Hellstrøm is a Norwegian celebrity chef. Think Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay but with much less pep. Every year he has Christmas cooking specials on TV where he invites people to his cabin to cook a Christmas meal with them. The last episode he cooked the famous Norwegian pinnekjøtt dish.
Pinnekjøtt is made from the rib of mutton or lamb and it is dried and salted. It was prepared this way in long tradition so the meat from lamb season in Autumn could last until Christmas. To prepare for cooking, the meat is first soaked in water over night to rehydrate. It is then cooked in a pot of water with a layered stack of birch tree sticks. The meat practically lays on top of the sticks and is steamed through. This is the traditional way of making the dish and is in common usage today. However, this traditional practice has been dashed by Hellstrøm. Has one of Norway’s biggest Christmas traditions been done in?
Hellstrøm says that, firstly, the sticks used in the traditional method do not enhance flavour of the meat at all, as previously thought. Secondly, raising the meat above the water so it is mostly steamed does the meat injustice. The idea of the water is to take out all the saltiness and expose the delicate flavours of the lamb. Steaming the meat only enhances the salty taste and dilutes the lamb flavour.
Hellstrøm soaks his pinnekjøtt meat for at least a day to get rid of as much salt as he can. He refreshes the water often to help the process. He then places the meat straight into the bottom of the pot. He adds a vegetable broth with berries and spices and cooks the meat fully submerged for about an hour. He makes a swede mash and a butter sauce for the meat – the additions need to be a little bland as the flavour of the meat is still very powerful.
I have been making pinnekjøtt the traditional way for the last few years and, I must admit, even when using the best pinnekjøtt on the market, I have found the meat to be always too salty for my liking. I could only get through one little rib before hurling down a jug of water. This year I am happy to try Helstrøm’s method. I certainly think it will suit more delicate palates (and be a little more healthier too).
Norway is considered a very expensive country. It is estimated that in Norway products are 48% more expensive than the average in Europe. But still, I think Norway is the best country for sales and Christmas is no exception!!!
Come St Lucia day (13th of December) and a lot of the major stores go on sale. Yes, that is right, they go on sale two weeks BEFORE Christmas. It is logical really. In other countries it is a tradition for New Year sales (and we have that too here in Norway) but who wants to buy Christmas stuff after Christmas? The stores don’t want to have their last seasons’ Christmaswares sitting around in storage or have to return them to suppliers, so the smarter thing to do is to have a sale to get rid of all the un-bought stuff in time to be bought before Christmas.
Don’t believe that this could happen in one of the top two most expensive cities in the world (Oslo)? I’ve taken snapshots of websites today to prove it to you. These are just some of the stores found in most shopping centres around Norway. Sales average 50% on certain items but go up to 70% off. Amazing, huh? Sales in Scandinavia are better than what I have seen in any other Western country.
What is even more amazing is that after Christmas the same stores can go on sale for an extra 20% off on top of the already-reduced items. Yes, I can usually buy some things here after Christmas for 90% off! (Mainly little things, cooking-wares and clothes.) After Christmas is when all the other stores, like furniture and whites goods, join in the sale fest.
Christmas is a time of giving, and when giving, knowing that you have also saved, makes the season even more delightful.
Happy Christmas shopping!!!
Lucia buns, also called saffron buns and lussekatter in Norwegian, are part of the Lucia day celebrations in Norway. St Lucia day was brought to Norway when the Catholic church spread through out the land. This day was marked on the Primstav and was confused with the previous ‘devils’ night as the celebration fell on the darkest day of the year, and because the word Lucia was similar in name to Lucifer. In modern times the meaning of Lucia has returned to the Latin word, ‘light’.
When Norway became it’s own country, the older traditions such as St Lucia day from the old Swedish rule, were almost forgotten. However, after the wars, Norway gradually started re-celebrating Lucia day largely because of Swedish immigrants and the activity is now held in almost every kindergarten and primary school through out the country. To read more about the history and to get the recipe we used for our Lucia buns visit the post Saint Lucia Day.
Lucia buns have the name ‘katter’, (as in lussekatter), because of their curling shape or ‘cat tails’. (Cats were seen as a demonic creature during the Nordmen times.) Today the buns have many designs which incorporate the curled ends. Below are just a few common designs which I have discovered over the years:
Julegris – Christmas Pig
This is the most common design of Lucia buns.
Lussekatt – Lucia Cat
Gullvogn – Gold Wagon
Lussekake – Lucia Cake
Luciakrone – Lucia Crown
Prestens hår – Priest’s Hair
Soldatgutt – Solider Boy
Julekyse – Christmas Bonnet
Happy Lucia baking!