Taste the sweetness of Midsummer
Two summery recipes to help your tastebuds welcome the longest day of the year
Sankthans, or Midsummer, is a celebration of both folklore and Christianity in Norway and across Scandinavia—an old tradition of celebrating the summer solstice, which then blended into a newer tradition of commemorating the birth of John the Baptist. While in Norway the name still reflects the Christian view of the day (St. Hans), it is the non-Christian elements, such as the midsummer bonfire, which have held fast over the years. And while fewer and fewer Norwegians celebrate this day, it is still seen as a welcome to the arrival of summer.
Summer in Norway means berry season and cooler and more refreshing dishes. To usher in the celebration of summer, here are two North Wild Kitchen recipes which will have you hoping summer never ends: Aquavit, Raspberry, and Cardamom Sorbet and Rhubarb and Strawberry Soup.
A friend once introduced me to the amazing combination of vodka, lemon, and black pepper, frozen together in a state of utmost bliss and saved for a special occasion. Something about fire and ice. Opposites. Here in Norway, we have firewater. Aquavit (akevitt), that is. Golden or as clear as crystal and as hot on the throat as lava. I took my friend’s recipe back to the kitchen, and I put a Norwegian twist on it. I swapped the vodka with aquavit, the lemon with raspberries, and the pepper with cardamom. This sorbet is a recipe that can be made year round, but plays quite nicely with the theme of fire during Midsummer.
Another optimal midsummer dish is the traditional Norwegian fruit soup. This recipe features the taste of summer—strawberries—which are paired perfectly with the tart and tangy rhubarb in a refreshing, sweet soup. And if you are harvesting the first of the rhubarb, you can always do as the Norwegians do: dip a fresh stalk in white sugar and eat it raw.
Aquavit, Raspberry & Cardamom Sorbet (Akevittsorbet)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 cardamom pods, gently crushed
2 cups (250g) raspberries
1/3 cup juice from an orange
1/3 cup aquavit
Create a simple syrup by placing the water, sugar, and cardamom pods in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
Puree the raspberries and orange juice together with a hand blender. Using a mesh strainer, strain the mixture into a clean bowl, catching all the raspberry seeds and discarding them.
Using the mesh strainer again, pour the cooled simple syrup into the puree, catching the cardamom pods and discarding them. Add the aquavit to the puree as well and combine.
If using an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into the machine and follow the manufacturer’s directions. If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can transfer the mixture to a metal baking pan and freeze until firm (about 2 to 3 hours), stirring with a fork every 30 minutes.
Rhubarb and Strawberry Soup (Rabarbrasuppe og Jordbœr)
1 lb. rhubarb stalks, washed
1 lb. strawberries
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
Cut the rhubarb into slices—if using the first of the rhubarb, you do not need to peel the stalk, but if it is later in the season then do so. In a saucepan, add the water, sugar, and rhubarb and bring it to a boil without stirring. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to soften the rhubarb a little, but not too much.
Remove from the heat, place a lid on top, and set aside to cool. You can let it stand overnight. The longer it sits, the more flavorful it will be.
An hour before serving, cut the strawberries into quarters and add to the rhubarb soup. Garnish with mint or lemon peel and serve alone or with ice cream or sweet cream.
Nevada Berg is a writer, photographer, and recipe developer living in Rollag, Norway, in the Numedal Valley. She shares the stories, traditions, and history behind Norwegian food, as well as inspiring dishes from local and seasonal ingredients, at www.northwildkitchen.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 3, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.