Beyond everyday cuisine, Norwegians treat Christmas as a food holiday. On the coast, fresh cod, halibut, and lutefisk are served on Christmas Eve; while on the mainland, Norwegians enjoy pork ribs and sausages. On the West Coast, dried mutton ribs are a Christmas specialty. In addition to Christmas meals, the tradition of families making seven kinds of Christmas cookies endures. The traditional cookie spread includes gingersnaps, butter cookies, cookies in cone shapes, and cardamom-spiced cookies.
With so many options, I planned menus to celebrate the cuisines of the coastlines, the mountains, and the holidays.
Wednesday Night Dinner: Torsk (Cod) with Egg Sauce & Braised Leeks
As a side note, I planned for us to enjoy Aquavit martinis with our little spread, but after tasting Aquavit, I decided that I would leave it to the Scandinavians for their martinis. Not a flavor I enjoyed! I’ll stick with my Grey Goose.
Saturday Night Dinner: Juniper-Spiced Venison, Mashed Rutabaga, and Sautéed Mushrooms
We loved this meal. The flavors of the juniper spice rub, the creamy sauce, and lingonberry preserves perfectly complemented the venison. The only thing I will change when I make it in the future is to add less Aquavit to the sauce, because that step thinned out the sauce more than I preferred.
Sunday Afternoon Snack: Pepperkaker
After reading about Norway’s Christmas Cookie obsession, I knew I had to make at least one Norwegian Christmas Cookie recipe for the project. I selected Pepperkaker because of its interesting spice combination, including cardamom which is commonly used Norwegian desserts. I also thought the inclusion of fresh ground black pepper would be interesting in the flavor profile. I’ve made ginger cookies with black pepper in them previously, and while it may sound odd, it adds a bit of heat to the cookie that is addictive.
The recipe is a simple butter cookie recipe with minimal sugar included. (Most Norwegian desserts include only small amounts of sugar because it was so expensive for Norway to import before modern times.) The recipe also includes cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper. As I pulled the first baking sheet out of the oven, the aroma surprised me. They smelled amazing, but there was something peculiar and familiar that I couldn’t quite figure out. I tasted one and liked it. At first, the flavor was all butter cookie. Then, there was a recognizable aftertaste…similar to the aroma….what was it? AHA! Biscuits and gravy….no joke! These cookies taste like biscuits and gravy. Most of the cookie is flour and butter with a strong freshly ground pepper presence, which is essentially biscuits and gravy: flour, fat, and pepper. I still liked the cookies, and I even had them with coffee on Monday morning, but I can’t escape the biscuits and gravy reference. Definitely odd for a cookie!
My Norwegian journey turned out to be much more exciting than I originally expected. I will repeat the venison spiced with juniper and cheese sauce. Gjetost will be served on future cheese platters for guests (and me), and I will make gravlax for a party. As for the “biscuits and gravy” cookies, I probably won’t include them in Christmas cookie and candy making plans this year, but I will certainly remember them fondly!