Smör, ost och sill bord (butter, cheese and herring table)

This post is courtesy of Patrice Johnson, friend of Ingebretsen’s and valued guest blogger.  Enjoy!

Patrice Johnson

Minnesota was once host to several smörgåsbord restaurants before 1970s trends changed the supper club and dining scene. Remember the Jolly Troll? I don’t remember the food or the buffet, but I do recall pressing my nose up against the glass to watch the animated trolls that served as the décor.

Smörgåsbord translates to “sandwich table” or “bread and butter table” and is the obese grandchild of a fashionable grandmother known as the brännvinsbord (the burning wine table or spirits table). In the 1700s the brännvinsbord was popular with wealthy Swedes who served the appetizer buffet before elaborate banquets. The table was laden with bread and butter, salted and cured fish, meat, cheese, beer and aquavit. Guests served themselves and stood as they ate, drank, and socialized.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries it became common to present all food to be served during the meal on the table upon eating commencement (not unlike what we refer to as service family style). The modern smörgåsbord spread from these customs during the 1880s when travel by train increased as did the need for lodging and public dining. Moreover, new methods in food preservation allowed an abundant feast where out-of-season delicacies appeared alongside seasonal specialties. The popularity of smörgåsbord grew until WWII when, due to food shortages, the government prohibited it. Reinstituted in 1949, several decades passed before the smörgåsbord was again a national activity.

Now that I am an adult I am a stickler for smörgåsbord tradition. There must be a first course table with what I call the big money items: assorted herring dishes, gravlax and poached salmon, shrimps, boiled potatoes with dill, cheese, pickles, bread and crispbread (knäckebröd), all washed down with beer and shots of aquavit. The second course table includes cold dishes such as cold cuts, sausages, ham, pâtés, and salad. The third course table is known as the hot course and often includes meatballs, seasonal roasts, and Jansson’s Temptation (a potato, onion, and sweet anchovy casserole also known as Janssons frestelse). Lingonberries and warm vegetables also make appearances. Beer and aquavit continue to flow until the final table is visited. The final course is a dessert table loaded with an assortment of pastries, cakes, puddings, cookies, fruits, and occasionally cheese. This is also the time for a sobering cup or two of coffee.

(A gentle word on behavior I’ve witnessed at local smörgåsbord events: there are rules to be followed. Please change your plate for each new course. Do not overlap courses. Do not load your plate. As I mentioned, I am a bit of a stickler.)

Brännvinsbord  is alive today in that first big money course of smörgåsbord. Often referred to as Smör Ost och Sill Bord (butter, cheese and herring table), this unique spread can make your next brunch or cocktail party fun and unique. An updated SOS table perfect for entertaining and adapts well to seasons.

Spring is coming, I promise, and my spring SOS table will include pickled asparagus and ramps, boiled eggs with lemon and chive mashed yolks and caviar-topped, at least two kinds of pickled herring, gravlax kissed with beets, dilled new potatoes and cucumber salad, cheese and accoutrements, and local beer and Gamle Ode aquavit. The focus of my spring SOS will be small pots of brandade to be spread on good rye bread. The promise of this meal has me powering through lent.

Think of brandade de morue as fish and chips Provencal. Brandade is a puree of reconstituted salted cod, potato, and aromatics. It is especially popular in regions where commercial salt cod is available, such as in the Mediterranean. Home-salted cod is a satisfying substitute, and happily this simple yet glamorous dish plays well with Scandinavian flavors.

Serve the pots hot with bread or crackers or spread the pâté uncooked over crostini, garnish with the almonds and herbs, bake 10 minutes, and then pass a serving tray among your cocktail party guests. For a less formal snack, roll chilled brandade into balls and coat with egg wash and bread crumbs, then fry.

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Brandade Recipe

Servings: 12

Ingredients

1 pound cod
1 cup Kosher salt if making your own salt cod.
4 cups almond milk
Zest from two lemons and one orange
Fresh cracked pepper
Three sprigs thyme or dill, plus more for garnish
1 small white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed but not minced
1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg plus more for garnish
1/2 to 3/4 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 to 3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or cream
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice from half a lemon

¾ cup sliced almonds
1 lemon, seeded and cut into 12 pieces

1 orange, seeded and cut into 12 pieces

Directions
1. Cover fresh cod completely in salt and refrigerate 24 to 48 hours if making your own salt cod. Soak in clear water if using salt cod. Soak 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Change the water 2 to 3 times.

2. Remove cod from refrigerator and rinse very well with cold water; pat dry with paper towels.

3. Add milk, zest, pepper, thyme or dill, onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg to bread loaf pan; place in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Add cod to hot milk and return to oven. Oven-poach fish for 10 to 12 minutes or until flaky and tender.

4. While cod poaches, cook potatoes in unseasoned water until tender; drain. Push cooled potatoes through ricer or food mill.

5. Remove cod from poaching liquid and cool. Remove any bones and skin; flake flesh as fine as possible.

6. Combine potatoes and cod; add eggs and mix well. Fold in olive oil and lemon juice.

7. Divide mixture evenly into 12 buttered ramekins. Garnish each ramekin with 1 tablespoon of almonds, thyme or dill, and nutmeg. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with lemon and orange wedges and thin slices of toasted bread.

 

–Patrice Johnson

Generations of Quality

The magnificent silver brooches you see women wearing with their bunads, the Norwegian national costumes, are called sølje. The dangling spoons were once thought to deflect evil from the wearer; they protected one from trolls and other dangers, especially in times of transition. It was a loving gift to babies and brides.

Round Sølje Brooch

Round Sølje Brooch

Elisabeth Sleire-Gjerde, silversmith and a representative of Silver of Norway, one of our sources for jewelry, will be at Ingebretsen’s on Thursday, March 20 from 10 am to 2 pm. We appreciate her coming to the store, especially because we can’t imagine leaving a home as lovely as she describes.

Elisabeth i bunad

Elisabeth says, “I am the fourth generation goldsmith, working together with my mom. We design and handcraft all of our design jewelry, in our workshop in Norway. I am 40-years old, have three children and married to my husband, Thomas. We live in the countryside, with a small mountain behind our house, and a beautiful fjord as our view from the house. My mom and dad have a house right next door to us.”

This idyllic setting surely must inspire Elisabeth and her mother as they design and craft sølje. She shared some background on making this traditional jewelry:

The other characteristic of sølje, besides the spoons, is the intricate silver filigree work. Filigree is thin silver treads combined together in different designs and techniques. A filigree worker may work with silversmiths, goldsmiths or in separate workshops.

In Norway, we associate filigree with the Sølje for the national costumes. However, filigree is also used in other jewelry, such as bracelets, necklaces and earrings. The technique has been used for thousands of years, especially in Asia and the Latin countries.

Filigree artisans need the ability of accuracy, the good touch and good vision. We consider our work important; we are protecting our inheritance ad our culture. A filigree worker should have good knowledge of the filigree history, and our nation’s history.

Elisabeth has much more to share about sølje. Please stop by and chat with her this Thursday and learn more about the rich heritage of Norwegian silversmithing.

Skål to Aquavit!

Subtitles were rarely brief in 1616. An early Danish cookbook was no exception. Simply named Cookbook, the subtitle told all: Containing A hundred useful pieces, Which are about brewing, baking, cooking, aquavit and mead to make, as is useful in householding & which before not in our Danish Language is issued in print.

The subtitle had more information about the book’s contents than it had advice on smoked meats, a staple in Nordic cuisine. For those, the author simply stated, “Salt food, smoked ham, meat, tongue, mutton, goose to cook surely everyone knows how to cook, thereof we will write nothing.” Nothing like a side dish of shame for the poor soul who wanted guidance on how to prepare mutton.

Aquavit, though, that was something different. Not only did aquavit merit its own chapter, the author listed 13 cures and healthful benefits one gained from it. I was intrigued by #4 on the list: “If a man loses his speech near death, then give him aquavit in his mouth, and he immediately speaks.” This statement seems to beg for a punch line. I will let you, gentle reader, supply that. But you must admit, if any substance could be so reviving, it is likely to be aquavit.

The benefit that really caught my interest was the last one on the list. “He who rubs the skin on his head and face with aquavit has always beautiful skin, strengthens the mind and brain.” I asked Patrice Johnson, food historian and writer, if she had heard of the wondrous cosmetic properties of aquavit. “No,” she said, “but my face sure turns red when I drink it.”

Patrice Johnson

Mike McCarron, creator of Gamle Ode Aquavit, also said he had never heard of using it as facial tonic, but he didn’t rule it out as a possibility. “Remember the whole idea behind aquavit being the water of life was that it was safer to drink than regular water, so I suppose that would extend into other uses of water like bathing and washing up.  At the very least it would create enough of a marketing angle that an earlier era salesman could create a market for the product…maybe better than snake oil,” he said.

Mike McCarron

Mike suggested sticking to tried and true uses of aquavit – drink it with friends and stay warm in the winter. To that end, he shared the following recipe:

Det Sista Ordet  (Swedish for “the last word”)

Det sista ordet

This cocktail is a Dill Aquavit variation on a classic cocktail from the 1920s.

  • 1 oz. Gamle Ode
  • .75 oz. Lime Juice
  • .75 oz. Chartreuse
  • .5 oz. Maraschino
  • .25 oz. Simple Syrup

Instructions: Shake over ice and strain.

Garnish with a lime wheel.

The Cookbook author did counsel moderation when drinking aquavit. The traditional small glasses certainly help with that. Over the centuries, many beautiful and creative aquavit glasses have been designed to let you enjoy your drink in moderation and with style.

Gene Tokheim of Tokheim Pottery has a contemporary aquavit glass using a very ancient form, the fjord horse. His wife Lucy told the story behind the cup’s creation, “Gene’s sculptural side was delighted with the horse head form that we spotted on a gorgeous ale bowl in the Vesterheim collection. Our version of the ale bowl with horse head handles was a big leap into the world of Scandinavian folk art which inspired our other applications with the horse head form.  One of the latest of these is our very small mug with fjord horse form as a handle, perfect for espresso or aquavit.”

The Tokhiem Pottery horse-head mug is rustic, fits nicely into your hand, and just seems right for sitting by a fire with friends, creating the sense of hygge that keeps Danes so happy all the time. For the aquavit drinker who wants to enjoy friends while dancing to techno, SagaForm designer Matz Borgström created a line of aquavit glasses called appropriately, “Club.” Modern, colorful, playful, the glasses are surprisingly hefty and well balanced. Borgström rounds out his career as a designer with being a Techno and House DJ and he clearly understands the need to keep your drink from toppling over, regardless of what is happening around you.

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The choice of aquavits and aquavit glasses are many. But the effect is always the same. I think the Cookbook author would be pleased that this centuries-old drink is still popular and it still brings people together, all with beautiful skin and strengthened minds and brains.

Accomplished Lady's Delight

For people who love historical cookbooks, please visit Gherkins and Tomatoes for many more resources.
For those of you who want a Danish cookbook that doesn’t assume that you already know how to cook a goose, we suggest Danish Touches.

–Carstens Smith

Munch: “The Scream” Resonates Even More Today

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is not the most famous painting in the world. That honor, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, goes to the “ Mona Lisa.” I won’t argue with the editors of the venerable compendium. They have a 246-year history of studying such things very carefully. But “The Scream” is gaining greater recognition in a world where we feel more like the distorted man on the bridge than the ever-serene La Gioconda.

Besides, “The Scream” makes a better finger puppet.

screamfingerpuppit

Ever since the Dadaist movement in the beginning of the 20th Century, mocking influential images has been a lively sport in the art world and popular culture. Munch is a favorite target.

I asked Mary Jo Thorsheim, owner of Norway Art and an authority on Munch, why “The Scream” is so popular. She explained Edvard Munch was a symbolist painter. “Symbolists looked at the inner mind and reached into our emotional landscape. The background in “The Scream” represents Munch’s state of mind,” says Mary Jo. “Munch doesn’t have the kind of appeal where people buy prints and have the image in their homes. But when the national exhibit was on tour, the lines at museums were out the door,” she says. The simple, powerful forms of Munch’s art speaks directly to our emotional selves.

Munch was reviled by critics in his own era. But Munch’s visual language is more easily read by people today. We live a life surrounded by icons and images. We understand Munch’s imagery.

Ingebretsen’s carries a variety of “The Scream” themed items. Many of these items are from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, a company that says on its web site, “…, we have discovered that people seem to really like the giants of our culture reduced to little finger puppets, mugs and witty jokes.” I asked one of the Guild’s Deep Thinkers (my title for him) Jay Stern why he thought “The Scream” was so popular.

The painting was stolen twice, after all.

Jay said, “As an iconic image, it’s taken on more and more weight over the years as it’s held up as the epitome of expressionistic imagery. And it’s also been an object of kitsch and fun, which has only made it more iconic and recognizable. As a result, “The Scream” has become a shorthand image of existential angst. It can be both horrifying and hilarious depending on the context.”

Think MacCaulay Culkin and Home Alone.

Munch’s life was a litany of loss. He endured the death of family members, the mental illness of a sister, isolation, depression, and substance abuse. “The Scream” represents his decades of grief and anxiety. But our era has adopted the image to express daily reactions to experiences such as traffic congestion, raising teenagers, and the pain of opening one’s wallet and parting with precious cash.

The Screaming Scream wallet is Jay Stern’s current favorite item. “Every time you open the wallet, you hear a different existential scream. Hilarious,” he says, “Plus the colors and patterns of the painting transfer nicely to the wallet design.”

the-scream-wallet

I find “The Scream” coffee cup, permanently parked next to my computer, a particularly good friend. There are few things that cause me to feel so completely meaningless as realizing I’ve just spent an hour battling an operating system and am on the losing side. “The Scream,” the ultimate symbol of existential isolation, reminds me that I’m not alone.

scream-mug

How would Munch react to our use of his painting? I like to think that someone who suffered so much in his own life would be pleased that he has added some humor to ours. Or maybe he would just scream.

–Carstens Smith

Cardamom, the backbone of northern European baking

Cardamam-Seeds-Flower

By the early 1970s, the tiny Scandinavian and German grocery stores in my hometown (some housed in attached garages, which was very handy for neighborhood customers but probably a bit dubious from a food safety standpoint) had been put out of business by the chain stores. The rich ethnic spices and flavorings carried by these tiny stores were gone. The available spices were now limited to cinnamon, Italian Blend, and dried parsley. The local A&P stocked basil for culinary rogues and daredevils. Cardamom, the backbone of northern European baking, was not to be found.

A terribly earnest sixth-grader, I was determined to complete a 4-H project of baking a series of Scandinavian holiday recipes, and cardamom was requisite. I pleaded with the owner of the last remaining independent grocery store to special order cardamom for me. Mr. Schuetz explained that it would take a while, it would be expensive, and he really didn’t think it was a good idea since, “no one used it anymore.” But I didn’t care about expense (translated: my mother would pay for it) and I persisted.

A few weeks later the tin of McCormick’s cardamom arrived and I put the princely sum of $7 ($42.04 in 2013 dollars, according to the Consumer Price Index) on my mother’s tab and I went home to start baking. Soon there was a succession of 4-H ribbons, thorough evaluations from the home extension advisor, and rueful comments from my mother, who had underwritten this whole undertaking. But even my frugal mother admitted that nothing compared to the citrusy, bright quality of cardamom and maybe, just maybe, it was worth the expense to get the real thing.

The forward march of progress has brought us Skype, infomercials, and the ready availability of cardamom. Ingebretsen’s carries it in three forms: cardamom seed, $4 for .6 oz, cardamom sugar, $6 for 3.7 oz, and l.c. finn’s cardamom extract, $8.95 for 1 oz.  These are $4, $6, and $8.95 respectively in 2013 dollars. (Not all things were better in the 70s.)

cardamom-extract

Lee Zwiefelhofer is the owner of l.c. finn’s and the extract brewer. He says, “Keeping cardamom affordable was one of my goals. The advantage of the extract is that the flavor is going to remain and not go bad. You don’t waste what you don’t use immediately, which is a problem with ground cardamom.”

Lee understands that many of us would like to be foodies, or we enjoy foodie-level quality, but few of us have the time to actually make the creations that dance through our imaginations. “Sometime you just don’t have the time to get a spice to a usable state such as roasting or grinding. With an extract, it’s ready to go. Things don’t have to be complicated to be good,” says Lee.

His favorite examples of uncomplicated goodness are a customer who uses a couple of drops of cardamom in her coffee each morning and the cardamom whipped cream he demos at food expos:

1 pint heavy cream

2-3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon l.c. finn’s Cardamom Extract (or to taste)

Chill the beaters and bowl.  Add cream, beating until peaks are about to form.  Then add sugar and extract and beat until peaks form. Don’t over-beat. (It becomes lumpy, though it still tastes good.)

Julie Ingebretsen, the store manager and cardamom aficionado, substitutes cardamom for almond extract in a classic almond cake recipe. The extract works in drinks, too. You can substitute ½ teaspoon of l.c.finn’s cardamom extract for the ground cardamom in this simple Spiked Apple Cider recipe. “I am really passionate about my extracts,” says Lee. “It took a couple of months and a lot of trial and error figuring out the ratios of pods to alcohol. Now that I have it, I’m pretty pleased with it.”

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Besides Lee’s emphasis on quality, his business model stresses using local suppliers as much as possible. That can be challenging when the key ingredients come primarily from equatorial countries. But there are other components, too. Lee uses Phillips Vodka as the alcohol base. “Phillips Vodka is local and that’s important to me. It’s distilled and bottled in Minneapolis. I also use local companies for packaging, labels and printing,” he says.  Ingebretsen’s believes in supporting local businesses, too, and we’ve benefitted from having our cardamom supplier so close. Debbie Ingebretsen manages the mail order department and says, “It’s nice to send an email and get a delivery the next day.” The delivery person is Lee himself, sometimes with family in tow. We saw a lot of Lee this past Christmas season because, in Lee’s words, “Your customers go through cardamom extract like water!” Lee and Ingebretsen’s both think that is a good thing.

New extracts are in the development stage. Lee is currently working on mint, lemon, and orange extracts. “I don’t have a formula. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of mistakes. If it gets to the point I can get a great flavor, it will all be worth it,” he says. The work and experimentation with the cardamom extract definitely paid off; Lee created a product that is flavorful, easy to use, and affordable. Wouldn’t Mother have been surprised?

–Carstens Smith

Sámi Day at Ingebretsen’s

This year’s Sámi Day at Ingebretsen’s will cap off what has been a landmark year for both the local Twin Cities Sámi community and the Sámi Siida of North America (SSNA) as well. Who are the Sámi? The Sámi are the indigenous people of Northern Europe – Sámi means “the people” and is a living culture today.  A siida is an ancient word for community, originally denoting a reindeer pastoralist district.

This past year we have been fortunate to participate as docents and guest lecturers as part of the American Swedish Institute’s exhibition of “The Eight Seasons of Sapmi”, and local Sámi American Kurt Seaburg had a show of his artwork there as well.  In the summer, we traveled to FinnFest in the U.P. of Michigan and raised awareness of the Sámi and our North American group.  After FinnFest, the Sámi Jienat Choir visited the Twin Cities and participated in a cultural exchange with local Native Americans. This fall, I, along with Siida Chair John Xavier gave talks about the Sámi in their original land, the immigration experience, and the North American descendants. The Sámi culture was celebrated at the Leiv Eriksen International Festival at Mindekirken. The SSNA was also a sponsor at the ImagiNative Film Festival in Toronto. Our Sámi Canadian board member, Mervi Salo, hosted many film screenings. Whatever the activity, they all achieved one of the primary goals of our organization, to raise awareness of and to promote Sámi culture.

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As we end an eventful year for our organization, it is fitting to return to Ingebretsen’s, connect with the local community, and meet new friends. Come visit us in the Ingebretsen’s classroom on Saturday, December 7th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  We’ll be on hand to answer questions regarding the indigenous people of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Take a look at (and climb into) a lávvu, and post a flag on our map of Scandinavia. At 1p.m., hear a talk by Evelyn Ashford about “The Sámi, Then and Now.”, as well as remarks from Siida chair John Xavier. The coffee will be on, and we look forward to meeting you!

– Anessa Andersland, SSNA Cultural and Community Contact

A Perfect Tree for Christmas

We asked writer Anne Gillespie Lewis how her new children’s book, A Perfect Tree for Christmas, came into being:

A Perfect Tree for Christmas

Writers get their ideas in the strangest places. The idea for A Perfect Tree for Christmas, came to me while I was neck-deep in water at the Brooklyn Center Community Center pool. I was thrashing around in a water aerobics class, in my eternal quest to slim down, when through the window I noticed a crooked evergreen tree in the park. Oh, this tree had a problem; its sweeping curve told me it had a clear case of scoliosis. And, since I also have a crooked spine, it was easy for me to empathize with it.

Oh, the poor thing, I thought, nobody would ever pick it for a Christmas tree. Well, writers are a little like magicians; they can make things appear and disappear. So, I imagined the tree was transported to a Christmas tree farm—much like the Hansen Tree Farm in Ramsey where my family has often cut Christmas trees.

To keep the tree company, I gave it a buddy, a tree with the top split in two. As Christmas approached, the two waited as one family after another rejected them in favor of other, more perfect trees. One snooty family said the crooked tree wouldn’t look right in their house, another was afraid it was coming down with something and another wanted a tree with a little more body. In the end, I made sure that both trees found families and had a Merry Christmas.

The beautiful artwork was done by my illustrator friend in Sweden, Carina Ståhlberg. We worked by e-mail, delighting ourselves with the way it came together and even sharing a few tears over the saddest scene. I took the finished book to Norton Stillman, owner of Nodin Press in Minneapolis and he agreed to publish it. It came out on October 20, which was my birthday. It is at Ingebretsen’s now—Carina and I hope you like it!

–Anne Gillespie Lewis

Anne Gillespie Lewis is also the author of Ingebretsen’s Saga and many other books and articles. Carina Ståhlberg has illustrated many books in Scandinavia.

Anne will be signing copies of A Perfect Tree for Christmas and Ingebretsen’s Saga at our Minneapolis store on Friday, November 29 from 10 to noon and Friday, December 6 from 1 to 3.

Anne will be at our Stockholm store on Saturday, December 7 from 10 to 2. That day is also Stockholm’s Country Christmas, a day filled with activities.