Local, quality grains and vegetables, lamb and cured meats, wild berries and of course the all-important fish are staples of the Norwegian kitchen. Not to mention the weekend porridge or waffles with brown cheese.
A small country with one of the world’s longest coastlines, Norway is known for deep fjords with cold, clean water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, catching and preparing top-quality fish has always been a big part of Norwegian culture. For ages past, dried cod was the big export – now it is fresh salmon and arctic cod.
Norway’s forests and mountains are rich on wild berries and fruits to make jams, juices and the popular dessert, multekrem – cloudberries and whipped cream. Right now there is a major upsurge in local foods, with cheese, meats, grains and vegetables, as traditionally prepared at smallholdings and mountainside farms.
The yearly hunt puts wild moose, deer and reindeer on Norwegian dinner tables, but the most traditional meat is lamb.
Cured meat, especially the fenalår – dried and salted lamb’s leg – is a specialty, and in autumn Norwegians will eat fårikål, lamb simmered with cabbage and whole peppercorns.
Meatballs are popular everyday meals, but weekends and holidays are for porridges – like rømmegrøt (based on sour cream, whole milk and butter) and rice porridge.
The sweet and caramelized yet sharp brunost – brown whey cheese – is the quintessential Norwegian food item, eaten on high-quality bread – or on Norwegian waffles, preferably found at one of the warm, wooden cabins along popular cross-country ski trails and at popular mountain peaks, where this taste is part of the experience.
Norwegians are serious about our Christmas traditions. However, there are a lot of competing local varieties when it comes to the prefered festive foods. Here are some of the most common dishes during the Yuletide:
Ribbe: Roasted pork belly, usually served with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, Christmas sausages, meat balls and gravy. Eaten by six out of ten households, mainly in Trøndelag and Eastern Norway.
Pinnekjøtt: Salted and dried, sometimes smoked, lamb ribs. These were traditionally steamed over birch branches – hence the name ("Pinnekjøtt" translates loosely to "stick meat"). Norwegians' second most popular choice on Christmas Eve, particularly among people on the West Coast.
Lutefisk: Stockfish that has been lying in water and lye (a way to preserve fish in the old days), then cooked in the oven. Typical accompaniments are potatoes, bacon, mushy peas and mustard.
Multekrem: Dessert made of cloudberries and whipped cream.
Småkaker: Tradition dictates that seven different kinds of Christmas buiscuits and/or cookies should feature on the table at Christmas, and that all should be home-baked. The pepperkake (gingerbreadman) is arguably the most popular of them.
Aquavit: Norway's national drink. It is a potato-based spirit flavoured with herbs such as caraway seeds, anise, dill, fennel and coriander. The preferred accompaniment to Christmas food.
Gløgg: The Norwegians' take on mulled wine, but made with a syrupy mixture as opposed to a herbal blend, with dried almonds and raisins added for taste.
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