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.

Norwegian Flatbread

Flatbread (flatbrød) is a traditional Norwegian unleavened bread.  It is dry, flat and crispy and usually made for the Christmas season.  Flatbread can be made with any combination of flours, even pea flour and potato flour.  It was an essential part of the Norwegian diet for a thousand years, since the time of Vikings, but has now been replaced by commercial yeast bread.

Flatbread used to be the daily bread for farmers and peasants, during the Nordmenn times.  The word ‘flatbrød’ was mentioned for the first time in the stock books from the Bergen Manor in 1519.  It was noted that they had 14 barrels of flatbread from Sunnhordaland and the manor was told that the flatbread from Hardanger was baked on stone.

The technique and recipes of flatbread baking was passed on from generation to generation.  Women who could bake flatbread were highly regarded. On the West Coast it was said that there was ‘little care in the home if there isn’t a good stock of flatbread’ and that ‘there is not a married girl who does not know how to bake flatbread, spin and weave’.

Flatbread has been an important and valuable food source for Nordmenn.  Because the bread is formerly an ‘unfermented pastry’ it can be stored for long periods of time.  Nordmenn would have a day of flatbread baking in the autumn to prepare the winter stores.  The bread could be stored in barrels or stacked on shelves.  It usually lasted over a year and sometimes longer if the weather was dry.  Flatbread has been known to last 40 years!  It is said that the older the flatbread, the better the taste, just like wine.

Flatbread had different thickness qualities for different uses.  Thin crisp flatbread was commonly used for entertaining guests and was served with fine garnishes such as jam and soft cheeses.  The bread could be made thick and rough for a more hearty meal with soup and stews.

Flat bread making was an art form.  The bread was commonly rolled out to a millimeter thickness, a round disk of 60 cm in diameter.  A long stick was used to help pick up the large dough circle and lay it onto a large round hotplate over a fire for baking.  The baking was difficult as it was important to maintain a medium temperature under the plate – a hard task using fire as the heat source.  It was usual for the house wife to spend all day in the baking room.  It became very hot work so often it was the duty of the children to bring the housewife water and food regularly.  In Romsdal it was common for two ‘bakstekjerringer’ (baking wives) to share the work between them – one rolling out and the other baking off.

In the early 1900s, flatbread was commercially made.  This convenience started the end to the long baking tradition of flatbread.  Thick bread became popular in Norway especially after the great movement of people from WWII.  The tradition of flatbread has almost slipped away and there are only a few who carry on tradition in the home.  There is now only one major commercial producer of flatbread – Mors Flatbrød made by Stabburet.  It is sold in supermarkets in Norway and exported to the U.S.  The flatbread tradition is kept alive at heritage and folk museums and farms.  Today electric skillets for home baking and the flat sticks can also be bought at regular electrical appliance stores and you can buy skillets for open fires at camping stores.

However, you certainly don’t need all the fang-dangle equipment and flours to make flatbread at home.  The most thing that you will need is time.  We have already done our flatbread baking for the Christmas season and I must say it was much easier than pie!  There are many different recipes and flours you can use, but we did a simple version that worked very well with baking on our stove.

Flatbread recipe

The quantity below makes a lot of flatbread so you will have stocks for all of the Christmas season.  It can be stored in a dry cool place for a very long time.  Fresh flatbread is fine but it gets much better with age.  It is not necessary to make the traditional 60cm diameter size bread (most of us don’t have the traditional skillet for it).  Making frypan sized bread is more practical (and fits in your frypan…lol).  It is usual to break up the bread to eat it so the shape and size of the bread is not important.

750g brown flour
500g fine white flour
half a tablespoon of salt
1 litre of sour milk
barley flour for kneading

Mix dry ingredients together.  Fold in milk.  The mixture will naturally be a little wet like a paste more than a dough.  It is good to let the dough stand for a while but, of course, it won’t rise.

Sprinkle a good amount of barley on a clean bench and gently knead the dough to form a log.  Divide the dough into workable sizes.  If you are using a traditional skillet then you want about 200g of mixture to make a 60cm diameter flatbread.  We divided our dough to be small enough fit into the centre of our palm.  This meant they fit into our fry pans perfectly when rolled out.

Roll out a piece of dough, using more barley flour, into a very thin sheet.  The thinner it is the better.  All water needs to be evaporated from the dough while in the frypan – so if it is too thick it will burn beforehand.  Unfortunately when the dough is so thin it is hard to pick up.  We use our rolling pin, rolling up from the end, to pick up the dough and lay it on the frypan.  This is when a flat stick is handy when you are making 60cm flatbread.

The frypan needs to be at medium heat because essentially you are baking out the moisture.  Do not grease or use any oils on the frypan.  It needs to be dry.  Lay the rolled dough onto the pan.  It will take a minute or two to harden the bottom and then you can flip it over.  You can dust off the excess barley flour with a cooking brush.  If your dough becomes golden brown on both sides but the inside is still moist it means that the dough wasn’t rolled out thin enough.  Don’t worry, it is not a waste.  Take the flatbread off and put it on a wire rack – it can be finished off in the oven later.  If there is any barley flour left in the pan, just discard it before starting the next batch.

Then repeat – roll out, pan bake, brush away and set on rack.  We used three frypans at once to speed up the cooking time because there is a lot of dough.  And, we also used the Romedal method – Lilu and I rolled and Moose baked.

To finish off any pieces that didn’t quite dry out during the baking process, heat the oven to 100 degrees celsius.  Put the flatbread on a rack and into the oven to dry out more.  Monitor the crispness and then take them out to cool.

I have found that because hand rolled flatbread can be uneven sometimes parts of the bread can be a little chewy when fresh.  The best solution – leave it out to dry for a couple of days.  We did that for all of our bread.  Every day we nibble on a little piece, and every day the bread gets better and better.  It is true that flatbread needs to mature to be at its best.

Flatbread is broken up into pieces to be eaten.  It can be used as a side for soups and stews, especially fish.  For a meal it is common to use salty meats, jellied meat, jam, sour cream or mayonnaise, brown cheese and soft cheeses.  As a snack, the pieces are broken smaller to be used with berries, jam and cheese.  It is also good with dip and just plain with good butter.  The Viking way of eating flatbread is with cured ham and sour cream.  Flatbread can be broken up into bit size pieces and eaten as a breakfast cereal with milk and honey.

I have always wondered why Norwegians make their regular sandwiches with only a bottom layer of bread.  I swear it is because of the long standing tradition of flatbread with condiments piled on top.  (You can’t sandwich flatbread.)

As mentioned before, flatbread can be made with any variety of flour.  It is sometimes good to replace a little of these flours with wheat flour to help the dough form. These doughs were often put through a meat grinder to make them tougher otherwise they can be too loose to roll out. Here are some the basic traditional recipes:

Barley Flatbread
1kg of barley flour, 6oo mls of water and 1 teaspoon of salt.  (It is good to replace a little flour with wheat flour to help it fix.)

Oat Flatbread
1kg oat flour,  6oo mls of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. It can be useful to use a pasta machine to roll this dough out before the last thinning roll.  Bake on a lower heat.

Pea Flour Flatbread
1kg of pea flour,  400 mls of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  This one can get a little thick so cook on a low heat.

Combination Flatbread
300g each of oats, barley and rye flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 600 mls of water.  Roll in oat flour.

These recipes can also be adjusted to add in potato dough (which actually started the Lefsa tradition), butter and sugar for sweeter doughs and sometimes cardamon. I’m sure you can also experiment with different herds and spices too.

You can view more traditional flatbread baking pictures on the Norwegian digital museum website: flatbrødbaking

Teaching Job Openings in Stavanger, Norway for 2013

There are lots of teaching jobs in Norway but they all basically require Norwegian language skills at upper high school level. Sometimes if you are a language specialist you can get away with very little Norwegian.

Norway does have a few international schools with English as the main language of instruction. These are usually found in the bigger cities that have an international population due to the oil and mining industries. There is one particular international school in Stavanger that must be rotating their teachers this year because they are advertising for nearly every position possible in the school. So, if you are a QUALIFIED teacher and want to work in Norway without speaking Norwegian fluently, here is your chance!

Job advert from International School in Stavanger

Primary/Middle/High School Teachers

Every decision taken with a child-focus first. That simple sentence is an essential part of the ethos of International School of Stavanger, Norway. ISS, an independent, English-language, coeducational day school for over 800 students in grades Pre-school-Grade12 seeks certified applicants for tentative or firm openings for full-time/part-time positions. Candidates invited for teaching position interviews MUST hold current teacher certification and preferably have at least two years of successful, relevant teaching experience preferably in a Pre-School-Grade 12 international school. They must also either have or be eligible to apply for approval of their teaching qualifications through NOKUT, the Education Directorate or both as appropriate. The successful candidate for each position will be required to submit a police statement, following Norwegian law.

Because of the robust economy of the Stavanger Region, the International School of Stavanger is growing and has a need for a number of teachers.

For August, 2013:
Primary/Middle/High School Teachers: Art, Certified School Counselor, Drama, EAL, Economics, English, French, Geography, German, History, ICT, Mathematics, Music, Norwegian, Physical Education, Primary School Classroom Teachers, School Psychologist, Social Studies, Science, Spanish, Theory of Knowledge and Yearbook plus other potential teaching openings that may occur.
All School: Athletic Director, Librarian (must have professional librarian certification and experience.)

Immediate Openings:
Several of the full-time teaching positions noted above are open immediately or in January, 2013. Additionally, a part-time Science Lab Assistant position will be open in December.

In the high school teaching positions listed above, previous experience in International Baccalaureate and/or IGCSE is a definite preference. Written and spoken English fluency is a requirement for all positions, and experience teaching in an English-language international school environment is important. Strong extra-curricular involvement outside school hours is an expectation. Norwegian citizens are warmly welcomed to apply!

Candidates should send the following information:
-A letter of application
– A current resumé/CV
– A list of references with phone numbers and E-mail addresses

All the above materials should be scanned into one PDF attachment and sent to LDuevel@isstavanger.no
(For teaching positions, the school can ONLY consider applicants with earned university degrees, current teaching qualifications and school teaching certification. Individuals without those qualifications are respectfully asked not to apply as they cannot be considered for the teaching posts listed above.)

Interested candidates should send an application as soon as possible and no later than 3 December 2012. Candidates should note that, should an outstanding applicant be identified early in the search process, the school reserves the right to make an appointment before the deadline mentioned above. For this reason it is important that interested candidates apply at the earliest possible time.

Workplace: Stavanger
Job registered: 16.11.2012
Closing date for applications:03.12.2012

Good Luck!

Last Sun Day – Light Celebration

The last sun day is when we watch the sun for the last time in the year go down over the horizon. It doesn’t come up again until the end of January (where we live). We try to spend this day out doors making the most of the sun as it begins to slip away. There is a feeling of peaceful sadness, a melancholy, where you take in the beauty and wonder of nature but long to see the sun return again.

This day is marked by a lot of Norwegians. I see more cameras out on this day; people taking their last photos of the sun. People stop before getting in their cars to watch the last sunset, they go to the water’s edge to say good-bye and come out of their offices to see the last bit of sun sink under the darkness.

On the last day of sun is Lysmarkeringen, a light ceremony. It was started in 2009 by a group of teachers in Umeå, Sweden and the celebration has spread through Scandinavia. Since children are the light of our lives, the idea came to make preschool children more visible in society.

To celebrate, small children gather together in the city centre carrying glass lanterns.  This year in Alta the children set their lights down to create a path for pedestrians.

Even the smallest flame can light the way when joined together with others. The activity reminds us that children’s knowledge and creativity should be cherished as well as their desire to be seen and heard. Lysmakering is seen as a gift given by the small children to the city of Alta.

The children have prepared for this day by decorating their lanterns with stickers, paper mache, paint and glitter.

It is hoped that this celebration is spread all over the world to commemorate the wonderful lights our children shine.

After every light is set the children sing ‘We Light Our Lamps’. The children are then given reflectors for the darkness and a boller each as a thank you.

Norway doesn’t have a boller for this day, surprisingly.  The return of the sun has one with the solboller (sun bun), maybe I should invent a dark chocolate boller to commemorate the dark season?

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