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!

Seven Sorts – Traditional Norwegian Christmas Cookies

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Seven Sorts refers to the seven traditional Norwegian Christmas cakes and cookies. However, there is a dispute about which seven are the original. There are actually over twenty to choose from. Below are a few of the most popular Seven Sorts:

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Pepperkaker (gingerbread)
Gingerbread is a cookie made of dried ginger, syrup and spice. The cookies are often decorated with icing and candy. In Norway it is used to make gingerbread houses and Christmas Tree decorations and there is great debate whether pepperkaker should be added to the seven sorts list.
Pepperkaker Recipe

Ingefærnøtter / peppernøtter (Ginger nuts)
This cookie is similar to a gingerbread dough. They are shaped into little balls and baked until hard – just like nuts.  These are very easy to make but do need time to sit.
Ingefærnøtter recipe

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Fattigmann (Poor Man)
These cookies are made with cream, about eight egg yolks and brandy, rolled and then deep fried.  It certainly doesn’t live up to its name.  This cookie is an old recipe that dates back more than 100 years.
Fattigmann Recipe

Krumkaker (Curved Cake)
This is a waffle cookie, cooked in a special griddle and then rolled into a cone shape. They are normally filled with whipped cream. These waffle cookies are nearly the same as waffle cones for ice cream – just smaller and more delicate.

Krumkaker Receipe 1

Krumkaker Recipe 2

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Kokosmakroner (Coconut Macaroons)
These meringue and coconut cookies, which are usually chewy when fresh, are the easiest of the seven sorts to make.
Kokosmakroner Recipe

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Goro (Well off)
These cookies are similar to the Fattigmann cookies but are cooked in a special griddle with a floral stamp. The cookies turn out rectangular and very flat with the floral design cooked into them.
Goro Recipe

Brune pinner (Brown Sticks)
This cookie is cooked as a flat log and then cut into fingers just out of the oven.

200g butter, 200g sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 tbs light syrup, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla sugar or a couple of drops of vanilla essence, 300g plain flour.
Topping: egg, pearl sugar, chopped almonds.

Method: oven 175ºC.  Beat butter and sugar.  Blend in the rest of the ingredients.  Knead and split into 4 logs.  Flatten the logs on a baking tray covered with baking paper.  Beat egg and brush on top of logs.  Sprinkle sugar and almonds.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.  Slice into fingers while warm.

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Tykklefser (Thick flat soft-bread)
This is a very soft cake, more like a pancake, made with sour milk and can be cooked in the oven rather than a hot plate like thin lefse. It is normally made into a sandwich filled with butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Tykklefser Recipe

Hjortetakk (Deer Antlers)
Similar to lefser, Deer Antlers is named after the raising agent hartshorn salt, also called ammonium bicarbonate. It does make the kitchen smell of ammonia while they bake but the cookies turn out delicious.
Hjortetakk Recipe

Serinakaker
A very simple cookie; this one isn’t on everyones list of seven sorts.  It is usually topped with chopped almonds.

150g butter, 250g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp vanilla sugar or a couple of drops of vanilla essence, 100g sugar, 1 egg
Topping: beaten egg, chopped almonds and pearl sugar

Oven 175ºC.  Rub butter into flour, baking powder and vanilla.  Add sugar and beaten egg.  Work the dough together into a sausage.  Cut into equal portions and roll into little balls.  Place balls on an oven tray with baking paper.  Press a little, brush with egg and sprinkle on almonds and sugar.  Bake for 12 minutes or until golden.

seven-sorts-serinakaker

Sandkake (Sand Cakes)
Sand cakes are a simple short cake that is baked in little cup molds. They are sometimes filled with jam, jelly or fruit and cream.
Sandkake Recipe

seven-sorts-sandkaker

Sirupsnipper (Syrup Snaps)
These are similar to gingerbread but with more sugar to make them sweeter and very crunchy. The are dimond shaped and usually decorated with a peeled almond.
Sirupsnipper Recipe

seven-sorts-sirupsnipper

Julestjerner (Christmas Stars)
Christmas Stars are a traditional shortbread cookie.  They are cut into stars and it is custom to decorate them with chopped almonds.  Julestjerner are very similar to Serinakaker.

Christmas Stars recipe

Christmas-stars-1

Berlinerkranser (Berlin Rings)
A shortbread that uses a cooked egg yolk to thicken the dough.

2 hard boiled egg yolks, 2 raw egg yolks, 125g sugar, 300g flour, 250g butter
Topping: egg white and pearl sugar

Oven 175.  Mix hard boiled and raw egg yolks together.  Add sugar, beat well.  Add flour and soft butter, alternating.  Leave to cool for a few hours.  Roll into thin 5 inch long sausages and form into rings, crossing the ends.  Brush with egg white and sprinkle over pearl sugar.  Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Kransekaker (Circle Cake)
Kransekaker is a ring cake made with alomonds, powdered sugar and egg whites.  It is decorated with a zig-zag of icing to keep the layers fixed.  As a seven sort it is made into fingers.  Usually left plain, kransefingers can be decorated on the end with chocolate and sprinkles.

Kransekaker fingers

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kranse-kaker-stick-plater

It is common to serve seven sorts on a tier tray in the middle of the table during festivities at Christmas.  They are used to accompany coffee or as a daily nibble.  Many of the cookies such as pepperkaker, peppernøtter, macaroons and kransefinger can sit out for several days.

seven-sorts-tray

It is fun to have a good selection of seven sorts but making seven batches means a lot of time and a lot of cookies.  What we do is set aside two hours of ‘make and bake’ time as a family activity.  We only make 1/4 recipes.  It means we make only six to eight cookies of each variety (instead of the standard 24).  Many of the recipes use the same ingredients so if you plan it well you can share almonds, eggs, yolks and cream.  The order that works best for us is:

We make sirupsnipper, ingefærnøtter, sandkaker and serinakaker and put them outside in the snow to cool.  Recipes say leave over night but we find that isn’t necessary.  They are out in the cold until we are finished cooking the other cookies first.  If you don’t have an Arctic winter outside then the fridge is perfectly fine too (we just find we never have room in the fridge this time of year!)  Next, we make the krumkaker and berlinerkranser because they need to rest for 30 minutes to thicken.  Then we make brune pinner and the easiest, macaroons.  After, the cooled doughs are rolled and baked.  We call these our seven sorts of eight!

That doesn’t mean we miss out on the other seven sorts – usually we have already made pepperkaker by the first Sunday of Advent for our Christmas tree decorations, so there is no need to bake more here.  And kransekaker is such an everyday cookie/cake that it is easier to buy the ready-made dough, roll and bake.  Goro wouldn’t be the same without the iconic print, and since we don’t have the special griddle, we don’t bother as the dough/flavour is very similar to krumkaker anyway.  Later on in the season we may make smultringer and hjortetakk together as they need frying.  The one we would normally skip is fattigmann because that needs 8 egg yolks and cognac!

One thing that you may have noticed about the seven sorts is that there is no chocolate.  The light cookies are the short breads and the dark cookies are the ginger breads.  Chocolate is not a traditional Norwegian ingredient or treat at Christmas.  It is a modern addition but has not moved into the seven sorts arena.

There are also several cakes and treats that have become Christmas usuals in Norway, and we will certainly be making them too!

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.

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