The Primstav and a recipe for Riskrem
Updated: Apr 26
Last year (2020) I was inspired to start following the food traditions of an ancient runic calendar called the Primstav after my sister in law and her husband gave us a copy of a wonderful book that follows the runic calendar and the food traditions associated with it.
The primstav is a very old type of Norwegian calendar that is recorded on a wooden stick and was typically used on farms to follow certain important dates, some pagan, that related to key times for livestock and crops, and many that were religious that had somehow along the way become part of the runic calendar and the natural diary of events through the year.
My good intentions fell by the wayside as 2020 became a year quite like no other we had ever experienced and my primstav plan was abandoned for more pressing things. However, this year, I intend to start afresh and I will be posting regularly with details of celebration dates associated with it and the food it has inspired or follows.
But a bit more about the primstav. A primstav is shaped like a sword and usually made from a hard wood or other very hard material (modern versions are frequently made in metal), and records with notches and symbols key dates in the year. One side is for summer and the other side is for winter. Primstav follow the Julian calendar so when the Gregorian calendar (the one we use today) became widely used in the 1700s they were pretty much useless. Having said that they were still used well into the 1900s because key dates such as when to harvest or when to sow will never change! I'd love to say I own a primstav, but I am still on the search for an old original and will be visiting every shop I see that might have a horde of old treasures.
I hope you will join me on my journey to discover some forgotten food traditions and share with you those dates that were so important to so many through the ages here in Norway.
So let's start! New Year's Day is the first date recorded on the primstav and it was thought that the day gave many symbols of how the year ahead would be. For example a lot of wind on New Years Day would signify a windy year, or in northern Norway it was thought that a good onshore wind would give good fishing. In another part of the country if the sun shone then it would mean that it would be a good harvest that year.
New Year's Day has many of it's own special foods but one that nearly always appears is riskrem. It's almost always served on Christmas Eve with a single almond in it. The person who finds the almond wins marzipan in the shape of a pig. Riskrem is also a dish that is a tradition on New Year's Day and is a perennial favourite of my kids, riskrem. It's a light and easy to make dessert that can be kept for days in the fridge and still be as delicious as when you first made it. It's also the perfect "turmat" (trip food), just pop into a small container with a lid, add a spoon and you have a yummy snack.
Riskrem (serves 4)
400g / 14 oz rice pudding or rice porridge (you can use my recipe for risgrøt here)
200ml / 6.75 fl oz double or heavy cream
2 tablespoons icing or powdered sugar
For serving (one or more of the following):
Fruit coulis or puree (a simple fruit coulis can be made by liquidising fruit and adding icing sugar to taste)
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the icing sugar and gently incorporate. Fold in the rice pudding. Spoon into individual serving dishes or a larger glass dish and serve with a topping of your choice, or let everyone choose their own. If you are not eating the riskrem in the next few hours, I would suggest putting it into a container with a lid and refrigerating. It will be just as good when you come to serve it.
Vær så god!
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