Posted tagged ‘Swedish’

Swedish after all

February 19, 2014

I just joined an online group called My Swedish Roots.  In the back of my mind, I thought I had more familiarity with Norwegian cuisine.  Mainly because there is more “Norwegian” in my Minnesotan background and I don’t recall my mother making anything particularly Swedish.  However, when I looked into the recipe section, many images came to mind.  I do know quite a lot, after all.  Swedish meatballs are always served at the lutefisk suppers (and the Swedes call it lutfisk).  Sandbakkels are Swedish, as are Lucia buns, limpa rye bread, hardtack.  Rice pudding and various berry puddings.  Many of these belong to the common Scandinavian heritage.  Those weird cookies made from baker’s ammonia.  Good old Swedish glogg.  Brown beans, soup made from yellow split peas.  Heart shaped waffles.  Swedish pancakes (very crepe-like).  Oh yes, caviar.   I think the word smorgasbord is Swedish.  I guess I do know quite a bit 🙂Image

Warmer Days

January 22, 2013

5433994329_cbae7ac14b_bI neglect this cooking blog horribly. More so than my other blogs. On this cold winter day I am reminded of warmer days. Happier days. I remember my mother and Hilda, a friend who lived to be 100, cooking rømmegrøt in the kitchen. Hilda also made rømmebrød, which looked like pie crust but tasted heavenly. She also made julekage. My mother didn’t make as many of the traditional Norwegian dishes but she did make some nameless Swedish puddings that she had learned from her grandmother. Also she had a fondness for limpa (Swedish rye bread), and she made jelly roll and oatmeal bars out of Saskatoon blueberries. When we held a hospice festival here on the farm, I set up a little Scandinavian bakery in the summer kitchen. We were going to sell treats like krumkake, lefse, the above-mentioned rømmebrød, and an aunt who isn’t even Scandinavian made a delicious Swedish flatbread with anise that she had researched. The neighbor who was a star attraction with her lefse refused to sit in the summer kitchen (not enough air in there). I had to set her up under a canopy outdoors so that knocked my Scandinavian bakery idea in the head. I also remember Hilda told me she had never made waffles. So I loaned her my waffle maker. She had me over for her waffles, which were kind of heavy, and confessed it wasn’t really her thing, and if I wanted the waffle maker back, I knew where it was. I never did go get it. I’m sure it’s still in her house. Waffle making isn’t my specialty either.

Scandinavian cookery

February 6, 2010

Scandinavian Cookie Recipes

“But Doris, towelled from the bath,
Enters padding on broad feet,
Bringing sal volatile
And a glass of brandy neat”.
T.S. Eliot
(1888-1965)  Poems.  1920

Spoken Norwegian can sound musical and lilting but the
phrase potet klub makes me cringe.    Well, I guess
potet klub sounds just as good as the English word
dumpling.   I wondered whether, when my small, white,
rural Minnesota Lutheran church planned its first
potet klub feed,   Some people might show up not
knowing that one or two dumplings (klubber?) served
with bacon on the side makes the average diner feel
like he/she is going to tip over.  I also questioned
the wisdom of calling it a feed, which brings to mind
faces chowing down at  a trough with no utensils.  But
the advertising was already on its way, and so I
turned my thoughts toward side dishes.  Let the
Norwegians take center stage but perhaps the other
Scandinavian cultures…Swedish, Danish, Finnish and
Icelandic….could be represented by lighter side
dishes:  soup, salad, bread, dessert.  (Have I
mentioned that the batter for potet klub has the heft
and consistency of wet concrete?)  My idea lost
something in the translation and it was printed in the
parish newsletter that the other item on the menu
would be Scandinavian pastries.  The word went out for
volunteer bakers.  Apparently there are five
recognized varieties of cookies:  spritz, krumkaker,
thumbprint cookies, sandbakkels, and fattigmann.
Anyway, those were the choices on the list.  I put my
name under krumkaker.

I was committed, I guess, but I had second thoughts
about krumkaker.  Everyone makes those.  It might be
fun, I thought, to research the subject of
Scandinavian cookies and bake one kind to represent
each country.  I sat down at my computer and typed
Danish cookie recipes into Google.  I found kringle,
fattigmandskager, smørfingre, fruekager, macroner, and
other suspiciously familiar sounding names.  So much
for that.  I tried Swedish cookie recipes.
Fattigmann, sandbakelser,  pepperkakor.   The
Icelandic site admitted that most of the recipes
originated in Denmark but had “acquired Icelandic
citizenship”.   The assurance that every Icelandic
homemaker bakes piparkökur for Christmas parallels the
Swedish claim to these gingerbread cookies with a
pinch of black pepper added.  (Try them with some
smörkrem.  Or try translating this:
Jòlakaka/Tebollur).

The Finnish recipes seemed more promising at first,
but giving myself a short course in basic culinary
Finnish I found a similar set of cookies based on
cream, butter, cardamom, almonds, rum, and ginger.   I
mean, piparkakut?  Talonpoikaskakut?  Finno-ugric and
Nordic languages may be worlds apart but they do
borrow from one another.  And it doesn’t take a
linguistics expert to get a picture of what a pannu
kakku looks like.  What I am trying to say, and saying
it very badly, is that it was impossible to find
recipes that were ethnically unique.

By the time I was through with research, I felt as
weary as though I had already baked and eaten all
these cookies.

Then, a memory from my childhood crept into my
consciousness.  My grandfather took a trip to visit
relatives in Sweden on the maiden voyage of the
Lusitania.  I  have inherited some of the souvenirs
from that trip.  When I was  ten years old, we (my
aunt and my mother and I) baked the cookies that were
made for him as a guest in his relatives’ homes in
Ostergotland.  We laughed and laughed, and vowed never
to make them again.   However, I have to admit those
were about the most delicious morsels I have ever
tasted.

The unique ingredient was hartshorn salt.

The name hartshorn is from a Saxon clan invited to
England by the Angles  to fight the native Picts and
Scots, after the fall of the Roman Empire.  The
hartshorn clan carried deer antlers on a pole as their
tribal emblem.  The historical significance of
hartshorn is that it is not just a deer antler but the
source of ammonia.  Another name for ammonia is
Spirits of Hartshorn.  Or, in other words.  smelling
salts.  Perhaps the early distillers of ammonia from
the scrapings of antlers were regarded as healer or
wizards for they could appear to bring the dead back
to life.  To this day there is a town named Hartshorne
in south Derbyshire, England, established upon the
land given to the Saxons by the local Angles as a
reward for their help.

Those cookies smelled strongly of home hair permanent
while baking.  It was an odor, believe it or not,
worse than lutefisk.   But were those cookies  ever
good!

Another name for the leavening agent is ammonium
bicarbonate, or baker’s ammonia.  And as smelling
salts, sal volatile.  Ammonium bicarbonate was
replaced by sodium bicarbonate in modern times but the
old recipes of many cultures, including Scandinavian,
German, Russian, Sicilian and others mention
“ammonia”, which imparts a unique crispness to the
baked product.