whites

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup almonds

2 tsp all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

For the topping:

6 egg yolks

2/3 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup heavy cream

2 tsp vanilla sugar (or substitute vanilla extract)

1 stick + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Sliced almonds or chopped dark chocolate for decoration

To make cake bottom:

Preheat oven to 350F.   Line a round 10″ spring cake pan with parchment paper.

Grind the almonds in food processor until fine.

Whisk egg whites in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Add in confectioners sugar and continue whisking until you get a meringue, about 5 minutes more. Fold in the baking powder, flour and almonds and combine well. Pour the batter into the cake pan, bake in oven for about 30 minutes.  Let cake cool in the pan while making the topping.  When cake is cool, loosen the spring carefully, remove the parchment paper and bottom  and place the cake on a serving tray.  Wash the spring form and place it around the cake.

To make topping:

Combine egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Bring it to nearly a boil, while constantly stirring (be careful not to scramble the eggs!).  Take pot off the stove and let cool to room temp. Whisk in the softened butter with a whisk until shiny and even.  Pour the cream over the cake and place in fridge to let it firm up, preferably over night. Make sure both the cake bottom and cream are cool, otherwise the cream will just disappear into the cake! When ready to serve,  pull out of fridge and carefully remove spring from the cake. Decorate with sliced almonds or chopped chocolate chunks.

suksesskakesjokolade

I’ve seen versions of this cake, where the yellow egg cream is filled in the center (cutting the cake in two lengthwise), and topped with a chocolate glaze too… sinfully good! Another version is with a whipped cream topping and fresh berries or canned pears with a chocolate drizzle… as you can see, you can go really wild with toppings and no matter what, the almond cake base is a perfect partner to many flavors.

Homemade “fiskekaker” – our Monday dinner suggestion

Fiskekaker... now we are really talking about true Norwegian food! Every person in the country has some story about this dish, whether they love them or hate them (most fall in the first category).  These “fish cakes” or fish patties as I will call them here, are incredibly satisfying and so delicious, I like to call them “fish sticks for adults”. They are a way for even the pickiest eater to actually LOVE fish, and provides a multitude of ways people can enjoy them. Have them with a poached egg for breakfast on an open faced sandwich,  have one as a snack in the afternoon stuffed in a pita with some tzatziki (Greek yogurt cucumber dip), have them for dinner, either with a shredded carrot salad and boiled potatoes (recipe to follow), or even with gravy and mashed potatoes, or as a late night snack in a burger bun with caramelized onions, bacon and tomatoes. Mmmmm….

Fiskekaker

There are many Norwegians who also disagree with me – they have issues with the texture and the taste of fiskekaker, but in my opinion they just haven’t had the PERFECT fiskekake.  I also find that most people who criticize this wonderful dish have only tried the store bought version. Don’t get me started! Store bought means bland, mealy, mass produced without love, and awful.  Home made is always the way to go !  You will see below how easy these are to make, no excuse to opt for a processed, manufactured option.  A balance of spices, fish to milk ratio and proper ingredient combination, are all parts of a successful recipe.

Growing up in Norway, fiskekaker was something that signified “every day life” in my family.  My mom would typically make these sometime during the mid- week, either if she had leftover fish from another meal, or she had visited the fishmonger in Ålesund (the closest city to our hometown).   She would make a huge batch and freeze some for a future dinner, and as far as I can remember, they tasted just as good then.  My dad would often request “fiskekaker” – a true, Norwegian meal, in his opinion.  Being a very old school, traditional man, he would often sneer when my mom would dare make spaghetti or even pancakes for us for dinner. That modern ‘fluff’ was not proper food for real men. Hence, fish cakes held up the standard in the Hjorthol household!

Fiskekaker is also a great way to make your kids eat fish, if they otherwise don’t or won’t.  Add some chopped onions, garlic and additional spice  to make this into fun hamburger patties, place in a bun and serve with a salad or coleslaw.

fiskekakeburgerImage : http://www.aperitif.no

I also like to add the fish cakes in a sandwich, with lettuce and tomato and perhaps a remoulade dressing. Delicious!

FiskekakesandwichImage: http://www.godfisk.no

Below is a recipe for the traditional fiskekaker my mom got from her mom, and I’m sure her mom got it from her mom..  Food and recipes stay for generations and Norway is no exception.   I’ve spoken with many food lovers in Norway with the same exact story – remembering with fondness their grandmother’s beloved fish cakes. Here I want to keep tradition going, giving you the standard way we enjoyed them (approved by my dad) – accompanied with the standard shredded carrot salad boiled potatoes. Healthy and flavorful, just the way my mom made them!

BESTEMORS FISKEKAKER  (Grandma’s Fish Cakes)

1 lb cleaned fish (haddock, cod, pollock, or coalfish)

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbs cornstarch

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tbsp melted butter

1 egg

3 tbsp minced chives (optional)

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Place the fish in food processor with salt  and pulse until you have a rough paste.  Add in the other ingredients by hand, using the milk as needed and knead until everything is well combined. Using a spoon, shape into patties and saute them in saute pan on medium-high heat until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.   Serve with my mom’s special carrot salad (see below for recipe) and boiled potatoes for a traditional fiskekake dinner!

note: Some people like to add mackerel into fiskekaker, along with a white fish. The fatty mackerel adds a desired unique flavor, richness, and depth to the patties making them even more delectable.   Professional chefs may add some crab meat into the fiskekaker, as well as other exotic ingredients such as lime juice, curry paste, ginger, etc. making them more Thai inspired. The options are endless!

fiskekaker

GULROTSALAT  (Carrot Salad)

4 large carrots

1 cup sour cream

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp white vinegar

salt, pepper

Shred the carrots using either a box grater (largest setting) or food processor.  In a big bowl, add the sour cream, sugar, vinegar and combine. Add the grated carrots, season with salt and pepper to taste.  You can also omit the sour cream for a lighter version. Adding in some shredded turnips or pickled cucumbers is also a nice touch.

gulrotrevet

Image : Freshcut.no

Honningkake; a cake perfect for every day

Honningkake is just that, a honey cake. While the featured ingredient may be honey, it also gets its layers of flavors from a variety of spices, and prevents the cake from becoming too sweet.  This recipe can be baked as a loaf, a cake or even cookies.  Norwegians have even been known to pack honningkaker in their backpack when going hiking or skiing in the mountains – it’s a perfect companion to a hot cup of chocolate, tea or coffee when you’re sitting down for a much deserved break.

This is the cake you may want to turn to on a weeknight or afternoon when you are getting surprise guests over and need to entertain on a whim.  An old story goes that you would make honningkake for the one you cherished… your honey! Makes sense, doesn’t it?

honning

What I enjoy most about Norwegian cakes is that they are easy to assemble, not cloyingly sweet, are very versatile and of course; incredibly tasty!  Our people love to entertain – no way are you going to someone’s house for just a cup of coffee! Which is why we have created so many recipes for quick, convenient, easy to make cakes and cookies, aimed to please at any occasion. It should be mentioned that “kake” in Norwegian isn’t necessarily synonymous with the English word for “cake”. Here in the U.S., cake usually means something that is glazed, iced, topped or is smeared with that godawful butter cream (sorry), while in Norway, cake can be anything from banana bread, brownies, and shortbread, among others.  We do have our ‘formal’ cakes too, usually wrapped in marzipan or covered with whipped cream (bløtkake). I will be sure to cover these too, as they can be delicious and most certainly are decadent.

kakebordImage source: tine.no
I got the idea for honey cake today as I was expecting a friend to come over, and I needed a snack for afternoon coffee. I didn’t want anything that was too formal, but also needed something more than just a regular cookie (boring).   This cake is juicy, a touch spicy and perfect for any occasion.  You can purchase hornsalt (hartshorn), a special baking powder from Norway at www.vaersaagod.com – a small online shop I recently discovered, owned by Becky Gjendem. She is married to a Norwegian and lives in Iowa. I always like to support small businesses, so please check her website and shop out!

Hornsalt, the secret to that special taste you get in Norwegian (and other Scandinavian) baked goods:

hornsalt

Below is a recipe I enjoy for honningkake.  Use good quality honey – I like to buy mine at the local farmer market. As for the syrup, you can substitute a light maple syrup, since the syrup we use in Scandinavia is a bit different (dare I say better?) than what is typically found in stores in this country. If you can get a hold of good, plain kefir, even better than buttermilk, but any of those will do.

Some people even top the cake with chocolate glaze or icing, which you can do if you want to dress it up for a more formal looking cake,  but I promise it’s just as delicious as is!

HONNINGKAKE (HONEY CAKE)

1 qt buttermilk

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light syrup

1 cup good quality honey

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda or hornsalt

4 cups (or 1 kg/2.2 lbs) all purpose flour

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare a 13 x 9 baking dish, lined with parchment paper.

In a big bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, sugar, syrup and honey until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Fold in the dry ingredients into the wet, and add the melted butter at the end. Pour the batter into the the baking dish and cook at the next to lowest rack in the oven for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack and cut into slices or serving pieces.  Keep the cake in an airtight container and it will stay moist/keep for several days!

honningkake

 

 

 

The revival of herring

What would a Norwegian food blog be without a post or twelve about our  infamous herring?  Well, here comes the first one… As I struggle to figure out where to begin to explain herring, the importance of our herring history, and just how incredible this fish is, I would like to emphasize that there are many mouthwatering, updated recipes featuring herring which I think would make our forefathers proud. Don’t think just “pickled” when you hear the word herring, not just vinegar and onion. Please.

I compare herring to other underrated foods such as sea urchin, mackerel, celery root and sauerkraut; foods only true food lovers and omnivores seem to know how to appreciate. Besides being inexpensive, it must be considered one of the healthiest and most flavorful foods in existence, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A, D and B12 and a good source of protein.

herring

The history of herring dates back thousands of years, all the way back to the times of Odin and Thor, where there was mentions by Thor about eating herring. Evidence also exists that export of herring to Sweden happened at a very early stage. Norwegians owe a lot to herring, as it saved the people both from hunger and financial ruin during tough times, and was instrumental in developing the rich coastal culture we have today. If I had to admit that the Swedes were better than us at anything, it would be preserving the culture of eating herring.  The herring disappeared from many household tables in Norway for a while, which is sad because I find it one of the most interesting and versatile fish types out there. It has, however, experienced a revival among food professionals who have helped increase the popularity of this fish yet again in Norway.

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There used to be, and still are sometimes, among old people,  a lot of superstition about the herring, both in Norway and overseas.  One wives tale went that if  herring was eaten on Christmas and/or New Years Day, it would bring wealth and happiness. It was also believed that herring had healing capabilities and would cure a plethora of illnesses if consumed.  Scared of the dark? Your fears would vanish if you sucked on a herring.  Some were worried that creatures of the underworld would throw a spell on their horses, but this could be prevented by placing a herring in the hay, which would protect the horse.

Sildehistorie

In the old days when herring was served for dinner, it was common practice to break the backbone of the fish after eating it. Otherwise, the following year would either bring emaciated fish only, or the fish would wake up and be brought back to life and chase the person for the rest of his or her life. Serious stuff!

backbone

In Norway, the traditional conservation method was to dry or smoke the herring.  The Dutch, however, would place herring in a salt solution and store it in oak barrels, which was new to the Norwegians. Later on, we adapted this way of preserving the fish as well. Even though herring has played an important role for a long time in Norway and Norwegians regard themselves as “herring experts”, it was eventually the people of Holland  who ended up dominating the herring industry in Europe.

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There are many different types of herring, but I won’t go into details about them in this post, that’s for some other time I get in a herring mood and  that probably won’t be too far off in the future.  Without trying to be cryptic, I just want to mention that depending on what time of year the herring is caught, the fat content and quality varies widely, which is why the herring has many names. This is so people will be able to identify what kind of herring they are buying and match it to what they are looking to make. An overall consensus is that the herring has to be fatty and super fresh to be considered of the best quality.

Herring hasn’t always  been my favorite. I recall one incident, in particular – when I was around 6 or 7 years old.  My mother forced me to eat a whole herring for dinner, with bones in it, skin on and everything, all taking place in front of my best friend, Renate, who horrified, had to sit beside me waiting for me to finish my plate before we could continue playing.  There was no special kid’s meals in that household!!  With tears streaming down my eyes, I got no comfort from my mother, just an explanation that the bones would cleanse my insides, help with my digestion and give me better health (really mom?). Luckily, I didn’t develop a hate for herring later on in life (although I never quite forgave my mother), rather my curiosity built up around this magnificent fish as I grew older.

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Image: Sildakongen.no

My maternal grandfather Josef Liavåg, was a fisherman and knew a lot about fish and herring in particularly, as he ran a herring factory on the coast near Hareid.   Here he is pictured with my grandmother, Sarah  on their wedding day in 1918:

josefliavaag
A couple of my uncles and cousins were, and some still are, fishermen as well. One of my uncles tragically died while at sea, so my family has close ties to the ocean and the fishing industry that is so prevalent in this part of Norway. Although I may not have enjoyed that piece of bony herring at age 6, my mom was a specialist in preparing pickled herring. Her version was the traditional recipe called “sursild”, where she added onion and black peppercorns to the herring with perhaps some sprigs of dill, and was often featured on our breakfast table. Sweet, salty and sour all at once, it was always a special treat when my mom would bring out her special jar.

sursild

Image source: vg.no

Today we see a myriad of incredibly exciting recipes featuring herring. Herring parties and festivals are arranged all over the country yearly and chefs compete as to who has the most innovative herring dish.  It’s nice to see a vibrancy around this ingredient again, and a movement I support wholeheartedly!  Below I’ve listed a few recipes I’ve gathered through the years, and should all be stored in mason jars, utilized as toppings on your sandwich or flatbreads, or just enjoyed as is.  I hope you will get inspired to pick some herring up the next time you are at your fishmonger!

PUMPKIN AND ORANGE HERRING

4 oz marinated Matjes Herring

4 oz pumpkin

1 orange

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil

1-2 shallots, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp sugar

whole peppercorns, salt

Cut the butternut squash into small cubes. In a small pot, add the orange, butternut squash, water and peppercorn. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer, cook until the squash is tender. Add the shallots and olive oil. Fold in the herring pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Bottle in a beautiful mason jar, place in fridge and enjoy when you’re ready!

pumpkin

HORSERADISH HERRING

5 oz marinated, cured salmon

1/4 cup horseradish juice

1/2 cup sour cream

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 cup sunflower oil

1 tbsp mustard

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely diced

salt, sugar

Whisk egg yolk, mustard, vinegar and oil until you have a mayonnaise. Add the horseradish uice and the sourcream. Season with salt and sugar until you have a balance between salty and sweet. Fold in the marinated cured herring, shallots and chives. Store in a beautiful mason jar and keep in a cold space.

pepperrotsild

Image source: tine.no

MUSTARD HERRING

4 oz matjes herring

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp mild rapeseed oil

2 shallots, finely diced

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

2 spring onions, finely sliced

salt

Combine all the ingredients, fold in the herring in the end.

sennepssild

Image Source: matoppskrift.no

FENNEL AND AQUAVIT HERRING

4 oz marinated Matjes herring

1/2 tsp caraway

1/2 tsp anise seed

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

5 cardamom seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1 vanilla bean, split in half

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup aquavit

zest of 1 lemon

salt

Cut the fennel into thin slices and parboil it in salted water, along with the oil and aquavit. Add the spices and add the herring at the end. Season with salt. Cool and store in a mason jar, place in a fridge or other cool spot.

fennelakevittsild

Image source: Godfisk.no

Additional Image sources: digitalmuseum.no