Sommerdag and a Recipe for Fløyelsgrøt
Sommerdag, or Summers Day on 14 April, is considered to be the first day of the start of the Nordic summer half of the year and is a tradition that pre dates Christian times. This is the day that starts the summer side of the primstav. On the primstav the day is usually marked with a tree with leaves or a twig with leaves, signifying the start of nature growing again.
Sommerdag was an important day in most parts of Norway and in some areas there was a ban on work or at least a half day holiday, but in southern Northern it was common for servants to move on to their next job. It was also a day when the cows were released from the barns into the "sommerbeite" (summer grazing pastures) and to protect them they were painted with a cross on the head or neck.
As with so many of the primstav days the weather was a sure indication of how the rest of the year would be; snow and bad weather was not a good sign, but a clear day meant that good times were ahead.
Of course, food traditions played a really important role and in many parts of Norway, different types of porridge were eaten. "Grøt" (porridge of various types) is always a dish that is associated with summer days, celebrations and special days in Norway and that is still how it is today. Grøt was a firm favourite at weddings and as weddings were traditionally held during the summer months it goes without saying that porridge plays a vital role in this celebratory day.
When I first came to Norway I found the various kinds of grøt (porridge) that were eaten slightly peculiar. In England we really only eat porridge for breakfast but in Norway they enjoy it for all sorts of occasions from weddings to summer events, to Christmas. Now I am a definite convert and I am first in the queue for a bowl of rømmegrøt on a summer's day, or risgrøt standing outside on a crisp evening towards Christmas.
There is a legend that if you want to see who your future love will be you should make "drømmegrøt" (dream porridge) using 3 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon flour and a teaspoon salt. The person will then appear to you in dream that night. We are not making drømmegrøt but something remarkably similar called fløyelsgrøt. It is a lighter version of the popular rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge) and conjures up childhood memories for many as it's a favourite with kids. It's very similar to a thick béchamel sauce, but rather than being used as a component of another dish it's enjoyed on it's own with a little melted butter, a sprinkling of sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. You can happily substitute the milk for a semi skimmed or skimmed variety or even a nut milk, oat or soya milk. Don't skimp on the sugar and cinnamon though as it really elevates it.
Fløyelsgrøt (makes 4 portions)
90g/3 oz butter, margarine or other solid fat (not lard!)
150g/5.5 oz plain, all purpose flour
1 1/4 / 42 fl oz litres milk
A knob of melted butter
Warm the milk. Melt the butter or fat in a good sized saucepan. Sprinkle in the flour and stir it around to blend it into the fat. Cook for a minute or two on a medium heat. Gradually blend in the milk stirring or whisking all the time and keeping it on the heat. Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes to cook out the flour. You can taste it at this point and if it tastes floury keep cooking for a minute or two. You need to stir constantly or it will stick.
Allow it to cool for a few minutes before spooning into bowls and drizzling with some melted butter and sprinkling with sugar and cinnamon. It's traditional to have your grøt with a red squash or cordial such as raspberry or another berry cordial.
Vær så god!
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