Smultringer

smultringer

I’ve never liked ‘lard rings’ (smultringer) as they were always dry, heavy and gluggy and left an awful taste in your mouth.  The first time I went to a Norwegian shop I gasped ‘donuts’ and Moose just smirked.  Trying to eat them was a monstrous task.  Not only was I trying to impress Moose by liking his Norwegian food (I failed dismally in the end), but I was hoping the more I eat the better they would get.  For five years I never touched them again, until…

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For the first time I saw a donut van outside the shops selling made-on-the-spot donuts!  The van was bare except for one hard-working donut machine, one sitting chair and one rolly-polly ring maker.  You could buy icing coated donuts with sprinkles, chocolate coated donuts with nuts or cinnamon-sugar.  I was in ‘dunkin’ heaven!  or so I thought.  I ordered 10 plain donuts, thinking ‘plain’ meant with cinnamon and sugar but nope, they were naked donuts.  They looked kind of small in the bag and I just thought ‘Norwegian inflation’.  I hopped in the car and Moose got all excited ‘you bought ‘lard rings’!  I was very disappointed.  Before I could frown he had already dished out a ring to everyone in the car.  All I could do was shrug and say ‘Well, when in Norway…’.

The smultringer were absolutely fan-diddly-tastic!  They were lightly crispy on the outside, so delicately soft in the middle and just melted in your mouth.  They were better than any real donunt I could remember eating and they were naked!  We raced home to roll them in cinnamon-sugar while they were still warm.  Heaven!  I guess the moral of this story is: ‘freshly-made’ is always best in Norway’ or… store-bought smultringer are nasty!

Christmas in Our Fridge

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Our fridge is full of Christmas!

Food is the main ingredient of a Norwegian Christmas.  There are only certain foods eaten at Christmas time so I find that many Norwegians have a hard-core schedule of dinner plans to make sure all the favourites are addressed in one way or another.

Our family has a tradition of four Christmas dinners.  We start on little Christmas Eve, 23rd of December, and finish on Boxing Day.  It does sound like we eat a lot but we buy small portions of each meal to stop over consumption, otherwise by the fourth day we would be rolling around the house.  The four main dishes we have for our Christmas dinners are usually pinnekjøtt, ribbe, lutefisk and salmon.  However, this year, instead of the salmon we are going “Australian” with a cold spread of meat cuts, ham, cheeses and fruit for dinner.

So here are some of the typical Norwegian things waiting to be eaten at Christmas in our fridge:

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Berries are a Norwegian thing and thanks to importing we are able to have fresh berries at Christmas.  Before this most berries were preserved for the Christmas season as jams.  Nowadays many people freeze their fresh berries from the autumn for Christmas.  We have a whole freezer-tray full of Norwegian blueberries (bilberries).  Berries are important because they provide essential nutrients and vitamin C during the winter.

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Christmas yoghurt is a fairly new thing.  We’re trying the hazel nut, fig, chocolate and caramel flavours this year.  Apple and cinnamon is also a popular Christmas yoghurt flavour.

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Mustard herring is a bread spread or a side ‘salad’ to be eaten with a platter of other foods.  The more traditional version is the pickled herring, but Moose prefers the mustard one.

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Smoked trout is an everyday food often served with the standard Norwegian cold cut platter.  It is an alternative to salmon and has a milder flavour.  We usually have this for Christmas day breakfast on top of scrambled eggs and croissants.

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Pølse, the Norwegian frankfurter, is certainly a tradition at Christmas.  In Norway you have everyday pølser, and then there’s Christmas pølser which are much bigger and have different seasonings.  Pølser are usually served with the Christmas rib roast.  There are generally two types, a white pølse that has more pork meat, and a brown pølse that has more beef and usually smoked.  Moose prefers the Vassakorv, which is not necessarily a Christmas sausage but has a stronger flavour and firmer texture (aka, not as ‘cheap-flavoured’ as Christmas pølse).

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Christmas rib is a side of pork with good crackling skin.  The fattier the better.  I’d say it is THE traditional Christmas dinner in Norway.  Prior to your family Christmas dinner, you would have had already several party dinners with roast rib – work party, Christmas parties, community or sports club dinners.  It is usually served with Christmas pølse, gravy, and sauerkraut and boiled potatoes as sides.  Apples are becoming popular too.

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Pinnekjøtt is salted and dried lamb ribs.  It is quite expensive.  It is usually served with swede, potatoes and mustard.

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Lutefisk is dried cod soaked in caustic soda rehydrated by boiling.  It smells… it just smells.  This is not everyone’s favourite, but I find the North doesn’t mind this as much as the south, especially communities that have a history of fishing.  It is usually served with butter soaked bacon and mushy peas.  The sauce is highly dependent on geography – in the north they grate brown goats cheese on top, in the west they have a white sauce, and the south and east, a mustard sauce.

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This year we are introducing rack of lamb to our Christmas dinner line-up.  I got a little nostalgic when I saw it was from New Zealand.

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Swede is quite an important winter vegetable in Norway and is a feature at Christmas time.  It is a root vegetable that stores very well.  Swede provides important vitamin C during the dark season.  It is usually eaten mashed, sometimes with carrot.

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Strandaskinke is Norwegian cured ham similar to prosciutto.  It is a regular on any cold platter and works really well on pizza.  in-the-fridge-7

Cream and butter!  It wouldn’t be a Norwegian Christmas without them.  Two years back all the Swedes on their Low Carb diet created a Christmas-butter crisis.  Since, I’ve got into the habit of hoarding butter over Christmas to make sure we have enough to last!

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And what is this??   Well, today it is a smultringer mix (doughnut dough).  Every day we seem to have some sort of dough setting the the fridge – pepperkaker, kakemen, smultringer, etc.  Putting the dough in the fridge over night helps the mix to thicken and makes them turn out more fluffy when cooked.

Of course, there are a lot more other foods and dinner traditions from Norway – it all depends on geography and tradition.  Each county, each city, each town and even the group of houses on the other side of the river, all have their own traditions.  What’s your special Norwegian Christmas food tradition?

Bærums Verk

Bærums verk was a old iron smelting village on the Western outskirts of Oslo that has been refurbished into a shopping village.  It was built in 1641 in its current location.  It was the biggest iron plant in Norway in the 1700s and had a great impact during the Great Nordic war.

The smelter was shut down in 1964 but continued production in carpentry, making doors.  In the 1980s, the protected buildings, combined with award winning architecture and restoration work, made the foundation for a heritage shopping and craft hub.

The king of Denmark owned Bærums verk from 1610 to 1624.  The Norwegian Iron Company owned it from 1624 to 1640.  It closed down after a flood in 1638.  In 1641 the Dutchman, Gabriel Marcelis, became the new owner and moved the plant to its current location (and apprantly ran it much better with producing more pure iron).  The plant manufactured nails, cannons and cannonballs.

From 1664 the family Krefting ran the plant which then became the largest plant in Norway.  For four years it was then run by a holding company.  Conrad Clausen took over the plant in 1773 at the age of 18.  He included new modes of operation which led to the kiln being run all year round.  (Before they couldn’t run in winter because there wasn’t enough flowing water in the Lomma river.)   Clausen died at 31 after establishing a trade school at the location.  His widow ran the plant for a few years before it got sold to Peder Anker in 1791.

Anker reopened one of the old mines and rebuilt roads.  His son-in-law, Count Herman Wedel Jarlsberg, became the owner in 1824 before his son, Baron Harald Wedel Jarlsberg, took over the operation in 1840.  Harald was an educated naval officer and was the last person to run the plant by the old method.  He was also the Mayor of Bærum for several terms.

In 1898 the plant was turned into a co-op, which consisted of Baron Jarlsbergs’ heirs and Carl Otto Løvenskiold, who was also the Prime Minister of Norway at the time.  Løvenskoid was also a son-in-law and a newphew of Jarslberg.  At the time, it was not proper for young women to inherit business and Jarslberg only had three daughters.  Therefore he brought his son-in-laws into the inheritance to keep the money in the family.  The plant was later turned into a Limited Company and still is today, even though the smelter was closed down in 1964.

Apart from all the big name dropping, Bærums verk is a nice, casual place to visit for an afternoon.  It is a place where you can find Norwegian fine specialty stores mixed with craft and bric-a-brac stores.  They have a glass workshop where you can see the blowing and buy handmade goblets and trinkets.

The stores are packed with quirky items that certainly aren’t for minimalist tastes.  All sorts of ‘one-of-its-kind’ can be found.

Of course there are stores selling freshly made Norwegian treats such as smultringer, waffles and lefse – hot to go.

Often in winter there are reindeer rides for the kids too.

To get to Bærum is a 30 minute bus ride from Oslo bus terminal.

Bossekop Market

The Bossekop Market in Alta is a tradition that dates back to the 1400s.  It was made ‘official’ in 1836.  The Sami would make their way twice a year, in March and December, to Bossekop (Sami for Whale Bay) to sell products to traders.

Today the the market sells traditional Sami products as well as modern nicknacks.  You can find baskets, woolen felt shoes, reindeer meat and skins, Sami clothing and hand-made products.

This year they had lots of stalls and lots of products but where were all the people?  It might have been because of the cold snap, we had been braving -23C temps all week.  But on turning the corner, there they all were…

…lining up at the smultringer van.  Smultringer are ‘lard rings’ or a Norwegian donut.  They are best warm and covered in cinnamon sugar.  They were certainly going down well at the market.

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