Tasty Traditions: Scandinavian Glögg (Spiced Wine)

Tasty Traditions: Scandinavian Glögg (Spiced Wine)

Scandinavia is known for its frigid temperatures and shortened daylight hours during the winter time. It’s no wonder that the traditional mulled wine drink, Glögg, is a favorite during the coldest season of the year. Scandinavian Glögg (pronounced glook) is served warm, and is a great way to unwind after a long day spent outdoors in this wintry wonderland.

Drinking mulled wine dates back a long time in history and to begin with spices were added to less complex tasting wines. Wine was first recorded as spiced and heated in Rome during the second century. Ancient Greece also was a place where spiced wine was favored. The Romans sweetened their wine and added herbs and flowers.

During the Middle Ages, mulled wine was very popular in Europe. The herbs were also thought to have healing properties and to improve health. The Swedish King, Gustav Vasa, loved Claret, which was a blend of wine Rhen, sugar, honey, and spices. Lutendrank was the favorite drink of Swedish King Erik XIV. Two hundred and ten jugs of lutendrank were produced for his coronation in 1561.

The word Glögg comes from the word Glödga, which means to heat up. The phrase “Glödgat wine” appeared around 1609. In Europe people left behind the tradition of drinking spiced wine, but in Sweden it remained.

During the 1800s, Glögg became a Christmas tradition in Scandinavian countries like Sweden. Wine merchants began making their own versions, putting the wine in bottles, labeling them, and selling them. Today around five million liters of Glögg are consumed every year during the Christmas season.

The traditional Scandinavian mulled drink mixes wine and port with spices like clove, cardamom, and cinnamon to make for a brew that smells and tastes divine!

RECIPE: A SIMPLE GLOGG

Ingredients

  • Aquavit (or brandy or vodka)
  • Burgundy or pinot noir wine
  • Port wine
  • Raisins
  • White or brown sugar
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cardamom seeds
  • One orange
  • One piece of ginger
  • Blanched almonds

STEP 1: Soak 1/2 cup of raisins in one cup of aquavit, brandy, or vodka. Soak for 30 minutes before proceeding to step 2.

STEP 2: Put a large pot on the stove, over high heat. Add one cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar to the pot, and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved.

STEP 3: Lower the heat to medium and add your spices – 2 sticks of cinnamon (each broken in half); 4 whole cloves ; 6 whole cardamom seeds, crushed by hand; a thinly shaved orange peel; and 1 small piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half. Stir again with wooden spoon. Do not allow the mix to come to a boil from this point on.

STEP 4: Add the raisin mixture, 2 cups of burgundy  or pinot noir wine and 2 cups of port wine.

STEP 5: Sweeten and spice to taste.

STEP 6: Strain, garnish with raisins and slices of blanched almonds. Serve hot off the stove.

NOTE: The drink can be made in advance and kept at room temperature. Be sure to warm it up before serving, however.

About the wine, port, and brandy. There is no need to invest in expensive wine, port, or brandy because the spices are going to preempt any innate complexity of a fine wine, but don’t use anything cheap. Remember, the sum will be no better than its parts. If you want to play, instead of brandy try using Swedish aquavit, a caraway flavored vodka popular in Scandinavia.

About the raisins. Golden raisins will work, but dark raisins are better.

About the cardamom. Cardamom comes in three forms: Pods, seeds, and powder. The pods look like orange seeds. Cardamom seed pods may be hard to find, so you may need to order them from a spice specialist like Penzeys.com, but don’t leave out the cardamom. Cardamom is the secret ingredient. The seeds within the pods are either black or tan, about 1/3 the size of peppercorns. If you can’t find pods and can only find seeds, use about 1 teaspoon of them. Do not use powder.

About the almonds. It is important to get naked cream-colored almonds that have had the shells and brown skins removed. The skins are bitter and full of brown coloring that can give the glögg a dusty texture. Do not use salted or smoked almonds. If you can only find almonds with skins, you can remove them by blanching them. Here’s how: Boil a pot of water, dump in the almonds, wait for the water to boil again, let them boil for about a minute, pour off the water, and rinse with cold water, and drain. The skins will slip right off if you pinch them.

About the cloves. Do not use powdered cloves.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! So, sit back, relax, and enjoy a Saintly Scandinavian delight.

 

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Iceland’s Yule Lads, a celebration of Icelandic folklore

Iceland’s Yule Lads, a celebration of Icelandic folklore

Here in North America, children are visited by jolly ole’ Santa Claus, who rewards them for their good behavior by giving them free gifts on Christmas Eve. However Iceland celebrates the winter holidays a little differently. Thirteen nights before Yule (Christmas Eve), the Yule Trolls take turns visiting Icelandic children. They leave behind sweets or rotten vegetables in the child’s shoes, depending on the child’s behavior.

Icelandic children place their shoes on the windowsill to make it easier for the trolls.

These trolls are the sons of the foul child-eating mountain trolls, Grýla and Leppalúði. Unlike Santa Claus, these trolls are not so Jolly and good-spirited. They hide sleeping in their cave for most of the year, but during December they awaken to strike fear into the hearts of misbehaving children. Alongside the trolls is the black tyrannical Yule Cat named Jólakötturinn, who will devour children who are not wearing at least one new piece of clothing on Yule (Christmas Eve). He may also eat the food of those who are lazy and do not work hard enough. My favorite Icelandic star, Björk even wrote a song about this malevolent kitty.

Each mischievous troll has his own distinct personality and habits. The famous poem Jólasveinarnir by Jóhannes úr Kötlum written in 1932, describes the individual trolls very well. Below I will quote from that poem.

The artwork below is from https://www.pinterest.com/artpatra/

The first troll is named Stekkjarstaur or “Sheep-Cote Clod.”  This little troll is known for his desire to harass sheep and for his stiff wooden peg legs.

He came stiff as wood,

To pray upon the farmer’s

Sheep as far as he could.

He wished to suck the ewes,

But it was no accident

He couldn’t; he had stiff knees –

Not too convenient.

The second troll is named Giljagaur or “Gully Gawk.” He likes to hide in the gullies waiting until he has the opportunity to steal some cow milk!

Gray his head and mien.

He snuck into the cow barn

From his craggy ravine.

Hiding in the stalls,

He would steal the milk,

While the milkmaid gave the cowherd

A meaningful smile.

The third little troll is named Stúfur or “Stubby.” He is known for being very short and loving to lick the leftovers out of your pans!

A stunted little man,

Who watched for every chance

To whisk off a pan.

And scurrying away with it,

He scraped off the bits

That stuck to the bottom

And brims – his favorites.

The fourth troll is named Þvörusleikir or “Spoon-Licker”

Like spindle he was thin.

He felt himself in clover

When the cook wasn’t in.

Then stepping up, he grappled

The stirring spoon with glee,

Holding it with both hands

For it was slippery.

The fifth troll is named Pottaskefill or “Pot Scraper.” Similar to Stubby, he will eat the leftovers out of pots instead.

Was a funny sort of chap.

When kids were given scrapings,

He’d come to the door and tap.

And they would rush to see

If there really was a guest.

Then he hurried to the pot

And had a scrapingfest.

The sixth troll is named Askasleikir or “Bowl-Licker.” He enjoys hiding under your bed until you put your bowl down. Then he will steal it and lick it!

Was shockingly ill bred.

From underneath the bedsteads

He stuck his ugly head.

And when the bowls were left

To be licked by dog or cat,

He snatched them for himself –

He was sure good at that!

The seventh troll is named Hurðaskellir or “Door Slammer.” He slams your doors throughout the night. What a noisy, annoying fellow.

A sorry, vulgar chap:

When people in the twilight

Would take a little nap,

He was happy as a lark

With the havoc he could wreak,

Slamming doors and hearing

The hinges on them squeak.

The eigth troll is named Skyrgámur or “Skyr -Gobbler.” This little buddy’s favorite food is skyr which is a traditional Icelandic dairy dish, similar to yogurt.

Was an awful stupid bloke.

He lambasted the skyr tub

Till the lid on it broke.

Then he stood there gobbling

– his greed was well known –

Until, about to burst,

He would bleat, howl and groan.

The ninth troll is named Bjúgnakrækir or “Sausage Swiper.” This mischievous little guy hides in the rafters and pilfers pork links while they’re smoking.

He climbed up to the rafters

And raided food from there.

Sitting on a crossbeam

In soot and in smoke,

He fed himself

On sausage fit for gentlefolk.

The tenth troll is named Gluggagægir or “Window Peeper.” This nosy little creature looks through your windows at night with hopes that he will find something worth stealing.

A weird little twit,

Who stepped up to the window

And stole a peek through it.

And whatever was inside

To which his eye was drawn,

He most likely attempted

To take later on.

The eleventh troll is named Gáttaþefur or “Doorway Sniffer.” He has a long nose. He uses his fantastic sense of smell to sniff around, searching for a traditional Icelandic bread called Laufabrauno.

A doltish lad and gross.

He never got a cold,

Yet had a huge, sensitive nose.

He caught the scent of lace

Bread while leagues away still

And ran toward it weightless

As wind over dale and hill.

The twelth troll is named Ketkrókur or “Meat-Hook.” This little thief uses his famous hook to steal your meat!

His talent would display

As soon as he arrived

On Saint Thorlak´s Day.

He snagged himself a morsel

Of meat of any sort,

Although his hook at times

Was a tiny bit short.

Lastly, the thirteenth troll is named Kertasníkir or “Candle Stealer.” He will stalk children so he can steal their candles and then eat them!

´Twas cold, I believe,

If he was not the last

Of the lot on Christmas Eve.

He trailed after the little ones

Who, like happy sprites,

Ran about the farm with

Their fine tallow lights.

Then one by one they trotted off

Into the frost and snow.

On Twelfth Night the last

Of the lads used to go.

Their footprints in the highlands

Are effaced now for long,

The memories have all turned

To image and song.

Stay safe from the Yule Trolls this year, and Gledileg jol, Bestu jolakvedjur med osk um gledi og frid a komandi ari! (It’s an Icelandic holiday greeting which translates to, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!)

~Written by: Eva

Tasty Traditions: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)

Tasty Traditions: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)

Schwarzwälder kirschtorte is named for the Schwarzwald or Black Forest region in southeastern Germany, so it’s often known outside the German-speaking countries as “Black Forest Cherry Cake” or “Black Forest Gateau.”

As one of the most popular cakes in Germany, it’s interesting to note that the inspiration for the cake may have come from Switzerland instead. The kirschwasser, or cherry firewater, on which the cake is based, came from the area around the central Swiss lakes. This region is still famous for its kirsch brands Etter and Dettling. During the mid-to-late 1800s, kirschwasser began to be widely produced and used in the Black Forest region of Germany.

During the 1800s, desserts using cooked cherries, kirsch, and whipped cream or cream became a staple in the region. The first known kirschtorte appeared near Zug in Switzerland, where kirsch was distilled from the famous Zuger sour cherries.

Some folk traditions suggest that the cake is meant to resemble the traditional costume of

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Hand-tinted postcard of a young schwarzwald woman wearing the traditional bollenhut

the country girls in some parts of the Black Forest. The cake is said to represent their black or dark brown skirts, their white blouses, and their traditional hats covered with large cherry-red woolen bobbles.

The Schwarzwälder kirschtorte appears in recipes for the first time in the 1930s. Its popularity in Germany grew quickly and it’s now considered a traditional dessert.

In Germany, the baking industry works under regulations that require a kirschtorte to be made under specific guidelines. The rules define it as either “a cake made with Kirschwasser and whipped cream or with Kirschwasser and buttercream, or a combination of the two” — so without the kirsch, the cake isn’t genuine.  The presence of fruit is actually considered secondary to the presence of the kirsch, the flavor of which has to be clearly apparent. The layers — of a light Viennese cake or sponge — must contain at least 3% cocoa or chocolate (though there can be more), and the topping must be of either buttercream or whipped cream, and garnished with chocolate.

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
  • 4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup flour, sifted

For the syrup:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar / icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch

For the topping:

  • 2 cups canned sour cherries, drained
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ / icing sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate

DIRECTIONS

FOR THE CAKE: Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla together until thick and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Alternately fold chocolate and flour into the egg mixture, ending with flour. Pour the batter into 3 8-inch cake pans that have been well greased and floured. (Do not use oil to grease the pans: use butter or Crisco or a similar solid fat. If you use oil, the layers will probably stick to the pans. Also: make sure you do the greasing and flouring even if you have nonstick pans.)

Bake the layers in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes; then carefully turn out on racks and allow to cool completely.

FOR THE SYRUP: Make syrup by mixing together sugar and water and boiling for 5 minutes. When syrup has cooled, stir in kirsch. Prick the cake layers and pour syrup over all 3 layers.

FOR THE FILLING: To make the butter-cream filling, beat together sugar and butter until well blended. Add egg yolk; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in Kirsch.

CAKE ASSEMBLY: To assemble cake, place 1 layer on a cake plate. Spread with butter cream filling. Using 3/4 cup of the cherries, which have been patted dry, drop cherries evenly over cream. Place second layer on cake. Repeat. Place third layer on top. Fold 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into the whipped cream. Cover the sides and top of the cake with whipped cream.

Decorate top of cake with remaining 1/2 cup cherries. Grated chocolate is perfectly acceptable as a topping, but if you prefer to make chocolate curls from a chocolate bar, shave them off the bar (at room temperature) with a vegetable peeler. Refrigerate the curls until ready to use. Press the chocolate curls on sides of cake; sprinkle a few on the top. Chill the cake until serving time. Afterwards, because of the cream, keep the cake in the fridge until it’s finished.

NOTE:  The cake layers are made without any leavening agent such as baking powder so the only thing that makes the layers rise in the baking is the air you’ve beaten into the batter. You therefore have to concentrate on incorporating as much air as possible during the beating process. If using a mixer, make sure to use the whisk attachment instead of the normal cake beater. If using an egg beater or hand mixer, you may need to beat the basic egg and sugar mixture for longer than ten minutes to get it light and fluffy enough.

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Tasty Tuesday: Kaiserschmarrn, A Deliciously Sweet Treat!

Tasty Tuesday: Kaiserschmarrn, A Deliciously Sweet Treat!

Kaiserschmarrn or Kaiserschmarren (Emperor’s Mess) is a shredded pancake, which has its name from the Austrian emperor Kaiser Franz Joseph I, who was very fond of this kind of fluffy shredded pancake. It is a popular meal or dessert in Austria, Germany,  Hungary, Slovenia, and northern Croatia.

The name Kaiserschmarren is a compound of the words Schmarren (shredded pancake) and Kaiser (emperor). Schmarren is a colloquialism used in Austrian and Bavarian to mean “trifle, mishmash, mess, nonsense and folly.” Kaiser Franz Joseph’s love for this dish was referred to humorously as his “folly.” The word “Schmarren” is related to scharren (to scrape) and schmieren (to smear). Its Slovenian name is “cesarski praženec” or “šmorn.” Its Hungarian name is “császármorzsa;” its Czech name is “trhanec” or ” kajzršmorn.”

Kaiserschmarren is a light, caramelized pancake made from a sweet batter using flour, eggs, sugar, salt, and milk, baked in butter. Kaiserschmarren can be prepared in different ways. When making Kaiserschmarren the egg whites are usually separated from the yolk and beaten until stiff; then the flour and the yolks are mixed with sugar, and the other ingredients are added, including: nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and slivered almonds. The last mentioned ingredients (nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and chopped almonds) aren’t in the original recipe and just additions made by some cooks based on their personal preferences. In the original recipe there are only raisins (before cooking they are soaked in rum.)

HISTORY

It is generally agreed that the dish was first prepared for the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830–1916). There are several stories. One apocryphal story involves the Emperor kaiserfranzjosef1853-1and his wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria, of the House of Wittelsbach. Obsessed with maintaining a minimal waistline, the Empress Elisabeth directed the royal chef to prepare only light desserts for her, much to the consternation and annoyance of her notoriously austere husband. Upon being presented with the chef’s confection, she found it too rich and refused to eat it. The exasperated Francis Joseph quipped, “Now let me see what ‘Schmarren’ our chef has cooked up.” It apparently met his approval as he finished his and even his wife’s serving.

Another story is that Francis Joseph and his wife were traveling the Alps and stopped by a farmer’s home for lunch. The farmer was so nervous that he threw all the fanciest ingredients he had into a pan to make a delicious pancake; worse yet, due to his nervousness and shaky hands he scrambled the pancake. Hoping to cover up the mess he then covered it with plum jam. Luckily, the kaiser thought it was scrumptious.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • plum preserves or peach preserves for serving

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine raisins with rum and let soak 30 minutes, then drain.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter. Stir in the drained raisins.
  3. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook 5-6 minutes, or until the pancake has set and the bottom is golden brown.
  4. Using a spatula or two forks, tear the pancake into bite-size pieces.
  5. Drizzle in the melted butter and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and use a spatula to gently toss the pieces for 5 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized.
  7. Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar and serve with the preserves of your choice.
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Enjoy Kaiserschmarrn for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!