As a Norwegian having lived in NY for 20 years, I have perhaps become more American in many ways than Norwegian with the times. But there is a time of year where I am definitely still 100% Norwegian and when homesickness strikes hard, and that is around Christmas. Nobody keeps up their traditions as well as Norwegians, it is simply what unites us as a country and makes us feel connected to our homeland.
Food is naturally an important part of tradition, and when the aromas of “brente mandler” (literally translated as ‘burnt almonds) and gløgg (a delicious mulled wine flavored with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and orange rind, get my awesome recipe here) enter the room, you know that the Christmas celebration is in full swing. This snack is also commonly seen and made in other Scandinavian countries as well as Germany, while in other European countries people eat burned almonds all year round. Of course, the taste is not as special when you eat it during the hot summer months (unless it’s with a glass of nice, dry sherry perhaps sitting by the playa in Spain).. but I digress…
The recipe for “brente mandler” is super simple – equal parts raw almonds to sugar, mixed with a little water, place in a pan and bring to a boil, then keep stirring until the sugar caramelizes and coats the almonds with a nice, sugary glaze. You can make a big batch of these, put them in mason jars and decorate with a nice bow and give away as wonderful edible Christmas presents for a nice, personal touch. Or.. like I did this time around, just keep the entire thing for myself and place out on the table when guests come over for cocktails. I will also save a container to munch on with mugs of gløgg for when we are decorating the tree!
Image from mandler.no
This was inspired by a recipe from the Norwegian food website godt.no by Elin Vatnar Nilsen.
Have fun “burning” your food – on purpose this time!! 🙂
BRENTE MANDLER (Burnt Almonds)
500 grams (2 cups) raw almonds
500 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
about 1/2 cup water
Rinse the almonds well beforehand. If you want to pour hot water over them to remove some of the “shell”, you can but it’s optional. In a large pot over medium high heat, add the almonds, sugar and water and let the water evaporate into the almond sugar mixture. The sugar will start to crystallize and the mixture will become dry. Turn up the heat and start stirring vigorously. The sugar will now start to melt and coat the almonds and give them a nice golden color. Make sure you stir well so that the bottom almonds don’t blacken. Pour the almonds onto a silicon mat or oiled baking sheet and make sure you separate the nuts apart before they cool off completely and stiffen up.
Image from godt.no