Homemade and heartfelt

Two friends share their Christmas gift-giving plans—with easy recipes for you

Photo: Dianna Walla

Photo: Dianna Walla

Christy Olsen Field
Seattle, Wash.

Dianna Walla
Tromsø, Norway

Kjære Dianna!

Can you believe that we are in the last couple months of the year? It grows darker (and rainier) each day here in Seattle, so I’m finding good reasons to cozy up in the evenings.

Now that the holiday season is truly in sight, what are you considering for your holiday gift giving this year? The number of people on my to-give list seems to grow each year, so I’m taking the homemade approach with useful, consumable items.

This weekend, I made a few jars of hjemmelaget vaniljesukker (homemade vanilla sugar). I kept a small box of vaniljesukker in the cupboard for years, but this is so simple to make, tastes even better (without all the chemicals), and keeps nearly forever.

Recently a friend brought me a latte with cardamom syrup, which took my humble beverage to a whole new level. Then I started thinking about other ways to use cardamom syrup: Drizzled over vanilla ice cream, mixed into a cocktail, or blended with sparkling water and a touch of cream for a cardamom cream soda. The internet has even more ideas: Oranges poached in cardamom syrup, cardamom cream cake, topping for pancakes, the list goes on.

I used cardamom pods instead of ground cardamom because it has a fresher, complex floral taste, and they keep so well in the freezer.

I bottled mine in these swing-top glass 16-ounce bottles I found on Amazon, but I’ve seen them in kitchen shops too. The syrup was popular with my taste testers, so I might have to set aside a bottle for my own house.

Can’t wait to hear about your plans!

Med vennlig hilsen fra Seattle,
Christy

Photo: Christy Olsen Field Sometimes simple gifts are the best—like simple syrup infused with cardamom or the essential Norwegian baking ingredient, vanilla sugar. Adding a handwritten label with suggestions on how to use your gifts adds an extra personal touch.

Photo: Christy Olsen Field
Sometimes simple gifts are the best—like simple syrup infused with cardamom or the essential Norwegian baking ingredient, vanilla sugar. Adding a handwritten label with suggestions on how to use your gifts adds an extra personal touch.

Hjemmelaget vaniljesukker
1 cup powdered sugar (112 grams)
2 vanilla beans
1 half-pint canning jar

In a small bowl, stir powdered sugar to break up the clumps. Filet the vanilla beans lengthwise with a paring knife, scrape out the seeds with the dull side of the knife, and stir the seeds into the sugar. Add sugar to the jar with one of the spent vanilla pods, and screw on the lid. Give it a good shake every day for a week or two, and it’s ready for gifting!

Kardemomme sirup
2 cups granulated sugar (396 grams)
2 cups water (500ml)
¼ cup cardamom pods (20 grams)

In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar and water and add the cardamom pods. Boil for 5 minutes and remove from heat to cool to room temperature. Strain mixture through a fine sieve or two layers of cheesecloth into a 16 oz container. Store in the fridge.


Kjære Christy,

It’s hard to believe how quickly the year has gone by, but the days have been growing darker here too! We’re entering mørketida, or the dark time: the sun is just disappearing for the winter here in Tromsø and it won’t rise again for two months. The town’s cheery Christmas lights help to brighten things up, though, and they have me looking forward to the holiday.

I love giving and receiving gifts from the kitchen, so this year I’m turning to one of my go-tos: tyttebærsyltetøy, or lingonberry jam. It goes well with so many dishes in Scandinavian cuisine and I also love to just have it on toast on chilly mornings. It’s super simple to make, since the berries are naturally high in pectin—so there are only three essential ingredients. I didn’t pick any berries this year so I made mine with frozen berries, although fresh ones are a great option if you can get them!

It’s an easy recipe to get creative with, too—I’ve seen versions that use juniper or allspice berries, so I may try playing around with different ingredients in small batches in the run up to Christmas.

I’ll have to give your recipes a go as well, since I love vanilla sugar and the cardamom syrup sounds absolutely delicious!

Klem fra Tromsø,
Dianna

Photo: Dianna Walla Nothing says Norway like lingonberry jam, and its gorgeous color shouts Christmas—making it the perfect homemade holiday gift.

Photo: Dianna Walla
Nothing says Norway like lingonberry jam, and its gorgeous color shouts Christmas—making it the perfect homemade holiday gift.

Lingonberry Jam
The amount of sugar is the largest variable when it comes to making this jam. I like my jam to be a bit more on the tart side, so I use half as much sugar (by weight) as I do berries, but you can feel free to use more if you like. You can also halve the recipe for a smaller batch. This amount will fill about eight 250 ml / 8 oz jars.

1 kg / 2 ¼ cups lingonberries,
fresh or frozen
500g / 2 ½ cups caster sugar
200 ml water

If using fresh berries, make sure all the stems and leaves have been removed and rinse the berries.

Place the berries in a large pot on the stove and add the water. Bring to a low boil and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Add the sugar, bring the berry mixture back to a boil, and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Transfer the jam to clean jars and seal. Store in a cool, dry place for up to a month.

Christy Olsen Field was on the editorial staff of the Norwegian American Weekly from 2008 to 2012, and the Taste of Norway page was her favorite section. Today, she is a freelance grantwriter for small to mid-size nonprofits with her business, Christy Ink. Learn more at www.christy.ink.

Dianna Walla is a writer and knitwear designer living and studying in Tromsø, Norway. She writes about baking at cakeand­vikings.com and about knitting at paper-tiger.net. Find her on Instagram at @cakeandvikings.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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