Cider production; a century old tradition revived and alive in Norway

Cider production has a long history and tradition in Norway, especially in the regions of Hardanger and Sogn.  Documentation of growing fruit has been found dating back to the 13th century.   It was the Cistercian monks who first planted apple trees in the region.

In Hardanger,  the production was considerably large in the period between 1890-1920.  In 1921, however, stricter laws were put in place around the sale of alcohol, and the following year Vinmonopolet (the Wine Monopoly) was founded.  That shut the cider factories down, but the traditions lived on in people’s cellars and outhouses.   The cider produced in the homes were of varying quality, and often sweet and high in alcohol.

Throughout history, it was often the women in Norwegian village who were responsible for creating recipes from fruit and berries that would last throughout the winter.  In Mrs. Henriette Schønberg Erken’s cookbook from 1914 “Stor kokebok for større og mindre husholdninger” (Big cookbook for larger and smaller households), there are many recipes on how to make wine from fruit. (

In Hardanger today,  the cider tradition has come back alive full force and production is bustling.  Some farmers produce cider merely for their own consumption, while man others have a license to sell their ciders.

Cider sales have increased in Norway by 60% from 2010-2014 and is indicative of the growing popularity of this drink.  In the summer of 2016, a new law was passed that allows growers to sell cider containing up to 22% alcohol direct to the consumer.  Previously, they could only sell beverages with maximum 4.7% alcohol, but it’s between 6-8% alcohol that the best apple taste is achieved.   Due to these new rules,  there is a growing and thriving industry in Hardanger, Norway’s most famous fruit region.


In the early days,  it was typically the lower quality, “ugly” and unripe apples that the farmers couldn’t sell to customers, that were used for cider production. Today, however, it’s often the very finest quality apples that are selected.  There are several varieties of apples that are considered ideal for cider,  including Gravenstein, Aroma and Torstein – but there are also loads of other new and old varieties that are being experimented with.


In Balestrand in Sogn, lies the well known Cider House,  a family run business which produces cider from fruit from their own organic garden.   The cider is served in their restaurant, which offers food made from local ingredients.  Other than cider, they use their apples to make dessert wines and fruit “drams”.  They also offer tastings to the public, as well as classes on cider as well as cooking classes.  A trip to the Cider House is included in the Norwegian Vegan Trail trip I announced in my last blog post, definitely check that out!


Photo Credit: Ciderhuset

Norway has some of the best conditions to produce world class apples.  A cold climate with a long ripening period is key, and during the high season the apples are exposed to nearly 24 hours of sunlight.  This produces crisp, juicy apples with lots of sweet fruit.

While I don’t have a Norwegian cider to enjoy while writing this article, I picked up a cider local to me, from the Hudson Valley of New York.   As Hardanger, New York is known for apples (and is the second largest apple growing state in the country), where both regular and hard cider is produced throughout the state, as well as a variety of other apple products.

This particular cider is made at Breezy Hill Orchard in Staatsburg, NY by a female cider maker, Elizabeth Ryan.  She made the :God Speed the Plough” from a blend of Dabinett and heirloom Hudson Valley apple varieties as a homage to the European style ciders,  and is unfiltered and bone dry.   I would pair this with the carrot lox recipe I posted a while back (posing as faux smoked salmon) , some nice crusty bread and perhaps the vegan “leverpostei” (pate), for a nice snack.


I look forward to looking up a true Norwegian cider when I leave to go home in a week and will report back on my findings!


Gløgg: The King of Mulled Wine

If you don’t know what gløgg is yet then you have really been missing out.  Many countries and cultures have their version of mulled wine (of which gløgg is one) – the Romans were the first to heat and spice their wine.  These days,  Scandinavians have got this recipe down and nowhere in the world does this drink taste as good as it does in this northern part of Europe.  All Scandinavian countries have their version of gløgg, and naturally I think Norway has the best kind.  Jokes aside, it is a traditional drink around the Christmas holiday and may be non alcoholic as well as alcoholic.  There are pre-bottled gløggs out there for those that do not want to go to the trouble of making their own, but when you see how easy it is to make, you will never want to opt for the pre-made stuff again because my recipe is so much tastier! 🙂


The true sign of the upcoming Christmas season is when homes, restaurants and other businesses start offering a punch bowl of incredibly aromatic hot gløgg,  spiced with everything from cinnamon to cloves, fresh ginger and citrus peel and served in elegant glass cups and with a surprise at the bottom: almonds and raisins.  We like to serve some nutrition with our alcohol, what can I say! It’s party in a bowl and also serves to warm you up on a cold winter night.

This weekend I really noticed the sky getting darker and I even heard word of some snow flakes falling a few minutes north of where we live in New York.  That is what prompted me to bring out my recipe for gløgg and I am definitely cooking this up on several nights in the coming weeks.  Delicious as it is, it is also potent so be sure to savor your cup(s) !

Norwegian Gløgg

1 x 750 ml bottle of full bodied red wine

1 – 1 1/2 cup ruby port wine

2 cinnamon sticks

4-5 whole cloves

4-5 allspice berries

3-4 star anise pods

3-4 black or green cardamom pods

2 strips orange peel (no pith)

1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 oz vodka (Optional)

Handful of blanched almonds and raisins (optional)

Combine everything in a large pot and bring to a gentle simmer.  Once simmering turn heat off and let the spices steep in the wine mixture for several hours or overnight.   When ready to serve strain and heat up liquid.  Pour vodka in cups (optional) and add a few almonds and raisins and top off with the mulled wine.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.   Proceed with caution but enjoy!! 🙂

Note:  Pairs really well with RISKREM!! I would pour some raspberry syrup on that… (see recipe for that by clicking here)


Image from

Happy May 17th: Celebrate Norway’s Constitution Day with a mouthwatering cake

When you ask a Norwegian what the typical food they serve on this very special day, you are likely to get a wide variety of answers, depending on what region of the country you’re in. There seems to be as many opinions and customs as there are people in Norway, but the common foods you may hear repeated are hot dogs, ice cream, rømmegrøt (sour cream porrdige) with “fenalår” (cured leg of lamb) and our well known “koldtbord” (similar to Sweden’s smorgasbord) with many delectable cold dishes. This day is perhaps the biggest celebration of the year for our country, where the unity of the people’s nationality is marked and the Norwegian flag is seen everywhere. This is also when we wear our national costumes, the “bunad”. Here I am in my “Sunnmørsbunad”:


The 17th of May is our Constitution Day and a day of enormous pride for the Norwegians. The constitution was signed on this day in Eidsvoll in 1814, which declared Norway to be an independent nation, despite that the nation was still under the rule of Sweden, and the king of Sweden actually forbade the Norwegians to celebrate this day for many years. Not until 1836 did it become a national holiday and this is when the Parliament officially celebrated 17th of May.

Here’s a more current photo of the huge parade on the main street of Oslo, Karl Johan:


The first official children’s parade took place in 1870, and initially consisted of only boys. Girls were included from 1889, and in 1906, our royal family started the tradition of standing on their balcony greeting people walking in the parade on Karl Johan.


Because Norway’s history of always being under another country’s rule or in a union with their neighboring countries as well as being under German occupation during World War II (when celebration of May 17th was forbidden), this day is particularly special for the Norwegian people. While many people may look at waving their flag is nationalistic and not necessarily a positive thing, there is a completely different sentiment in Norway. This is a day of happiness, sense of belonging and community, and of course… FOOD!!

Since I have already written about a lot of the traditional foods in previous posts, I’ve selected to include a recipe for an incredibly delicious cake I tasted last week in my niece’s confirmation in Norway called “Ari Behn kake”. Ari Behn is a Norwegian author, and is also married to the princess of Norway. Since this day includes our royals, I found it fitting to incorporate this cake, also because cakes are such an important food when Norwegians celebrate anything or get together in a crowd.

When I asked the lovely woman who made the cake why it is called Ari Behn cake, she did not have a clue, and neither did anybody else I attempted to ask. The quest for more info continues! In the mean time – enjoy making this cake, as it is incredible! Thanks to my sister’s amazing, beautiful friend and talented cake maker, Unni Haram, for contributing this wonderful recipe!



250 grams (9 oz) hazelnuts, toasted lightly on a dry skillet and chopped

4 egg whites

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

2 bananas

2 Dajm chocolates (or you can substitute “SKOR” chocolate, a similar chocolate more readily available in the U.S. – alternatively other toffee candy)

2 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped

Fruit of your choice (sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, etc)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celcius).

In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until a rough chop. Add in the baking powder and set aside. Whisk the egg whites with the sugar until stiff peaks, and fold in the hazelnuts. Pour into a 13 x 9 baking pan (spray it first) and bake in oven for about 50 minutes. Cool and divide in half.

Meanwhile, mash up the bananas in a bowl, crumble up the Dajm or Skor chocolates and add to the bananas along with half of the whipped cream. Spread the mixture on the first cake half, place the other half on top and spread the remaining whipped cream on top. Decorate with your favorite sliced fruits and serve! Look how pretty! Hurra for 17.mai!!




Trilogy of Scandinavian Breads Part 3: Barley rolls

In part one and two I covered breads made with rye and whole wheat, so it’s only appropriate that I include a bread made with barley in the final part of this series.  To switch it up a bit, I decided to make some rolls this time, or as we call them in Norway “rundstykker”. There is something special about these rolls in Norway, they taste to delicious, crunchy, light and wholesome –  I can’t seem to replicate them exactly the way they taste at home. But… practice makes perfect and these barley rolls sure come close!


Barley has been grown in Scandinavia since the Stone Ages.  Barley means “what is cultivated”, and  is one of the oldest grains known to man. It was probably cultivated at the same time as durum wheat in Syria and Iraq, and was mentioned in old scriptures from China to ancient Egypt.  In the Bible,  barley was one of seven different types of porridge the Israelites were promised in the land of Canaan, as well as in the story where Jesus fed 5,000 people in the dessert, where the foundation of the foods were two loaves of barley bread and five fish.  In Norway, it was the first grain  cultivated, and was one of the most important foods in Scandinavia until the last century.  Today, unfortunately barley has taken a bit of a backseat but because of it’s nutritional value has started to gain some interest yet again.

In the old days, barley had a respectable place in medicinal history, where barley was used to heal many health conditions.  Porridge cooked with barley was  placed on many bodily areas to offset pain.  Barley’s high nutritional value was known from the old days, and in the old scriptures we learn about its capacity to provide strength and energy.

If you were to describe Nordic food,  barley surely would be in the top ten.  This is because barley is a very hardy plant, and its growth period is only 90-120 days, thus can be cultivated in climates with very short summers (like Norway).  Barley today is mostly used in beer brewing- a popular alcoholic drink in Scandinavia and the rest of the world.


In old recipes, we see barley frequently as one of the ingredients, as barley were used in soups, stews, porridge, gratins, salads, baked goods such as cookies, rolls,  flatbreads (knekkebrød) and breads, as well as an ingredient for thickeners in sauces.  This grain is now being marketed as a healthy alternative to rice (barley risotto, anyone?) , because it provides more nutrients and fiber and naturally lowers cholesterol in the blood as well as lower risk for diabetes. Barley also contains a lot of iron and is rich in B-vitamins.

Barley does not contain enough gluten to really be a good baking flour, hence it’s always necessary to add regular wheat flour to the dough. But barley provides really good flavor when mixed with wheat, and has great capacity of binding with water. That means that breads made with barley stays juicy for a long time.

I found an interesting recipe back in the day for barley rolls – they have such depth of flavor and brings me back to a good, old Scandinavian bakery.   Please note, the rolls don’t get  golden/brown on top when done- they remain pale, just like the Nordic people 🙂


(makes about 24 rolls)

3 cups water

1 cup barley

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp sugar

75 grams fresh yeast / 1 1/2 packet dry yeast (3 1/2 tbsp)

1 tbsp whole coriander seeds, crushed

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup barley meal

4 cups all purpose flour

In a sauce pot, add the water and barley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, place a lid on the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in the oil and sugar, stir to combine. Pour into a mixing bowl and let it cool to about 37C /98F.   Mix the yeast with a little bit of water and add into the barley mixture, along with the coriander, salt and barley meal. Add most of the all purpose flour.  Knead the dough well until smooth and firm.   Place in bowl and cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour.




Place dough on a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Add more flour if necessary. Divide the dough in half, and roll out to a link about 12-15 inches, and cut each link into 10-12 pieces. Roll into rounds or oval shape and place on to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450F.   Brush the rolls with milk and bake in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack, and enjoy with your favorite topping.  The texture of the barley, mixed with the barley meal, coriander and wheat flour is really something special!




Nøgne Ø – a Norwegian microbrewery with international success

Beer has always been an incredibly popular drink in Norway, and has an important role in our history and traditions.  In a previous post on this blog I described how Norway used to punish those people who didn’t brew their own beers by law, either by fining them or they were ordered to give up their farm or even go to jail.  So vital was this drink to most, so it’s not surprising to see the continuous popularity of this drink today.


Microbreweries are popping up everywhere at rapid speed in Norway. Whereas we only had 2 breweries ten years ago, today we have over 30 breweries in the country. More and more people are preoccupied with selecting local beers when ordering beers out, seeking out specific producers, much like with wine. There is a pride in knowing how and where your beer was made, and plenty of beer enthusiasts are experimenting with brewing their own beer at home.

Nøgne Ø is a brewery located in Grimstad, and probably our most famous artisan brewery.  The name means “naked island” and was, according to the website,  a poetic term used by Henrik Ibsen to describe any of the countless stark, barren outcroppings that are visible in the rough sea off Norway’s southern coast.  This brewery has won numerous awards in the beer industry and continues to impress with their new releases.


All their beer is unpasteurized, and contains wild yeast.  This provides a long shelf life and a fuller beer which continues to develop in the bottle.  No gas is added, all the carbonation is created from a secondary fermentation happening  in the bottle.


Another interesting fact about Nøgne Ø is that they are also Europe’s only sake producing brewery. They make a junmai, Yamahai Motoshibori and a YK-70 sake –  I will reserve the details for another blog post since I want to focus on beer in this post.

I first discovered Nøgne Ø in the U.S. at one of my local watering holes in downtown NYC, and boy was I surprised to see Norway represented on the drink menu! I have loved it every since.  Nøgne Ø are now readily available in many shops, restaurants and bars in New York as well as other locations in the US.


Nøgne Ø started out brewing in a garage in 2002, and last year they doubled their sales from the year before, totaling over 37 million kroner (approximately $6 million).  In addition to seasonal beers and special brews,  here are some of their outstanding beers in my opinion:


16% alcohol

This is an ale, but also a wine and a coffee drink, according to Nøgne Ø.   On the nose it has that sweet roasty malty smell coupled with charred wood and leather. Almost madeira or sherry like. Chocolate, coffee and licorice on the palate,  but also black and dried fruits.



17% alc

This is an interesting beer as they use sake yeast in the brewing process.  They use the famous sake yeast no 7 from Masumi Sake in Nagano, Japan.  The other ingredients are local water from Grimstad,  malted barley, malted wheat and hops. The result is a deliciously fruity beer with impressive alcohol.  On the palate I get caramel, spices, passion fruit, orange and lemon. Impressive beer that could almost be compared to a whiskey or cognac, and has a lot going on.



9% alc

This beer spends one year in Cognac oak barrels.   Aromas of dark chocolate and espresso, with some yeasty notes.  The palate is also chocolatey with hints of plums and raisins, but has a nice bitterness as well.  Dry and long finish, with a nice complexity and good balance.

nogne o - imperial stout


9% alc

Belgian ale. Aromas of hops, yeasty bread, malt, citrus peel and apples.  Big and full on the palate with a  nice acidity, slight spice (nutmeg and pepper), long and rich finish.  Watch out – at 9% this doesn’t taste that alcoholic, and could be dangerous as you’ll be tempted to drink more than one, or two, or three! 🙂

This is one of my favorites, I get it at my local specialty beer store regularly.

Nogne O Tiger Triple


7.5% alc

Very aromatic, blackcurrants and grapefruit on the nose. Medium-full body with flavors that mimic the palate as well as some spices and herbs.  Long and bitter finish.  Great for food pairings, to help with digestion.



8.5% alc

Double IPA – grassy aroma with hint of citrus zest.  Aggressive bitterness on the palate but also nice malty flavors, and the mouth feel is nice and creamy.  With a huge hoppiness balanced by the sweet malty flavors, this is a very well balanced beer and one of my favorite IPAs!


I could go on and on about their other beers, but to limit the length of the post, I will just include that other beers include a porter, imperial brown ale, bitter, blonde, amber ale saison and double IPA as well as many others.  What impresses me the most about these beers, is their ability to be paired with many types of food where wine might not do the food justice.  In Norway we have a lot of salty and smoked foods, as many of you know, and these beers make wonderful companions to our cuisine.

Ask for Nøgne Ø at your local shop, and if they don’t already have it, chances are they could probably order it from their distributor! Skål!

VÅR – a Norwegian gourmet cider made for food pairing

In a country that’s too cold to have grapevines grow successfully, Norwegians often choose beer and/or aquavit when looking for beverages to pair with foods. But what about non alcoholic beverages? Are there any worth mentioning? I personally love the specialty sodas we’ve had for decades ; pineapple, pear, raspberry and of course, the famous Solo, which I’ll touch upon in a later post.  I wanted, however, to search for a more artisan and specialty product, geared towards people particularly interested in unique food and drink inventions, and that is how I happened to stumble across this page the other day.

VÅR claims to be the world’s first cider created specifically to be paired with foods; it serves as a great non-alcoholic alternative for people who don’t enjoy beer, wine or spirits.  According to VÅR’s website, VÅR is 100% natural, made from a mix of fresh berries and fruit which are harvested and produced on the same day. Gentle treatment is employed to preserve the freshness and aromas in the fruit and berries.


This upscale cider was developed and is a combined effort by the Culinary Academy in Norway, local fruit growers and professional food and drink producers, who have meticulously studied and tested various fruit types, ripeness levels and blending methods, with as much passion and detail as winemakers would invest in producing their wines. Since the individual ciders were created with the intent of matching certain foods, they hope to be able to become a viable alternative to wine and listed on restaurant menus across the country.

The name “VÅR” means “spring” (the season) in Norwegian, and was so named because the cider aims to offer the best from nature, spring being the symbol of the start of life in nature, where the foundation of fruit and berries is laid down. Fruit has been grown since the middle ages in Lier, where the fruit is sourced.  The fruit garden has a large collection of old plum and apple trees, as well as red currant bushes.  The climate in this region is also optimal to produce high quality berries and fruit.

The different flavors offered currently by VÅR are as follows:

VÅR Apple, Cherries and Aronia (Chokeberries) – pairs well with game and meat dishes, with spiced butter and mushroom sauces.   Picture of aronia berries in case you are not familiar:


VÅR Apples and Black Currant – pairs well with lighter meats and mushrooms, as well as cheeses like chevre.


VÅR Apples, Red Currants and Rhubarb – perfect when you need a partner for salad with vinaigrettes, salmon dishes, tuna, chicken, vegetables and herbs.


VÅR Apples and Rhubarb – choose this with fish and shellfish dishes, especially cream or butter based sauces, as well as a great companion to fruit tarts, apple pie,  and white chocolate.


VÅR Gravenstein Apples and Gooseberries – this is best enjoyed as an aperitif, and perhaps some salty hors d’ouevres and cheeses.


VÅR has been approved as a “specialty product” by the Norwegian organization Matmerk.  Matmerk ensures quality and protects the geographical origins of foods, much like the French AOC does for wine and their cheeses, olive oils, etc.  In order to achieve this mark, the producer has to prove, document and fulfill all the criteria set forth for these particular products. The products have to have special added quality, setting them apart from others.  This can be selection of a special ingredient, a particular production method, or a quality like taste, freshness and ripeness.  The product also has to have some type of history, hence it ‘s the total “package” that counts.

VÅR was created for people who are a a little more than above interested in food and drink, and several top chefs in Norway have now set their eyes on this cider. In 2010, two of the flavors received the “Superior Taste Award” , and in 2012 three other flavors received the same accolade.  The Superior Taste Award has been called the  Michelin Guide to Food, and the jury consists of a group of highly profiled chefs and sommeliers who are expert tasters and have worked and trained all over the world.

Each bottle retails for around $16 or so – not cheap, but I trust it’s well worth it. The cider is also distributed through Tine, a company with presence in the U.S.  – so who knows if we will see this product in the U.S. in the near future? At least I know what I’ll be trying out this spring when I visit Norway!


Images courtesy of

Aquavit – a national treasure

On Christmas Eve, Aquavit (or “akevitt” as we say in Norway) is consumed extensively throughout many households in Scandinavia, my own being no different. With a heavy meal such as smoked mutton, pork belly, sausage, meat patties, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut and mashed rutabaga, beer is the natural pairing (because of the saltiness of the meat), but the aquavit dram is thought to be a necessary partner as it is thought to help digest the heavy  meal. Usually drunk neat and chilled, many experts however insists that by chilling it, a lot of the complex, layered flavors are not allowed to come out, and that room temperature is the correct way to enjoy this beverage.

Aquavit, comes from the Latin word “aqua vitae” and means water of life. The base is often potato vodka, which is then flavored with dill, caraway, aniseed, fennel, coriander and other savory spices. This was originally done to mask the harsh flavor of the base spirit, although these days this is hardly necessary as there are some extremely sophisticated aquavit producers out there. Potato was selected as the base ingredient, being abundant and inexpensive in Norway and easy to grow in the cold, harsh climate. As the website for Linie described an old clergyman saying: “Potato can be used in bread and animal fodder, but it is most suitable for the making of aquavit”. Those Norwegians sure know how to prioritize!

Linie, is one of the better and more well known aquavit producers, taking its name from the Norwegian word for “line”. The name was created  because of its interesting history and origin. During the old days, the Linie casks were transported on ships that traveled twice around the equator.  This started as more of a coincidence, as the original cargo was fish, ham and cheese on their way to Indonesia to be sold there, due to demand for these items.  On the ship were also casks of aquavit, but because the customs were different in Indonesia, the Norwegians were not allowed to sell their aquavit. Hence, the aquavit returned home to Norway, after having crossed the equator twice. The barrels were then opened, and it was discovered that the journey had a miraculous effect on the spirit; the change of temperatures, the rocking motion of the sea, as well as the salty air from the sea had contributed to a multidimensional flavor profile.  Today, there are no more ships like in the old days, but the casks still travel for 4 1/2 months as deck cargo, taking them through 35 countries, crossing the equator twice. Thus, Linie, or “line, refers to the equator.  This is what gives the spirit such a unique taste, and of course – the story helps setting it apart from other aquavits!


Linie is matured in sherry casks, (previously aging Oloroso sherries) unlike many other Nordic aquavits. This imparts a golden color and vanilla flavor into the spirit, and along with the slow oxidation helps smooth out the harsh flavors of the spices and base spirit.  After its voyage in the casks, it is still matured for another 12-14 months. Depending on the type of casks used (newer versus older), it can be a pale yellow or dark golden color. Most often it will have an alcohol content anywhere from 40-45%.

If you don’t enjoy drinking your spirits neat,  the good news is that Linie is an excellent base for a mixed drink, imparting exciting spices, body and flavor to your cocktail.  The best way is to start simple, and then experiment from there. I have added a starter recipe below, that I’ve named after my dog, Thor. Skaal!!


2 oz Linie Aquavit (or Aquavit of your choice, but please choose Norwegian – ha!)

1 oz simple syrup

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in shaker, add ice and shake vigorously until all ingredients are combined. Strain and pour into highball glass filled with fresh ice, garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy!


Cognac – a Norwegian drink?

Many of you may think that the only drinks originating from Norway is vodka (or bad moonshine) and aquavit (more about the latter later), but very few know the strong connection between Norway and Cognac. Obviously our climate is too cold for growing grapes, but a large community of Norwegians settled in the southwest of France to develop their favorite drink. Today Norway is the top consuming nation in the world of Cognac per person (in relation to population) – not bad for a country of only 5 million people!

I found this very interesting post from the “Cognac Expert” blog – enjoy and skål!