World Cuisines: Learn More About Danish Cuisine And Rygeost
Danish cuisine is one of the world cuisines that brings to mind family and friends. The Danes have a philosophy about what food means to them and the contentment they associate with it - it is called hygge .
Hygge means basically good food, good company, wine, comfortable furniture, music, laughter, and good lighting - the epitome of entertainment and enjoying the food you eat.
To Danes, it is extremely important that food is associated with happy times, family and friends. Going out to dinner is becoming less of a luxury in Denmark, but it is still not as prevalent as in other parts of the world. Food preparation and serving a good meal is a great part of the Danish experience when it comes to cuisine.
Danish Cuisine Contributions
One of Denmark's most wonderful contributions to world cuisine is their cheese - see below for the amazing number of cheeses Denmark produces.
They are also famous for their contribution to pastry worldwide and one of their specialties - Danish pastries.
Still further, a great part of Danish cuisine is directly tied to the smorgasbord where foods of many different kinds figure prominently.
They are also known for their wonderfully creative open-faced sandwiches as well as several magnificent desserts to include rodgrod.
At Christmastime in Denmark, the Danes begin celebrating on December 24th and this celebration usually runs through the 26th. This is called Juleaften (which means Yule Eve). It begins with an evening sumptuous feast of roasted pork, duck or goose which is eaten with potatoes, red cabbage and gravy. Rice pudding is usually the dessert of choice.
It is a tradition for a whole almond to be buried in the pudding and whoever finds it in their pudding will supposedly have luck for a year. They usually start out their luck with a small gift! After the meal, people sing and then someone is usually chosen to give out presents.
The 'Christmas lunch' is also a Danish tradition and is called Julefrokost. This lunch includes many Danish dishes and is served with beer and Snaps, which is a strong liquor. The Christmas lunch is popular throughout Denmark and can be held by families, in the workplace or in other social groups.
Sometimes these 'lunches' are held many times before Christmas but can also nowadays be held in November and January due to all the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Danish cuisine is a world cuisine based on many different foods and cooking techniques, however, the salient feature of this cuisine is that it all centers around people and the enjoyment of food together.
DENMARK AND DANISH CUISINE
By virtue of its place in the world and its topography, being a land with vast challenges such as its islands, making it difficult many years ago to travel or receive travelers, the Danes adapted their cuisine around what the elements had given them.
They learned early on to preserve the bounty that they got from the sea by way of using pickling or preserving techniques to help them have food through winter. They also became adept at working the land and using everything that their part of the world had to offer - such as grazing land for cows, goats and sheep. They also became adept at incorporating many fruits and vegetables into their diet which they grew themselves.
One of the main things that Danish cuisine is famous for is their cheeses. They have so many different and delicious forms of cheeses that one can satisfy their palate innumerable ways.
Danish cuisine over the years has thus developed into a cooking style that features things like pickled herring or smoked salmon. There is also a heavy reliance on vinegar-based dishes such as red cabbage dishes or sweet and sour dishes such as cucumbers and cabbage. This all came about because of the early reliance on pickling or preserving-based substances to keep food for a long time. It has lived on and become part of the magic of Danish cuisine with all its unique tastes. Their cuisine was also influenced by the French, German and other Scandinavian cultures as time went on and people began to travel more freely or became intimately involved with more countries.
Breakfast in Denmark
Breakfasts in Denmark are made up of various choices. Always a part of a meal, breads of all kinds such as rye, French, or grain and rolls are part of the fare. Jams or yogurt-like puddings are also a favorite at breakfast. Of course, Danish pastries are a favorite as well but then a breakfast can be as simple as cereal and toast. If there is a special occasion, alcohol in the form of a 'bitter' will be offered as well. People in Denmark generally do not 'go out' for breakfast. It is usually consumed at home and with family or friends. For special occasions, the Danes will have a morgenbord which means 'morning board' and will serve specialty items in the forms of more exotic breads and dishes to celebrate.
Lunches in Denmark are dependent upon the activities. Working people will take their lunch to work much as Americans will and eat their lunch 'in'. Sometimes the workplace will offer food at a cafeteria or there may be one nearby. Going out to restaurants is not as prevalent in Denmark as it is around the world though it is gaining more popularity - especially with the addition of so many choices in terms of restaurants coming to larger cities. The cafe, however, is usually the place of choice for Danes to dine out although on a special occasion, they will go to a fancier restaurant.
Most famous in Danish cuisine, however, is the open-faced sandwich. There are innumerable combinations - some with fish and cheese, some with vegetables and meats - and some a combination of all things possible! This is called the 'smorrebrod' and though it varies in creation from one person to another, it is universally appreciated as a delicious way to have lunch. Prepared lunch meats can be used along with all sorts of cheeses, or the open sandwiches can be prepared with such things as eel, roast beef, pork or salmon. There are vegetarian sandwiches as well with such things as lettuces, cucumbers, onions and lemon. One sandwich is featured with a fried egg on top of an eel base. Please see Simple Tim's comment below. Many times, the lunches turn into a many course meal!
Denmark's Kolde Bord
There is also the 'kolde bord', which is a buffet style of eating that is like the Swedish smorgasbord. This lunch presentation is usually a bit fancier and many dishes are featured, again heavy on the pickled herring, breads, potato dishes, followed by things such as Danish meatballs, veal, chopped steak, pork tenderloin or liver with mushrooms and onions. This is topped off with Danish beer or strong liquor shots. Next follow salads and cold cuts, then cheeses and fruits.
Last but not least, dinners are a sacred time for most Danes as they believe in people sitting down to dine and being together. Oftentimes, friends or family are asked to join them because if nothing else, the Danes love company! They love to entertain and are great at making people feel at home. Generally a dinnertime invitation will start at 6:00 with drinks such as kir, champagne, or a martini and/or wine and beer and last until 9:00 p.m. or so. Dinner is a time for relaxation and taking your time to enjoy everyone's company and the food. It is a long but relaxed process to have a dinner party or be invited to one.
Dinner is usually a several course meal, starting with fish appetizers such as shrimp or a pate. This will be followed by soup like asparagus or leek - maybe with little dumplings - or even a legume soup. The Danes do eat a lot of fish but they also consume mostly pork. Fish may range from eel to salmon to lobster while pork dishes may range from pork tenderloin to ham. Beef and chicken are also popular but not consumed as much as pork and fish in Denmark. Duck and goose are also popular dinner entrees and the Danish recipes for all of these are marvelous.
Vegetables in Danish Cuisine
Potatoes also factor in heavily in Danish cuisine - in such dishes as au gratin potatoes or small boiled new potatoes. They also have their own versions of potato salad and mashed potatoes (usually covered with a meat stew). They also make a baked potato with a cream sauce. Pasta and rice are not as popular in traditional Danish cuisine but as time goes on, they have become more and more popular with their introduction as Denmark experiences other world cuisines.
Vegetables in Denmark make up the 'traditional' fare such as carrots, kale, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli and the like while they also have many sweet and sour dishes such as pickled beets, red cabbage in vinegar, and pickles in their diet.
Danish Specialty Sauces
Brown sauce is extremely popular in Denmark and can be served with just about anything. Bearnaise is also very popular along with horseradish sauce as they are good accompaniments to pork. The Danes also enjoy a sauce called the remoulade which is a mayonnaise based sauce with mustard and herbs. This also goes very well with pork and poultry dishes.
The cheeses of Denmark are many and varied. See the separate listing of all the various cheeses that the Danes produce and consume. Danish cuisine centers mostly around the milder variants of the cheeses, although the Danish blue is one of the best in the world and is used in many, many things from salads to cooking.
Herbs and Spices in Denmark
Herbs in Denmark are usually rather traditional with the exception of curry. They do use dill as their cuisine is heavily fish-based. They also use such things as rosemary, thyme, and parsley, chives, garlic and sage.
Fruit in Denmark is served quite often as dessert along with cheese and wine. They have many of the traditional fruits such as apples, pears and peaches but also have many delicious berries like strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries. They also have plums and red currants which are featured heavily in their dessert puddings and cakes. They have a magnificent pudding called rodgrod which is a stewed pudding made of these fruits.
Drinks in Denmark
Drinks usually center around akvavit, which is a potato based liquor, beer (some quite strong), glogg (which is similar to a mulled wine), bitters, barley wine, coffee, tea, mineral water, hot chocolate, and fruit wines.
Desserts in Denmark range from ice cream to rice pudding to rodgrod to ebelskiver pancakes, which are rounded stuffed pancakes made in a special pan. These little pancakes are absolutely heavenly. There are other famous Danish desserts as well such as apple Charlotte, which is stewed apples topped with bread crumbs and an almond meringue.
Breads and Baked Goods in Denmark
For breads, rye bread is very popular but French, white and grain breads are equally popular. Danes enjoy cookies and pastries as much as the rest of the world along with layered cakes, a special ring cake (where layers are stacked upon each other in decreasing sized rings), and Kringle (which is a pretzel-shaped cake).
Danish Candies and Sweets
The Danes also make licorice - some of the strongest licorice in the world which is very popular in Denmark. They also make wine gums and share the world's love of chocolate and caramel in many forms.
The Many Cheeses of Denmark
Danish cheeses are extremely distinctive and are enjoyed around the world.
They come in all forms and of all different percentages in terms of milk fat. Some are soft and some are hard cheeses - some are more tart and some creamy and light.
Soft cheeses are used in cooking for their creaminess such as stuffings, appetizers and fillings or in soups. Others are used as table cheeses, meaning they can stand alone and be served with fruit or wine. Still others are crumbled onto salads or sliced for sandwiches.
Akkawi is an Arabic cheese and is a white brined cheese that is native to Palestine. It is mostly made from cow's milk but can be made from goat or sheep's milk. It has been produced on large scale in the Middle East, mostly Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.
Now, due to a shortage of cow's milk in Palestine, it is now being made in Denmark. Akkawi is produced in small squares and canned in brine. This cheese has a mild and salty taste like a Ukraninian Brinzi.
It is a great cheese stand alone or paired with fresh fruit and wine.
Blue Brie cheese is also called Cambozola and is made in Denmark, France and Germany. This is a cow's milk cheese and is a combination of a soft-ripened triple cream cheese and a Gorgonzola cheese. Blue Brie is a rinded brie and is soft and tasty - a favorite in cooking and snacks.
Blue Creme is also a brie cheese that is very rich though very mild. It tastes a bit salty as well as nutty.
Blue Castello is a cheese that is made from cow's milk and then enriched with cream. This cheese is similar to a brie in its texture and its so-called 'double cream' texture. It is shaped in a half moon and has a natural rind with gray, brown or white moulds.
It is a moist cheese and smells like mushrooms with a slightly spicy flavor. This is a modern cheese. It was first developed in the 1960s. It is a creamery cheese and is streaked with thick, blue horizontal 'veins'. It is made from cow's milk and its texture is soft. Fat content for this cheese is 70%.
Cream Havarti is perhaps Denmark's most well-known cheese. It is a delicious mild, very creamy semi-soft cheese with small to medium sized holes scattered throughout. It is served both as a table cheese and a dessert cheese with fruit and wine.
There are flavored forms of Cream Havarti as well - such as dill, garlic, herbs, or jalapeno. It is a richer version of regular Havarti and is soft and buttery.
Crema Dania is also sometimes called Crema Danica. This cheese is made in the form of small rectangles with a white rind which is edible. The cheese inside is a soft white and is very rich.
This cheese is a double cream cheese and is almost classified as a triple cream cheese because of its creaminess and fat content. Crema Dania contains 72% percent milk fat. This is mostly used as an after-dinner cheese.
Danablu is Danish Blue Cheese. This wonderful cheese is shaped as a drum or a block and is made in the creamery. This is known as the world's best blue cheese. This cheese is made from cow's milk and was invented in the early 20th century by Marius Boel.
Danablu Cheese has a tart, sharp taste with a salty bite but is very creamy to the taste. There is a white interior and a blue-black mould that is very gritty and salty. However, it is not as strong as Roquefort. This cheese takes 2-3 months to ripen. The fat content of Danablu is 50-60%. Danablu is used as a table cheese and is also great in salads. This is a very versatile cheese as it can be used in many recipes. It can be sliced or it can be served with fruit, breads, and wine. This cheese is also called Marmora.
Danablu is one of the 2 Danish cheeses that are marked PGI by the government, meaning that they can only be produced in Denmark from Danish milk and at approved dairies that produce the cheeses according to specifications given. The other cheese so processed is Esrom.
Danbo is one of the most favorite of Danish cheeses. It comes in a rectangle with a smooth, dry, yellow rind which is sometimes covered in red wax. This cheese has a pale surface with few holes - it is a very pliable cheese. It is mainly used for snacks and breakfast. Ripening takes 6 weeks to 5 months and the fat content of Danbo is 45%. Danbo is made from cow's milk and is classified as a semi-soft cheese.
Danish Fontina is a semi-soft cheese and has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. It is like the Italian Fontina and even though it is a bit more tart than the Italian version, it is interchangeable in recipes calling for the Italian version of the cheese.
Danish Fontina is a great cheese for the table and goes well with light wine but is also great on sandwiches. It is also a good cheese to use in melted cheese sauces such as macaroni and cheese. Danish Fontina is also a great cheese for crackers. It is a pale yellow cheese that melts easily and smoothly and hence is great for sauces.
Esrom is named for the town by this name. This is a semi-soft cheese with a greasier yellow-brown ring. The inside is a sticky pale yellow cheese with scattered holes. Esrom has a mild flavor but with a bit of a bite. It has an almost buttery texture. The longer Esrom ages, the spicier and tastier the cheese becomes.
This is a cheese that goes well with beer or sturdy red wines. Some versions of the cheese are flavored with garlic, onion or pepper. Esrom is also known as Danish Port Salut. This cheese is made from cow's milk. Esrom is great in casseroles and good on sandwiches. It is ripened for 10-12 weeks from a starting culture and then poured into rectangular molds to cure.
Esrom is one of the 2 Danish cheeses that are marked PGI by the government, meaning that they can only be produced in Denmark from Danish milk and at approved dairies that produce the cheeses according to the specifications given. The other cheese is Danablu.
Fynbo is named after the island of Fyn Fynbo. This cheese is produced with pasteurized milk and is a fermented cheese. It is processed using bacterial cultures. The milk is heated to 87 degrees and then curdled with liquid rennet (used as a thickener).
The cheese is then shaped like a cylinder and roughly weighs about 4 lb. Fynbo is made with cow's milk and is a semi-hard cheese. This cheese has a somewhat buckwheat-like flavor.
Grinzola is an organic blue cheese. It is made from cow's milk and has a creamy texture and a very mild flavor. This cheese is a soft creamy version of blue cheese and is very popular.
Havarti is a very traditional cheese. It is a semi-soft cheese with a very mild flavor. It is a very simple cheese with a washed-rind on the outside and a semi-soft interior with small holes throughout. This cheese is an enriched version of the cream Havarti and is thought to be more delicious in this form. Havarti is made sometimes with caraway seeds.
This cheese was named after the farm in Denmark where it was created. Havarti is made from cow's milk. It is often referred to as Tilsit. It is a semi-soft, pale yellow cheese that is mildly tangy though as it ages, it will intensify in flavor and become sharper. Traditional Havarti comes in blocks or loaves wrapped in foil.
Maribo is another semi-hard cheese that is made from cow's milk. This cheese has a natural, rather tan colored rind and comes in a round or in a block. The cheese itself is a pale yellow. Maribo was named after the town on an island called Lolland. This cheese is very similar to Gouda and has a firm, dry interior peppered with many irregularly shaped holes.
Usually Maribo comes in a yellow wax and is occasionally flavored with caraway seeds. This cheese has a fat content of 30-45%. This is a cheese made with pasteurized milk and liquid rennet for curdling. This curd is then heated to 100 degrees and the whey is drawn off. Then the cheese is salted, the curd pressed into molds and cured for another 3-5 weeks. The taste of Maribo is directly related to how long it has been cured so if cured longer, it has a stronger flavor.
Molbo is a cheese named after the region of Mols in Denmark. This cheese is very similar to Edam and has a light, delicate flavor but is also slightly tangy and salty. Molbo has small, regular holes. This cheese is usually covered in a red wax coating. It is made from cow's milk and is a semi-hard cheese. Molbo is a table cheese.
Mycella is a strong runner up to Gorgonzola. It has a blue-green mold and is very aromatic. The name of this cheese is derived from the blue mould Penicillium mycelium in Latin. This is a traditional blue cheese made from cow's milk.
This cheese has many veins coursing through it in contrast to the pale, creamy, butter-like interior. Mycella is a table cheese used for snacks or added to salads. This cheese is made from cow's milk and has 50-60% fat content.
Rygeost is a specialty smoked cheese and virtually not obtainable anywhere but in Denmark. This cheese is made from a combination of cow's milk and buttermilk and is generally served on Midsummer's Eve in Denmark.
This a non-aged smoked cheese mixture that is roasted over a straw and nettle fire. Sometimes caraway seeds are added to the cheese for flavor. Rygeost is most often spread on rye bread with mayonnaise or spread on salami and eaten that way. It is also made into cheese salad. It is served with much beer and radishes! Here is a fantastic recipe to make your own Rygeost.
Saga Blue is a combination of blue cheese and Brie. This is a soft double-cream cheese but can be compared to a triple-cream cheese in its richness. It is a creamy blue-veined cheese with a white mould rind. Saga Blue is a very mild cheese for a blue cheese.
This is an excellent dessert cheese that is best served with fruit and wine. This is also an excellent cheese to use in salads or on crackers. Saga Blue is made in Denmark but it is also now made in the United States. This is a soft cheese and the white rind is edible. It has a very mellow flavor that makes it excellent for a dessert cheese. Saga Blue is made from cow's milk.
Samso is also called Samsoe. This cheese dates back to the early 19th century when the King of Denmark asked Swiss cheesemakers to come to Denmark to teach them their art. The result was Samso. This cheese is named after the island of Samso. This is a cheese similar to Emmental, which is a Swiss cheese. It is made from pasteurized cow's milk.
This cheese is a yellow, semi-hard cheese and traditionally has larger, irregular holes. It has a distinct flavor though not a sharp taste. Three types of bacteria are used to make this kind of cheese. Maturation for this cheese is from 3-6 months, even longer to develop more of a sweet and sour taste or a nutty flavor. Samso is usually found in disks or blocks and has a fat content of about 30-45%. This cheese is used in salads, sandwiches, or cooked dishes.
Tybo is also called Thybo and is made from cow's milk. It is very similar to Samso. It is loaf-shaped and has a cream-colored interior filled with holes with a yellow rind. Tybo has a somewhat salty but smooth and milk-like flavor. It is sometimes flavored with caraway seeds. This cheese has a very mild taste so is good for sandwiches, salads, sauces and since it melts well, is great for cooked dishes.
Summing Up Danish Cuisine
Danish cuisine is one of the most fascinating to study simply because it comes from simplicity and deep-seated family values. It is evident in the preparation of their food that they are very social people and that their love of cooking is a way of expressing how much they care for those around them.
Even though I have not traveled to Denmark, I know of the charm of the country as my mother visited it many years ago - a sort of pilgrimage to see where my grandmother grew up in Copenhagen. My mother was enthralled with the people and with the food as well and will always remember what a wonderful experience she had getting to know the Danes.
Their cuisine is unique and it is something to savor - we can learn a lesson from Danish cuisine and how to slow down and concentrate on those things most important.
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