There are a lot of Norwegian products and a lot of non-Norwegian products but all of them can be bought in Norway (well, Alta at least) and they all have a story behind them. Here are just some of the products and their stories in random order:
There are no real dips in Norway (not that I’ve found and believe me, I have been looking!). No Hummus, no roasted eggplant and brie, and I certainly cannot find any paté. There is a selection of powdered dips in the crisps section that you mix with sour cream but they taste real cheap. These cream cheese flavours, like the philly above, always have to do. (Though the tomato and goat cheese looks promising, but we’ll see.)
White julepølse is generally made out of pork. I didn’t know this until I brought the chicken and turkey pølser home and Moose said ‘that’s different’. Chicken and turkey meat is white, so you can see my logic. But at least I got it right with the brown julepølse (I bought that one too just in case) which are also made out of pork. The difference between white and brown julepølse (apart from the colour) is that white julepølse has more milk and spices in it. The brown one is plain. This meat is great at Christmas. For a quick fry up in the pan you can have a good meal in just minutes. Very handy during those pre-Christmas days.
Skinkestek is rolled ham. It can also be called juleskinke – Christmas ham. It is very hard to get a big ham in Norway. I’m used to having a whole leg complete with bone for Christmas but most hams here are boneless, cut and rolled into very small portions. I only saw one with a bone and it was very small for my liking. Roasted ham is eaten for Christmas here but is not as popular as rib or pinnekjøtt. But I’m sure this year roast ham is on the menu for many families. Early in December there was a big sale on fresh pork roasting rib. They were is abundance. Come Christmas there is now no rib left. The stores got over zealous and supplies ran out. For the last week there has been ‘rib-panic’ and there have been stories in the paper about the strife with no rib for Christmas. But we are lucky. I wasn’t going to buy rib til the last minute but Farmor planned ahead. We will have rib this Christmas.
Risgrøt (rice porrage) is a given for Christmas. Usually we don’t have time to wait to make it good so we don’t mind defecting to a packet brand. We prefer the plastic wraped grøt so we can boil the whole packet in water to make it warm. Sometimes when you heat it bare in a pot the rice can get slightly burnt and ruin the taste of the whole batch.
Fennel (fennikel) is not popular to use at Christmas so we are very lucky to have this. But it is popular to have with fish. We will be making a lemon and fennel bath for our salmon to soak in for a lovely fresh salad for Christmas lunch.
Swede (kålrot/kålrabi) is a regular any time of the year in Norway. It is usually boiled and mashed. At Christmas it goes well with strong salty meats like pinnekjøtt as it balances out the salt with its watery texture.
Salami is an everyday meat used on slices of bread with cheese and perhaps cucumber or capsicum. Chorizo, a Spanish type of pepperoni, is now very common in the stores. Salchicha is new and hotter than the average Norwegian would like. Over the last couple of years I’ve seen more spicier food creeping into the market. Eating “hot” is becoming trendy. There was a pizza ad on TV recently glorifying people who can eat “hot”. At first the main hot flavour was just taco but now other flavours are starting to become popular (thank goodness!) Maybe one day we will get some real African chilli sausage.
The camembert was my other choice. I wanted some brie but my regular store had run out over a week ago – every line! This camembert is a Norwegian product, not too bad, but could be better. Cheese has always been important in Norway but not delicate cheese. Being a farmer now we are very interested in what is happening in the food and farming industries. We have been reading about a few new goat farm enterprises down south that are making a go of it with goat’s cheese. I think Norway has great potenial for the ‘delicate’ market. The only place to go is up.
Cream! Norway uses cream for everything – cakes, stews, cookies, soups, and even on its own with a little bit of fruit for taste. However, Norway doesn’t seem to have any double cream. I found this out the hard way. My poor attempt at home-made truffles was very sad.
In Norway there is food cream (mat fløte) which is a lite cream and then there is whipping cream (krem fløte). But don’t let this fool you. The whipping cream isn’t real whipping cream. Well, not to me at least. I believe Norway has their namings all mixed up (a more regular occurance than you’d think). Mat fløte should be called ‘fatless’ or ‘lite’ cream and krem fløte should be called ‘single cream’. Then someone should produce real whipping cream and real double cream so all us try-hard home chefs can at least make Christmas truffles.
This buy was a mistake. I thought it was salmon. We were going to have lovely shaved salmon with scrambled eggs on lightly toasted crossants. Now we will be having trout and eggs on lightly toasted white bread (after I scoured the whole city for crossants finding out that the bakeries didn’t know what crossants were!)
Last Christmas I was in Oslo. A reader recommended a genuin Italian pizza resatuant to me. I ate there and it was absolutely wonderful! It is a post I still need to write, but seeing this parma made me home-sick for this pizza restaurant. I just had to be taken back there again, even if it is made from my own kitchen. I think this special parma pizza will be a Christmas tradition. After all the heavy eating, a light and fresh pizza will be just what the season ordered.
Fresh salmon! Wrapped in foil to keep it flipping. Salmon is a traditional Christmas meal for many Norwegians. It will be part of our light Christmas lunch.
Pork belly, bacon style. This is great to dice for all kinds of dishes. This particular bacon will be fried up with fresh buttery brussels sprouts and walnuts for a light, healthy side.
Convenient parsley. Norway is starting to become ‘convenient’. Before we left Norway in 2006 it was rare to see ‘convenient’ food – things pre-washed, pre-chopped and pre-packaged. In London we were flogged with it. When we returned to Norway we saw this ‘convenience’ slowly becoming more popular. The cut and bagged lettuces are going strong but things like sandwiches and cut fruit aren’t as popular. I’m not too sure about ‘convenient’ food. It feels like we are going back to the childhood stage where our mummies cut up all our food into little shapes so we would eat it. Half the fun of being an adult is hacking up a big watermelon and eating all the not-so-pretty-bits before the guests see.
Sweet potato. These are becoming a normality in stores – yippee! Most of the time they are shrivelled or mouldy but at least the Norwegian retailers are still trying. I buy them in support.
This is spreadable light brown cheese for kids. The flavour isn’t as strong as brown cheese and is a good starter for kids to take to the Norwegian classic. Our kids alternate between this and liverpaste for snacks. (Who ever thought that kids would eat brown cheese and liverpaste? But in Norway it is normal for kids to eat it… and LIKE it.)
In the door…
Burger dressing, curry mayo and Tran, the Norwegian fish oil answer to health and beating the blues.
More mayo, liquid stock, cocktail cherries for an Australian version of Christmas ham, fake whipping cream.
And even more mayo, lots of butter for cooking, caviar in a tube and parmesan cheese.
Lite milk and juice – 100% red grape juice and breakfast juice with oranges and carrots.
So where is all the ribbe, pinnekjøtt and lutefisk for a Norwegian Christmas? In Farmors fridge, of course!