When I say porridge – you say? Grød! No, no, no. Not grod. Grød. Listen.
When I say porridge – you say? Grød! At least the Danes do. Grød is porridge. To me, the word porridge conjures up visions of huge kettles of oatmeal that has been sitting out way too long at the breakfast buffet of your hotel when on a long weekend away with your son’s lacrosse team. Oh sorry. Just me? Maybe the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? I always steer clear. Of the “porridge.” Goopy. Soupy. Snotty. Oatmeal. Don’t get me wrong. I love oatmeal. But it isn’t porridge to me. It is oatmeal. And that stuff in the kettle? That is not oatmeal.
Here the Danes love porridge. Specifically risengrød. Rice porridge. When presented with new foods, I instinctually scroll through my mental rolodex of experiences and tastes. As you do when trying to make connections with that strange dish placed in front of you. The closest thing to risengrød that I have tried before would probably be rice pudding. In the States, it is a salad bar staple, but often gelatinous or potentially chunky. Now before you judge, not all American rice pudding is bad, but many can be. We do love the Trader Joe’s rice pudding straight from the container. Especially when served cold with cinnamon and nutmeg. Wait. Cold? Nutmeg? Did you say NUTMEG?!?! Records screeching silent. Looks of disdain. Utter shock and horror. You do NOT put nutmeg on risengrød, says my Danish friend. Oh. Ok. Duly noted. Thanks for the tip.
When we moved here two years ago, we found a tube of risengrød at the local Netto, a local market that I can only describe as a cross between Safeway, Tesco and the Dollar Store shoved inside the space of a 7-11. But Netto is an institution here. And a shopping experience it is. You either love it or you hate it. Or you grow to love it. Nothing is ever in the same place. There are boxes everywhere and there is nary a concern for presentation or atmosphere. Of any kind. But the prices are good. Very good. For Danish prices. Before arriving, I had read a little about Danish Christmas and knew that this tube at Netto was potentially a key player. It said Risengrød. That was an important Danish dish. You can see our first attempts at testing it here. Oh what we didn’t know that we didn’t even know at that time.
In Denmark, grød is a staple. (You’re still trying to say it correctly aren’t you? Keep trying.) You can eat grød for breakfast, lunch AND even dinner. Risengrød gets elevated status as a special dish at Christmas time. Think about it. Rice doesn’t grow here in Denmark. It was imported. You had to buy it. So if you normally made your daily grød from commonly grown grains like oats or rye or barley, rice was special. A treat. As was the exotic cinnamon which topped it. A risengrød was for Christmas. And when served at the beginning of the rich Danish Christmas dinner people filled up and it helped meter the costs of the more expensive dishes like the Duck and Roast Pork. Today, when modern Danes serve risengrød to their families, they make connections to history and those cultural roots. Those roots set in early, as most children have grown up with porridge for breakfast. It is comfort food in a bowl. And my family was eating it all wrong.
It should be served piping hot. With a “knob” of butter. And covered in cinnamon sugar. COVERED. Let the butter melt, but don’t stir it all in. Nibble like a Nisse from the edges. What’s a Nisse you ask? Those mischievous little sprites that live in the forest and help at the farm, but only if you treat them well. In December they move inside. Modern children place nissedør (doors) in their homes to allow the Nisse access. Leave them a little risengrød and they might leave a present in your boot. But forget and they might hide the toaster. Or move your shoes. They’ll play tricks to remind you. I can’t help but think that the “Elf on the Shelf” tradition has some roots with the nisse. Nisse love risengrød.
And risengrød has to be the perfect consistency. Recipes allow for any short grain rice, but Danes only use grødris. Follow a recipe. Keep stirring and stirring. Don’t walk away or the milk will burn. The rice shouldn’t be al dente, but definitely not mush. You want to feel the grains when you chew. It needs some tooth. Too much to take in? Not interested in making your own risengrød? But you are intrigued by this Danish tradition? Don’t worry. You can try it. At GRØD.
Yes. There is a restaurant that serves only porridge. In bowls. Piping hot. In fact, GRØD loves to claim that they were “the world’s first porridge bar.” You can visit the mother ship in Nørrebro on charming Jæggersborgade or in the glass market at Torvehallerne. Lucky for me, my Danish friend loves GRØD and we have one right here in our Østerbro neighborhood.
Today, we met for a bowl of the klassisk risengrød. Served just how she taught me. It’s simple. But homey. And definitely not soupy. Just right. Let the butter melt. Don’t stir it in. Warm and filling. Do I need it everyday? Probably not. But I would not say no to another bowl of porridge served hot.
A warmed spiced cider with elderflower.
Ready to nibble like Nisse?
My little Nisse, still not so sure.
GRØD serves many different kinds of porridge beyond the simple and traditional risengrød. They want to elevate what they believe a classic and elegant meal in a bowl. I will admit that last time I visited I enjoyed the curried lentil porridge. Been to GRØD? It is definitely worth seeking out. What did you try? This time of year – don’t miss the risengrød. Cozy Danish Christmas in a bowl.
WHERE TO FIND GRØD
Torvehallerne Glass Market
Hall 2, Stade 8A, Linnésgade 17
1362 Copenhagen K
Monday – Friday: 07.30-19-00
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00 to 18:00
Jægersborggade 50, kld. TV
DK-2200 Copenhagen N
Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00
Nordre Frihavnsgade 55,
2100 Copenhagen Ø
Monday – Friday: 7:30 to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00
Additional locations in Frederiksberg and on Jutland in Aarhus.
Winter isn’t coming. It’s here. In Scandinavia at least. Today in Copenhagen, it is cold and dark and damp. To me this is the worst. I’d rather have snow. But the Danes have an answer to combat these shortening days and less than desirable weather. It’s called hygge. You know it. You do. I have talked about it before. More than candles and cookies and cool Danish design, hygge is about creating a space that your community can well, commune in. It’s about moments. A feeling. For me, music helps to create that feeling.
Every year I create an alternative Christmas playlist. I love the classics and a carol sung by a choir or two, but music evolves and how I listen to it equally evolves. I like seeing where winter music can take me. And since I now live in Scandinavia – it makes sense that my musical tastes have been swayed by the locals. Let me sway you. Or rather – feel the sway of this beautiful music. I have created a playlist to help UP your Scandinavian winter hygge. I hope you enjoy.
Agnes Obel is a classically trained pianist and her music for me is an updated and modern version of George Winston’s December. I know – super dating myself there. But to be honest, I have not played George Winston since my sorority sisterhood nights in college. Don’t ask. It’s cringy, but sentimental at the same time. Not Agnes’ music though. Pure and gorgeous. Put this on your Scandi winter mixtape, bust out some candles. Light them all. Enjoy. With someone preferably. Now you’ve got hygge.
WHEN YOU TOLD ME IT WAS CHRISTMAS | BODEBrIXEN | Aarhus, DK
Something about this duo from Aarhus conjures the hours and hours and hours I used to listen to my Jesus & Mary Chain cassette on loop. In case you were wondering… YES. Yes it was a yellow Sony Sports Walkman. I’ve already dated myself. See above. Don’t judge. I love this song.
Mr Little Jeans, which might be my new favorite band name ever, is the lovechild of Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, who now calls LA home. Kicky, swingy and beautifully sung – try not to move to this one. I can feel the Norway AND the California is this fun holiday song.
Listening to Sys Bjerre sing about julefrokosts and brunkager in Danish is amusing and fun. The way she interjects English into the song is much like riding on the train with Danes. All of a sudden you are like, “HEY! I understood what they said!” Oh. Because that was English. Yep. I do understand though (a little too well) her sharing that her underwear don’t fit anymore from enjoying too many marcipan treats. Hahaha!
CODY – which stands for Come On Die Young are based right here in Copenhagen. Known for their own brand of Nordic gloom, this year’s julesang, Christmas song, is all about the angst that coming home for Christmas can bring. Reminiscent of Blitzen Trapper’s Christmas is Coming Soon! and Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal, I love CODY’s vibe and will probably be shouting their refrain all season – “It’s Christmas!” Check out the video to for a traditional Danish Christmas dinner too!
I do love a beautiful Swedish voice and local Alice hits us with hers. You know Malmö is like a suburb of Copenhagen right? (Shhh.. don’t tell the Swedes that!) Lilting and lovely, Be Mine will definitely notch up the hygge this winter. Snuggle in, but be ready to tap your toes.
Then you already know the Swedish group Caesars. Winter Song is from 2005, but it still holds a rich and full sound that is perfect for creating that Scandi hygge – and I find it means more for me now living here – “… running down the icy streets, trying to catch the last sunbeam.” I know it will hold a space on my indie Christmas list for a long time.
Dreams today | EFTERKLANG | Copenhagen, DK & BERLIN, DE
In Danish, Efterklang means echo or reverberation. Try to listen to this song and not feel it. Viscerally. I also love their song Modern Drift where the piano and drums push the music, pulling you along in slow and steady rhythm full of a sorrowful sweetness. Creative and evolving, Efterklang is Danish design put to sound.
No Scandi mixtape would be complete without some indielectric syntho pop. I love this one – a collab between long-time Norwegian friends and music producers Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Thomas Moen Hermansen. When grey days call for hygge socks and warm drinks, add this to your mix.
Ok, ok. So Klyne is not officially Scandinavian. But I have been asked if I speak Dutch after living here in Denmark. (I know, I was just as embarrassed as you!) Because of this, I offer you the tongue-in-cheek inclusion of this Dutch band Klyne. Once you listen – you’ll understand why. Warm energy, delicious beats and yummy vocals. Insta-hygge. The Dutch may call it “gezelligheid,” but it is similar in sentiment.
If you don’t know Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit – stop everything and look them up. Now. The soundtrack to my life across borders here in Denmark includes lots of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderbergs’ gorgeous harmonies and elegant lyrics. I adore My Silver Lining and Wolf. New Year’s Eve is no different. Written in 2012 – it seems especially pertinent for 2016.
Well it’s a new year, with it comes more than new fears.
Met a young man who was in tears, he asked me,
“What induces us to stay here?”
I said, “I don’t know much and I’m not lying,
But I think you just have to keep on trying.”
And I know I am naive, but if anything
That’s what’s going to save me
That’s what’s going to save me
Took a stroll around the neighborhood where the trees are swaying.
People passed in cars with their windows down, with a pop song playing.
A man walked by, walking back and forth the street with a drunken smile to go along.
He stopped to look at me and say, “Child, don’t fear doing things wrong.”
Yet I am still afraid but if anything
That’s what’s going to save me
That’s what’s going to save me
Now I have a lot to learn and I’m starting tonight,
Got to stop looking at things like they’re black and they’re white.
Got to write more songs of a little more, treat my friends better.
Got to stop worrying about everything to the letter.
And sometimes when it’s too hard to get up,
It just might be a little call apart.
But I find it hard to believe, but if anything
That’s what’s going to save me
That’s what’s going to save me
New Year’s Eve | Mø | Ubberud, DK & Copenhagen, DK
You may know Mø from her hit Final Song, she is crazy popular here. (And it is not pronounced Mo – see here for the artist pronouncing it herself. Try taking the oo’s in pool and add it’s closer to that.) This year, she has her own version of a New Year’s song – take a listen – her unique voice offers an honest message.
Thanks Erin – but what if I don’t want to click on every song by itself and make my own playlist. NO WORRIES. I already did that. You knew that right? I work in Spotify because I think it is awesomesauce and we got the no-ads version with our Danish phone contracts and when you connect with with Sonos you can play it all over your entire house. WHAT? I know. That was not a plug and I get no kinds of kick-back for saying any of that. But I LOVE it.
I don’t have Spotify though. It ok. Spotify offers a free version. Just after a few songs, you may have to listen to an ad. You can create playlists, share songs and connect with friends. Check it out.
Here’s my list – includes songs shared in this post along with other classic Danish juletunes. Did I miss one of your favorites? Or have another indie Scandi band favorite you need to share – PLEASE – I always am looking for new music. Cheers from Copenhagen and happy listening. Get your hygge on. Erin
Know someone who might enjoy these tunes? Share it!
In Denmark, you can add the word jule to everything and it becomes an instant Christmas creation. We hunt down juletræer – Christmas trees. Santa is the Christmas man – Julemanden. Much energy and effort go into creating julehygge – those cozy Christmassy moments with family and friends. You can buy julekaffe, Christmas coffee. Julethe, Christmas tea. Julekugler, Christmas balls. Julegaver, Christmas gifts.
But what to eat? That is called julemad. Hang on – wait! Don’t get mad! Mad means food in Danish. And it isn’t pronounced how you are probably thinking it might. It’s more like… “mehl.” But you don’t really pronounce the L. You kind of swallow it. What? I know. It’s complicated. Danish is like that. Don’t worry. Just enjoy. There is so much to enjoy about Danish Christmas. And the julemad, Danish Christmas food, they serve with it this time of year is delicious.
Being a small country, Danes are protective of their traditions. And for good reason. They are delightful. And tasty. Seriously. If you don’t think so, then you are eating at the wrong place. Or have the wrong chef. Or the wrong recipe. Ask people who know. People who love it. Love the traditions. Christmastime alone gives evidence of the very strong food culture here in Denmark.
What if you aren’t Danish? But you live in Denmark. What then? If you’re like me, you sample and try and taste and sip. Then some of us blog about it, sharing it with others. Luckily, there are lots of great writers, storytellers and photographers living around Copenhagen. I rounded up a group of remarkable foreign bloggers and I asked them all to share their favorite Danish julefood. Dansk julemad. Please enjoy the following anecdotes, recipes and images and be sure to check out their blogs as well! Without further ado, let me introduce you.
Caroline is a Canadian travel writer living in Copenhagen and starts our tour of Danish julefoods with a stop at Tivoli Gardens. All kinds of fun and charm at Christmas, Caroline shares her favorite tastes to try this time of year at Tivoli.
TASTES OF CHRISTMAS AT TIVOLI GARDENS
My favorite taste of the Danish festive season isn’t just about the food itself, but the experience. For me, the place to sample all of the delicious local goodies during the holidays is Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. Just before Christmas, Tivoli transforms into a winter wonderland, with a Nordic-style Christmas Market complete with every kind of festive treat. The smell of brændte mandler (hot caramelized almonds) wafts through the air, you can nibble on æbleskiver (fried dough balls with jam and cream), and you can warm up with a hot gløgg (mulled wine). You can even keep the souvenir mug! My favorite treat though is Tivoli’s version of the classic flæskesteg, a traditional sandwich made with thick slices of juicy pork, including the crunchy, salty crackling. Their modern take nestles the pork inside a rosemary focaccia roll and tops it with homemade relish and a tangy, creamy mustard dressing, along with the traditional red cabbage. To me, it has the taste of the holidays.
Melanie has lived in Denmark for over eight years, making the transition from England, with an interlude in Berlin. She knows well the ups and downs of relocating. Need help with your own move to the happiest place on earth? Melanie can help. Today, she is comforting us and helping us settle into Christmas with a little Danish doughnut. Homemade! When done right – these little puffs are delightful.
Delightful Danish doughnuts | ÆBLeskivers
This time of year in Copenhagen you can’t go anywhere without spotting that Danish yuletide staple of æbleskiver, delicious little apple filled (sort of) doughnuts. But did you know they are pretty easy to make at home once you get your hands on a cast iron æbleskiver pan?
I use this Trine Hahnemann recipe and I am told that it is a little fancier than other recipes but it is very easy to make the batter. As it uses yeast there is a little waiting time before you can fire up the pan and get started. But once you do they are super quick and easy to make. A knitting needle is the best way to turn them to ensure they are perfect rounds.
Once they are made, dust with icing sugar and serve warm with a little dollop of jam and a glass of gløgg, the Danish version of mulled wine. Perfect! Glædelig Jul!
2 teaspoons dry yeast
3½ cups lukewarm milk
3 cups plain wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons ground cardamom
2 whole vanilla pods
2 tablespoons caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 stick of butter for frying
1. In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk. In another mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and cardamom.
2. Slit the vanilla pods lengthways, scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife and add them to the dry ingredients along with the sugar.
3. Whisk the egg yolks into the milk mixture, using an electric mixer if possible. Add the dry ingredients and beat to make a dough.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold them into the dough.
5. Leave the batter to stand for 40 minutes.
6. Heat the æbleskiver pan over medium heat. Put a little butter in each indentation, and when it has melted pour in some of the batter. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden underneath, then turn the doughnuts over so they form a ball.
7. Continue frying for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining batter.
8. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve the æbleskiver in a serving dish. Serve icing sugar and raspberry jam on the side.
Hailing from South Africa, Rochelle has embraced the idea that Christmas in this hemisphere can be cozy and delicious despite the cold. Rochelle is a brilliant photographer and you can check out her portrait work here. She loves cooking and shares the iconic Danish risengrød. In Denmark, porridge as a meal is elevated to cult-like status. Learn how to make yours along with a quirky cooking technique passed on from the Danes.
RISengrød | warm rice porridge with cinnamon, sugar and butter
According to Danish folklore elves live in the lofts of every house and in the run up to Christmas, unless you give them risengrød, a cinnamon rice pudding, they will get up to mischief in and around the house. To keep them sweet you need to make them rice pudding on the 30th of November before the countdown to Christmas starts. Leave it out at night, include an elves beer, nisseøl, and they might just leave you a gift such as an advent calendar or the like.
120 g or 100 ml of arborio rice, paella rice or grød rice
200 ml boiling water
a pinch of sea salt
600 to 700 ml milk [ I use 700ml as I prefer mine milky and velvety]
1 whole cinnamon stick
a knob of butter per serving
brown sugar and grounded cinnamon to taste
Place your boiling water in a thick based saucepan and add your rice and pinch of salt.
Stir whilst boiling for approximately 2 minutes or until the water has reduced by half. This helps that the milk doesn’t burn to the pan.
Add your cinnamon stick and milk and bring to the boil all the while stirring with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon.
When boiling turn down to a simmer and place the lid on and leave it to simmer for about 35 to 40 minutes. Stir every so often to avoid burning.
Remove your cinnamon stick, serve and adorn with a knob of butter, grounded cinnamon and preferably brown sugar to taste.
Makes approximately 4 pudding servings or 2 main course servings.
I was recently told by some lovely Danish ladies that I could bring my milk to the boil and then wrap my pot with lid in newspaper and put it underneath my duvet. Leave it there for a minimum of an hour and a half and have ready-made rice pudding. This way apparently you don’t have to watch the pot or stir. And it carries on cooking under the duvet!
Naina is from Mumbai, India and brings a colorful and fresh approach to cooking, which she loves. Check out her blog for easy and gorgeous recipes that she wants every busy family to be able to make. I love that she is teaching her daughter traditional Indian AND traditional Danish recipes. HOW you make and serve your rice pudding at Christmas in Denmark divides opinion – you either have risengrød to start your meal OR you serve Risalamande for dessert. Try Naina’s recipe for the sweetened creamy dessert!
I’ve lived in Copenhagen for 9 years now and I must say the magic of Christmas in this wonderful city never gets old! The gorgeous Scandinavian decorations, never garish, always tasteful and the hyggelig candlelight are enough for me to slow down and ease into Yuletide.
One of my favorite Danish Christmas foods (besides the butter cookies) is Risalamande, a creamy rice and almond pudding, served with warm cherry sauce. It may not look like much and rice pudding may not sound grand enough for Christmas, but believe me, it is delicious and it is all about enjoying with your family and friends. And coming as I do from India, where rice is a part of every auspicious celebration, Risalamande does remind me of home 🙂 Oh, and did I mention there is a game involved?
1 cup short-grained white rice (risengrød or arborio work best)
½ cup water
1 liter milk
1 whole vanilla pod
150 grams peeled almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
500 ml heavy cream
Cherry sauce to serve
In a saucepan add the rice and the water. Boil it for about 2 minutes.
Add the milk to the pan and let it come to a boil while stirring.
Add the vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod. Also add the empty vanilla pod to the pudding as it adds a lot of flavor.
Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook the pudding on low heat.
The rice has a tendency to stick to the sauce pan, so remember to stir regularly.
Let it simmer for about 35 minutes.
Remove the vanilla beans. Let the porridge cool completely in the fridge before you proceed to make the Risalamande.
You can also make this porridge the previous day.
Coarsely chop the peeled almonds. If you like, you can toast the chopped almonds or add them directly to the porridge.
Mix the almonds and the sugar with the cooled porridge.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks.
Gently mix the whipped cream with the rice porridge.
The Risalamande is ready. Refrigerate till you are ready to serve.
Serve with warm Cherry Sauce.
Note: If you want to play the traditional Danish almond game (mandelgave), add a whole peeled almond to the Risalamande; whoever gets the whole almond wins a small prize.
Before I even moved to Denmark, I followed Laura’s Blog – The Copenhagen Tales. A German living here, I loved her clean, concise posts and gorgeous pictures. Here, Laura takes us to the Danish Julefrokost – or Christmas lunch – which includes a litany of dishes and courses. But she’s shared her favorite – curried herring – which she believes doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Make your own karrysild this year. Go on! It’s good!
When it comes to Danish Christmas food, herring is somewhat inevitable. No classic Danish julefrokost (Christmas lunch) would be complete without different types of sild (herring) – pickled, fried, or in a creamy sauce. Among Danes and expats alike, opinions are divided: some despise herring, while others, me included, absolutely love it and look forward to the couple of times a year we get to enjoy it. My personal favorite is karrysild, pickled herring in a creamy curry sauce, served on a slice of rye bread and often topped with an egg. Here’s my Danish grandma-in-law’s family recipe for traditional karrysild:
1 glass pickled herring (3 fillets)
150g good mayonnaise
200g Crème fraiche
1 red onion, cubed
2 small red apples, cubed
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp dill, chopped
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Drain the herring and cut into bite-size chunks. Blend mayonnaise, crème fraiche, curry powder and spices. Add apples, onions, and chives and mix well. Add the herring and mix to coat. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Serve on a slice of rye bread.
Because we are talking Christmas lunches, we have to discuss what Danes drink along with the karrysild and other Danish dishes. And more often than not, that is Snaps. Or Akvavit? But which is which? Are they different? Alex, a fellow American and traveler who loves sharing ways to integrate and connect with the Danes, is a great sport and explains here for us. The one caveat being – that he doesn’t really LOVE either! Thanks for educating us Alex. As he explained, “it wouldn’t be a Danish julefrokost without it!”
SNaps or akvavit | what to toast with at Danish Christmas lunch
The difference between akvavit and snaps is a confusing one, further confounded by the changing definitions from country to country and the fact that many use the two terms interchangeably. But, for Denmark akvavit (aquavit elsewhere) is a distinct, strong, alcohol most similar in profile to Vodka, but predominantly flavored with caraway, dill seeds and coriander. Danish snaps (schnapps elsewhere), on the other hand, is made by taking akvavit and then aging it and further flavoring it with ingredients like walnut, horseradish, lemon or chili.
As a result, while akvavit tends to come from a short list of Nordic distilleries, you have a wide variety of snaps types, strengths and flavor profiles with many Danes making their own. Akvavit has a minimum required alcohol % over 37, though most are closer to 45%. Snaps varies but usually falls in the 30-45% range. One thing’s for certain, snaps is a fundamental part of the Danish julefrokost tradition and a must try. Skål!
Make Mine mulled wine | Gløgg | Add spices, raisins and almonds
You didn’t think I was going to let you get away without sharing my favorite did you? I love the Danish Christmas Dinner, but that is only one night a year. It isn’t Danish Christmas season to me unless there is a glass or two of gløgg. Warm and spicy – it’s julehygge in a mug to me. And I like gløgg outside in the cold, wandering around a julemarked or warming up after traipsing through the fields to find your perfect fir juletræ. This recipe comes from Trine Hahnemann – a Danish Christmas ambassador herself. Her version is not so sweet, which I prefer.
GLØGG EXTRACT INGREDIENTS:
200ml blackcurrant juice
75ml lemon juice
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Cover. Bring to a boil, stirring to help sugar dissolve. Simmer for 30 minutes, drain through a sieve. Discard spices, store in sterilized bottles. Seal at once. Stored in a dark, cool place, this keeps for months.
But where’s the wine? Ha. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
TO MAKE YOUR GLØGG:
Take 1 – 750ml bottle red wine and add 250ml Gløgg extract. Combine and heat for 10 minutes. Add 150g blanched almonds coarsely chopped and 150g raisins. Serve with teaspoons to enjoy the nuts. (I personally skip the raisins, you may find them soggy and plump sitting at the bottom of my glass!)
I hope you might be inspired to make or try some of these lovely Danish Christmas treats this year. I will raise a mug to you! Skål! Cheers. And Glædelig Jul! Merry Christmas. With love from Copenhagen, Erin
This will be our third Christmas in Copenhagen. Wow – really? Yes. I know. It’s crazy. But true. And when you land in a country like Denmark at the beginning of December, Christmas becomes an iconic bookmark of sorts for your experiences here. This isn’t so bad. Danes love Christmas. Good thing I do too. And I truly love Danish Christmas.
Tonight I met a Dane who also loves Christmas. To be honest – I haven’t met a Dane that really doesn’t like Christmas yet, but Trine Hahnemann REALLY loves Christmas. Trine is a professional cook and cookbook author and tonight she shared stories, recipes and tastes of her own Danish Christmas. Thank you to Isabella Mousavizadeh-Smith, owner of Books and Company, an international book cafe in Hellerup, Denmark for hosting an evening with Trine to learn about her personal Scandinavian Christmas traditions.
2017 UPDATE: Meet Trine this season at Books & Company on Wednesday, December 6th from 19-21. RSVP for the event here.
Trine loves celebrating Christmas. For her it is more than the religious holiday. Like many Danes, holidays here have a rich and historic tradition that goes back even further than the arrival of Christianity to this part of the world. For her, Christmas is a way to celebrate the year that is ending. New Year’s is more of a look to the year ahead. But Christmas – this is a time to stop and take a pause. She believes that almost all cultures have a way of marking an end to each cycle. A natural way of stopping. Christmas is that for her. And for many Danes. And stop Danes do. Christmas takes up a full three days here. Shops close. The streets are quiet. People are together.
By the time December rolls around here in Denmark – it is dark. For me, it’s really dark. I’ve spoken of it before. There still a few weeks left before school lets out for our winterferie, or winter break. My children are now rising before the sun and coming home in the dark. By the winter solstice on December 21st, there will be only seven hours of daylight. Celebrating and feasting and communing is necessary and has been done at this time in Scandinavia since the Vikings and probably before. I might celebrate too if Ragnar Lothbrok was coming to my feast. (Sorry – I just started watching the HBO series, the Vikings. I’m a tiny bit obsessed. With the show people. Not Ragnar. But if Chris Hemsworth would ever make an appearance as Thor – put a fork in me. I’d be done. What a present. Merry Christmas and Glædelig Jul. Oh sorry, I digress.)
BEING PRESENT IN THE RITUALS OF CHRISTMAS
Christmas is a perfect time for being present in the ritual of celebrating the end of every year. Trine believes that we need to celebrate each year. Even the bad years. “Life is a roller coaster,” she says. We should enjoy the ride. Even the downs. And of course the ups. Christmas is that for her.
Her ritual, not unlike many Danes, is steadfast. She has a plan. A Jule template if you will. And it starts the four advent Sundays before the 24th of December. That is Danish Christmas you know. But what about the 25th you may wondering? Here, that is known as 2nd Christmas, when you visit the other side of the family. And the 26th is for 3rd Christmas – I guess a day dedicated to the familial outliers and outlaws or, as we refer to them in our family, the “in-law-in-laws.”
There is no “boxing day” here in Denmark. Only more ritual, tradition and FOOD. Lots and lots of rich and very specific food. For each part of it. Each day. Trine reminds us how much emotion we tie to specific food. And what eating that food can do to create community and connection and reinforce culture and tradition. Dare I say hygge. She doesn’t stray from recreating those quintessentially Danish Christmas foods every year. Her children know by now that they…
Don’t mess with Mama’s Christmas.”
– Trine Hahnemann
And why should they? It’s good. We got to sample some of Trine’s own rugbrød with hjemmelavet rullepølse. Homemade rolled pork. It is one of those things that I see in the shops often and am always a little squeamish and slightly suspicious of. What exactly IS in rullepølse? Tonight, I didn’t process it so much or think about it too intently. I just tried Trine’s. It was delicious. Especially when served on her chewy, dense, dark malted rye bread with a little mustard and pickled asier. Also known as marrow in the UK, asier is a member of the zucchini family available only for short time during late summer.
This gives you a small sense about how much planning goes into the traditional Danish Christmas meal. You have to start preparing and preserving and pickling when ingredients are in season. Luckily for you and me – if you didn’t know all the dishes necessary for each Danish Christmas days in advance – you can still buy most of the items from your local market. Even Trine will admit that the importance in attempting your Danish Christmas is to keep it fun. She wants you to enjoy the whole process. Keep it hyggeligt. So if this means prioritizing only some of the recipes, while including some ready made items, she is all for it. For you. She won’t be doing it. But she won’t judge you.
The base of the Danish Christmas menu is pretty standard across the board, as evidenced by the prevalence of the following items in EVERY grocer, butcher and market across Denmark. And while Trine will concede that there are some potential tweaks to the ritual menu even between different Danish families, she doesn’t stray from year to year. Does your family serve risengrød (rice porridge) to start? Or risalamande (a creamy sweetened rice pudding) served cold with warm cherry sauce and almonds for dessert? From what I have gleaned – it’s an either or for the Danes. And nary the tween shall meet – you don’t serve both. Your choice, tradition and conviction about where and what type of the rice porridge to serve is almost as serious as the consternation you’re sure to receive when you forget to put down the divider on the conveyer belt at the grocery store.
So what does Trine serve her family EVERY Christmas? Seriously. She isn’t joking. I told you she loves Christmas. Don’t mess with Mama’s Christmas.
TRINE HAHNEMANN’S TRADITIONAL DANISH CHRISTMAS MENU
Roast Pork with Crackling
Sautéed Red Cabbage
White Potatoes with Gravy
Risalamande with Hot Cherry Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with Clementines
Kale Salad with Pomegranate
She knows that the menu is rich and not exactly health conscious. But the Danes have an “everything in moderation, including moderation” approach when it comes to the holidays. Especially Christmas. This is a once a year meal. And she thinks it is worth waiting for. Enjoying. And sharing. This is julehygge. Cozy Christmas community. Danish style.
I had to laugh at her explaining the process for the caramel potatoes chastising those who thought you could leave this seemingly simple side dish to the end like an afterthought. Oh no. She said. Oh no. I thought. Cringing a bit in my folded chair, was she literally talking to me? How could she know about my last Christmas dinner? Gah. Ok. Ok. I admit it. I seriously messed up the caramel potatoes. Unrecognizable. To any Dane. For sure.
Now before you judge – I will tell you that I feel fairly adept at the roast pork now and can fashion a mostly moist and tasty duck. If you know me, you know I love to roast a duck.* I can handle the cookies and the chocolates and definitely the gløgg. Even the rice and red cabbage seem right. But the potatoes. Those christmassy caramel ones anyway. Utter FAIL.
Last Christmas, my darling Danish guests were sweet and took tastes. They wondered, out loud, if this was my American addition to their Danish meal tradition – the rest of which I’d apparently been successful at administering. Um. No. I said. Those are brunkartofler. Caramel potatoes. Nej. No they aren’t. Not really. Now I know. This year I’ll do better. I’ll prep and prepare and stir and stir and layer and layer. The golden buttery sugary layers of caramel for my Danish Christmas potatoes. Thank you Trine! Tusind tak!
Want Trine’s recipes for your own? You can pick up her Christmas cookbook at Books and Company in Hellerup along with her other titles focusing on Scandinavian Baking and Scandinavian Comfort Food. She is charming, effusive and engaging. If she comes to your town on tour, I recommend seeking her out. I can’t wait to try some of her techniques and more than one of her recipes.
A photo posted by Books & Company (@booksandcompanydk) on
Have you attempted the Danish Christmas dinner? Ok. Back up. Are you a Dane? Unfair advantage. Oh you aren’t? Have you? You have? How did it go? I’d love to hear your trials and tribulations around your Christmas table. I shared mine. Please do yours. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin
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*Roasting Ducks is somewhat of a hobby for University of Washington alumni. Especially this year. GO HUSKIES! WOOF!
When moving abroad – honoring your own family holiday traditions while sampling those of your new home can feel like a balancing act. Especially, in a country like Denmark. Small and fierce and proud of their heritage and customs – Jul is a set tradition that you don’t mess around with. Just ask any Dane you know – where Julemanden (Santa) is “from” and what he eats on Christmas Eve when leaving presents for your kids. Hint: it’s NOT the North Pole and there is nary a cookie. And the specific ritual and menu for the Julefrokost or Christmas dinner is not to be adapted, tweaked or innovated neither. No modern new Nordic cuisine here, this is tradition. Who would dare suggest wood ants on moss during Jul. And when do you celebrate Christmas in Denmark? December 24th of course.
Danes take their Christmas customs very seriously. And Christmas is somewhat of an obsession here – celebrated through the entire advent season. It makes sense as the days get shorter and shorter and darker and darker. We all need reasons to light candles and bake cookies and hang wreaths. I personally love the Dansk passion for tradition and family and community and when you are allowed in to share theirs, it is lovely. Sometimes intimate, sometimes raucous but always interesting. One Danish tradition I can completely get behind is the annual trip to cut the juletræ – your Christmas tree.
This is something that feels very familiar as we have always done this every year no matter where we have lived. From Michigan to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Texas to Oregon and now here in Denmark. And while we may be a little earlier than the average Scandi with our tree procurement and installation, I can highly recommend the experience. This was our second annual outing to one of the seriously most hyggeligt Christmas markets and tree farms in Nordsjælland – Rosendal Julemarked. You can take a historic train ride from Hellerup Station or Hillerød Station to reach Rosendal Farm in little Ålsgårde near Helsingnør. From the train depot, it is a short walk to the farm where you follow the tree-lined path down to the barn where all the Jule activity is happening.
There are chickens and roosters roaming around the pre-cut trees. Warm your hands on the open burners before grabbing a saw and heading out to the field if you want to pick your own. Wear boots as it can be very muddy.
There are only two kinds of trees available here – Nordmann Firs and Rødgrans (a traditional Spruce tree.) Being an Oregon girl from the land of towering Douglas fir trees – I always go for a fir. Scurry on out to the field and take a look. Just don’t let your wee lass get too fixated on any specific one only to be drawn to tears when that wasn’t the family’s selection (second year in a row). I do not negotiate with terrorists, but I am somewhat remiss to admit – I buckled and we took hers. Red-faced and muddy – with our heavy, green, fragrant fir in tow, we head back to the Julemarked.
Apparently hers was the one Juletræer without exception
Dansk Juletræer – Rosendal Julemarked
While Far (Dad) has them tie up the tree, we are welcome to explore the barn – there are bunnies to cuddle and round pink little piggies to pet. Small children might want to ride a pony or be pulled in a cart.
Walk in past the caught pheasants and deer for your dinner and be instantly charmed. Little white lights twinkle through the hay-lined market. Tucked in amidst baubles and trinkets and décor for your tree – small Julegaver (gifts) are sold – and everywhere wishes of “Glædelig Jul.”
Rosendal Julemarked – Ålsgårde, Denmark
Rosendal Julemarked – Ålsgårde, Denmark
Pheasants for sale
Julemarked is Danish for Christmas market and Rosendal’s is super hyggeligt
Glædelig Jul from Rosendal Julemarked
Julegaver and Christmas decorations at Rosendal Julemarked
Julegaver and Christmas decorations at Rosendal Julemarked
But more than the tree drama and fluffy lop bunnies, my favorite part of the Rosendal experience is the warm Gløgg* or Cocoa and fresh æbleskivers with jam and powdered sugar. You order per person, with three to an order, but they are so fluffy and yummy that you might need a second round. I’m not saying that we did. But YOU might. Cozy and candle lit, with a live roaring fire – the back hall of the market is a perfect respite. Our first year here our visit was timed closer to Christmas and the tables were packed. But this year, we had no trouble finding the perfect spot to enjoy this first Sunday of the advent season!
Æbleskivers and Gløgg or Varme Kakao
Delicious Æbleskivers and Gløgg or Varme Kakao
A quintessential Danish Jul experience. And while I can probably not pronounce Glædelig correctly – I can still wish you one. Glædelig Jul! Cheers from Copenhagen! – Erin