A Norwegian tradition. For families in the US as in Norway, traditional foods herald Constitution Day
IF you were asleep in almost any part of Norway on the morning of May 17, you could be awakened with a 21-gun salute. At dawn, the schoolchildren, dressed in national costume, take to the street with much banging, clanging, and singing - celebrating the arrival of Norwegian Constitution Day. Much like the American Fourth of July, it's a day of appreciation for country and heritage. In the morning, war memorials are decorated, and famous Norwegians are honored and remembered. There are special church services. Throughout the countryside, houses and streets in every village are decorated with Norwegian flags and banners of the national colors - red, white, and blue. Everyone dresses up, either wearing something new or a traditional costume.
There are parades, marching bands, speeches, concerts, competitions for children of all ages, and, of course, much to eat. After snacking on fast food such as polse med lompe (hot dogs with potato pancakes) and ice cream during the festivities, friends and families gather for a traditional koldt bord or cold table, close cousin to the smorgasbord. The koldt bord consists of dishes brought by those attending. There are cold items such as open-faced sandwiches, pickled herring, smoked salmon, salads, cold cuts, cured soaked meat, and flatbrod (crisp bread). Of course, there's a large selection of local cheeses such as Jarlsberg, Norvegia, Nokkel, and Ridder, served with radishes; also celery and fresh fruit, whole wheat bread, and jams.
Here in the United States, Norwegians honor the traditions of their ancestry much the same as their relatives in Norway. For Ivar and Sandra Hegstad and their children, Liv and Nils, of Wellesley, Mass., the holiday will be celebrated by bringing gifts of traditional foods to the Norwegian Old Folks Home in Roslindale, Mass.
Some of the foods that Sandra could bring this year are fiske pudding, open-face sandwiches, and salmon mousse. She will make krumkaker, a delicate cone-shaped cookie stuffed with sweetened whipped cream, topped with a strawberry. Ivar will help her make a tower cake decorated with flags.
She hopes to bring heart-shaped waffles, made on her mother-in-law's waffle iron and served with thin slices of brown gjetost cheese or with cloudberry preserves.
Gjetost is a whey cheese made from goat's milk or a mixture of goat and cow milk. It is eaten thinly sliced, and it is not like any other cheese. Served on a warm waffle, it is a unique taste sensation - sweet and salty, smooth and grainy all in the same bite.
Cloudberries or molte grow wild on the mountains and are highly prized. ``They are pure delight, golden in color, better than the best rasberries, and much rarer,'' Sandra says - better than gold in the pantry.
The Hegstad family enjoys foods cooked in the traditional ways, but has its own variations as well. Sandra has recipes from Ivar's mother and uses them often. Although she is a vegetarian, she finds that the predominance of fish, cheese, and potatoes - all familiar Norwegian foods - she has no problem feeding her family the national dishes. And she experiments freely. Ivar's mother, for example, would never use onion in a dish, but they enjoy occasionally changing the taste by adding a chopped onion in the potato dumplings, called klubb. Ivar adds, ``then if there are any left over, we slice them and fry them. Norwegians never waste anything.'' Fiskepudding Eller Fiskefarse (Norwegian Fish Pudding or Fish Balls) 1 tablespoon soft butter 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs 2 pounds cod or haddock, skinned, boned
1/2 cup light cream and 1 cup heavy cream, combined 2 teaspoons salt 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With a pastry brush or paper towel, spread bottom and sides of loaf pan or mold with 1 tablespoon soft butter and sprinkle mold with the 2 tablespoons of crumbs. Tip mold to make sure crumbs are distributed and toss out any excess crumbs.
Cut fish into small pieces and place a few pieces at a time in food processor, along with a couple of tablespoons of the light and heavy creams. Process fish in batches until it is a smooth pur'ee. Place pur'ee in mixing bowl and beat in creams, salt, and cornstarch until mixture is light and fluffy. Pour into pan or mold and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Butter a sheet of aluminum foil, seal tightly around top of mold. Place in baking pan and fill pan with boiling water three-quarters of the way up sides of mold.
Bake 1 hour, or until top of pudding is firm to touch and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out dry and clean. Remove pan from oven and pour off excess liquid. Invert mold and remove fish pudding to platter. Serve with melted butter, shrimp, or cheese sauce. Cold and sliced, it is also excellent as part of a sandwich.
NOTE: To make fish balls, prepare fish as above. Chill pur'eed fish in mixing bowl about 30 minutes, then roll about 1 tablespoon of fish in your hands at a time, to make 1-inch balls. Refrigerate, covered with wax paper, until ready to cook.
Poach in 4 inches of simmering salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, or until firm. Scoop out with slotted spoon, drain. Serve as is or as part of a fish soup. Jarlsberg Cheese-Beet-Walnut Salad 6 to 10 beets, steamed, skinned, julienned 1 cup walnut halves 1 cup Jarlsberg cheese, in cubes or julienne strips Vinegar, Oil
Make a vinaigrette to taste. Mix beets, walnuts, and Jarlsberg together with the dressing.
NOTE: It's best to add cheese and walnuts just before serving, as beets stain the other ingredients red. Ruth Hegstad's Vafler (Waffles) 4 whole eggs 6 tablespoons sugar 5 ounces (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) melted butter 1 3/4 cups milk 2 1/3 scant cups flour 1 teaspoon cardamom 1 teaspoon baking powder
In blender, whip eggs and sugar together until frothy. Add milk mixture and dry ingredients alternately, blending after each addition. Scrape down sides of blender. (Batter may be used right away or refrigerated for about a day.)
Use batter (experiment for right amount) on Norwegian waffle maker (5 small heart-shaped waffles joined together) or conventional electric waffle iron.
Serve waffles warm or at room temperature with Gjetost cheese, sugar, or jam. Kransekake (18 Ring Wreath Cake) Butter for cookie sheet Finely ground unseasoned bread crumbs 6 1/2 (23/4-ounce) packages almonds, raw (packages are 23/4 ounces each 4 cups confectioners' sugar 2 1/2 tablespoons flour 3 egg whites
Preheat oven to 410 degrees F. Butter kransekake forms or cookie sheets; dust with unseasoned finely ground bread crumbs. Grind almonds by hand - do not use food processor since almonds will be reduced to a paste and dough will become too ``short.''
Combine almonds, sugar, and flour. Gradually add egg whites to dough, using 1/4 egg white, only, if necessary. Dough should be firm but not dry.
Roll into long dowels, forming a ring the size required by mold or your cardboard shape. Transfer to cookie sheet if necessary, and bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.
Icing 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 egg white 3 drops vinegar 1 1/2 cups sugar Hard candies for decoration
Combine sugar, egg white, and vinegar to make thick icing. Using a pastry bag with a very tiny tip, decorate rings in a zigzag pattern.
When icing is dry, assemble the kransekake, gluing together at each level with a caramel made from melting sugar in dry frying pan, stirring gently as it melts. Decorate with brightly wrapped hard candies secured with a drop of caramel, and Norwegian flags.
NOTE: Instead of using Norwegian molds, you can improvise with cardboard ring shapes. Bottom ring should measure 8 inches on outside edge. Top ring should be 21/2 inches on outside edge. In between 16 rings are needed, each ring being 3/8-inch smaller than the former one on outside edge.