Updated: Oct 31, 2022
In Vestfold, the part of Norway where I live, potatoes are a major crop, and at this time in the summer the fields are lush with the potato plants with their dark green leaves and white or pink flowers.
New potatoes start to appear for sale at the farm gates in Lågendalen (the Lågen Valley) and I love to make the most of their freshness with recipes that are simple and delicious.
14 July is also a special day on the ancient Nordic runic calendar, the primstav, and the combination of a beautiful seasonal vegetable and the significance was one I couldn't afford to miss!
The primstav is the ancient runic calendar that until a few hundred years ago was used widely in Norway. In simple terms it's a wooden stick with 6 months (autumn and winter) on one side and the other 6 months (spring and summer) on the other side. It's a perpetual calendar and each significant day is marked with a special symbol. The symbols hold a great deal of meaning and many of them marked days for certain events or activities such as sowing seeds or harvesting.
14 July is just such a day. It's the day that marks the half way point on the summer side of the primstav. We are precisely halfway along from the winter side and now heading towards the time when we turn the primstav over to the winter side. This day is called "midtsommerdag" or midsummer day.
Summer days and life outside is something we really enjoy in Scandinavia. Grilling takes place almost daily and one of the things we love is potetsalat or Norwegian potato salad. It's a dish that you will find at almost every outdoor meal and is paired with grilled meats, fish and even piled onto pølse (hotdogs).
This recipe is a Norwegian classic. It's on the table at every single family event we attend and is a firm favourite of the adults and kids alike. I can't even imagine a summer lunch or dinner without it!
Before we get started a few words abut the ingredients.
Choose potatoes that are firm and waxy as they hold their shape nicely after cooking. The last thing you want is potatoes that turn to mash in your salad. Norwegian gherkins are slightly sweet and sour and usually sliced. This flavour combination adds a critical element to the salad.
Potetsalat (Norwegian Potato Salad), serves 6
1 kg / 2 lb waxy potatoes
200g / 7 oz mayonnaise
200g / 7 oz sour cream
150g / 5 oz gherkins
A little gherkin liquid
1 white or yellow onion, finely chopped
Chopped parsley or chives for the garnish
Peel the potatoes, but leave them whole. Put them in a pan and cover with cold water and good pinch of salt. Bring up to the boil and simmer for about 18 minutes until a fork poked in them doesn't come against too much resistance. You want them to still be fairly firm, but not hard. Drain in a colander and when cool enough to handle cut them into cubes about 1cm / 0.5 inch square.
For the dressing, finely chop the onion and gherkins. Mix the mayonnaise and sour cream together and add the onion and gherkin. Gradually add a teaspoon of the gherkin liquid at a time to thin the dressing slightly and give it a slight gherkin taste. You'll need to taste it to check if it's to your liking. Add the potatoes and refrigerate for a few hours. Just before serving sprinkle with chopped, fresh herbs of your choice.
Pair your potato salad with grilled meats, fish, cold cuts, or pile it onto hotdogs for the classic Norwegian combination. Potetsalat keeps very nicely in the fridge for several days so you can prepare it the day before an event, or keep it as a go-to salad for those days when you don't want to cook.
Vær så god!
Do you have a passion for Nordic living? Why not join us in the Living a Nordic LIfe Facebook group. We'd be delighted to welcome you there!