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 has held fast over the years. And while less and less Norwegians celebrate this day, it still is seen as a welcome to the arrival of summer.
No other dish is regarded quite so heavily with Sankthans than rømmegrøt, a porridge made of sour cream, especially in Northern and Central Norway. In fact, there are three traditional summer holidays, Sankthans (23 & 24 June), Olsok (29 July) and Barsok ( 24 August), which are associated with the serving of rømmegrøt. When friends and family once gathered for these summer feasts, rømmegrøt became the highlight of the menu, for it is possible that during this time the milk was at its best as the cows grazed in the abundance of summer’s grass. Also, the summer weather would most certainly cause fresh milk to curdle, making it convenient to make porridge for large groups when they had plenty.
Rømmegrøt is thought to have been around during Viking times. Sour cream occurred in limited quantities, therefore, rømmegrøt was a luxury item and party food. This may be why the tradition of serving porridge at weddings – including the so-called “bride porridge” consisting of porridge with raisins – and during Christmas, Confirmation, the birth of a baby and Sankthans began. Olaug Loken, who released a cookbook in 1897, described rømmegrøt as Norway’s national dish and the highlight of Sankthans. (source)
The recipes for rømmegrøt vary greatly regarding the amount of cream and whether it should be cooked with barley or flour or semolina. One thing is for certain: a topping of butter, cinnamon and sugar is always welcome. Serve it alongside a plate of cured meats, and you have a proper meal.
As the suns beats down, its warmth and light filling each day, it feels right to celebrate with this beloved dish. Only this time, it’s transformed into a more summer-worthy treat. This is my take on a Midsummer rømmegrøt. It keeps the creamy, sweet and tangy flavors without being so heavy, and is rather quite refreshing on hot days. Taking a simple, sour cream-based ice cream, then topping it with a generous dusting of cinnamon sugar, gives the senses a cooled-down version of this classic dish. For those who can’t part with spekemat, just toss a couple of fried cured meats on top. You can even add raisins if you so desire. This just might even convince those who don’t normally dive into a bowl of rømmegrøt to enjoy the flavors of this celebratory treat.
Rømmegrøt Ice Cream
(Makes about 2 pints / 1 litre / 8 servings)
- 11oz (300g) full fat sour cream
- 1 ½ cups (3 dl) heavy cream
- ¾ cup (150g) sugar
- cinnamon & sugar for topping
- cured meats for topping (optional)
In a food processor, combine the sour cream, heavy cream and sugar and blend well. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to cool.
Place the mixture in an ice cream machine and follow the manufactures’ instructions. Alternatively, place the mixture in a container and place in the freezer for a couple of hours, or overnight, until it hardens.
To serve, mix the sugar and cinnamon in small bowl (suggested 4-1 ratio; for example, 4Tb sugar to 1Tb cinnamon) and generously sprinkle over the ice cream.
Optional (for a truly complete rømmegrøt dish): cut cured meats, such as Norwegian fenelår, into small pieces and fry in a pan until crispy. Place the fried bits over the cinnamon sugar & ice cream. Dig in!