Blog

  • Why is it called the “new Nordic” ?

    Rene Redzepi opened NoMa in 2003 in Copenhagen where basically all “serious” restaurants either served Italian or French cuisine. He wanted to make a “serious” restaurant that served Nordic food. So one of the main pillars of the new Nordic is that food is a serious thing. But the trouble is, that Nordic food has this incredibly lively history that, in terms of restaurants, is a lost thing. The kings of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark all had chefs that created French-influenced food with local ingredients but this is basically a lost thing. The main survivor of industrialism, colonialism, etc. is the artisan culture, cheese and aquavit especially in the Nordic countries is the best in the world. But there weren’t serious restaurants that sold Nordic food. So the idea behind restaurants like NoMa and Fäviken was to reignite this old idea of Nordic chefs borrowing French systems but using local ingredients. Thus new Nordic. The other thing about the new Nordic is the food is actually really different from what our parents ate. The Nordic countries have a peasant food tradition that’s a lot like Slavic countries, essentially creamed potatoes and roasted meat, stewed vegetables, rice pudding, etc. My family being in America incorporated macaroni and cheese into our smörgåsbord tradition. So we differentiate ourselves from our parents' generation as new, aka the new Nordic. A lot of times food writers will say that new Nordic chefs are “breathing life into old traditions” or something along this line. That’s pretty much true. All the techniques new Nordic chefs use are in the ether of Nordic cooking; the cheese-making, the curing processes, pickling vegetables, pickling fish especially, are things we all grew up with. My parents never actually did any of that stuff, but the food we ate growing up was all created using these kinds of techniques. So I have a taste for fermented foods from a young age, really all Nordic people do. I remember one of my favorite foods growin...
  • Grave-curing and pickling fish

    There are two methods of preserving fish I like: grave-curing and pickling. In the old time, fishermen would dig a hole on the beach and bury their fresh catch in salt, to be dug up later for a meal. But for grave-curing a freezer bag is also okay. To implement this kind of preservation technique (grave-curing), I use a salt-sugar cure that draws the natural liquid out of the fish to form a brine. The fish soaks in its own juices--it’s getting really savory and delicious as enzymes work to break down proteins into amino acids and fat into fatty acids-- and the high salt content discourages the growth of bad bacteria while encouraging the growth of lactobacillus. As the lactobacillus multiply in the cure, they produce lactic acid, lowering the pH of the fish (more acidic), and producing an even more beneficial environment for themselves, as well as further defending against the growth of other kinds of bacteria. The amount of salt and sugar to use depends on the length of the cure and the kind of end product I am looking for. The more sugar the cure contains, the creamier the fish will be. If the fish is only being cured for a short time, the fish will be sweeter, because the lactobacillus will not have had enough time to consume the sugar in the cure. If the cure is longer, the lactobacillus will have consumed more of the sugar, and the fish will be more acidic. More salt means more water is drawn out of the fish, so it will be firmer and the pH level will be lower. Longer cures are more savory, because the lactobacillus will have broken down more of the protein and fat into amino acids and fatty acids. For a pickle, I follow a short grave-curing process by submerging the fish with its savory brine into a solution of white vinegar and liquor. Both methods take a large quantity of aromatics. I like bay leaves, rainbow peppercorns, sea buckthorns, Jamaican scotch bonnet peppers, juniper berries, and lots of fresh dill. I also like coriander, cardamom, and caraw...
  • Knäckebröd and sour butter

      The term "Nordic" almost always refers in some way to the unifying thread that connects the cultures of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Magnus Nilsson claims to have agonized over writing a gastronomical account of the “Nordic” countries: I might have said at some point something along the lines of: to write a book on Nordic home cooking in general is about as stupid as to write one on European cooking, lumping Estonia, France and Portugal together into one work that will never be deep enough to explain anything. Or to make one on American cooking, taking in everything between Canada and Chile, trying to describe it in one book… I decided to write the book and to make its mission to explain how similar our Nordic cultures really are, but also how they differ, how everything is tied together by our mutual history and our present culture and how it can all be tracked through the food we eat. Food is an undeniable and unavoidable marker of culture and society. People have to eat, and therefore they also have to relate to food as a subject, regardless of whether they want to or not (The nordic cookbook, 11-2). Nilsson quite succinctly defends his claim that food is an undeniable and unavoidable marker that proves the cohesiveness of the term “Nordic”: the image of bread smeared with butter and topped with a slice of hard cheese. Such a sandwich is usually made from fresh ingredients that have been preserved for long-term storage, such as bread, leavened, seasoned butter and dry, hard cheese that has been ideally been matured for one or two years. Many northerners eat this sandwich every day; its origins can be traced back for more than a millennium and it exists in hundreds of variants (23). Taking our cue from Magnus Nilsson’s approach to the gastronomy of the North, let us consider the craft knäckebröd cracker smeared with homemade sour butter as a humble yet vastly pregnant semioticon of Nordic culture. Knäckebröd an...
  • Our Preservation Methods and Nordic Flavor

    We make our products to serve three values: [1] availability; [2] the Nordic flavor profile; and [3] shelf life. In practice, this is a marriage of techniques and materials. Our techniques Our techniques include the following: [1] culturing; [2] curing and drying; [3]; brining and pickling; and [4] fermenting. All of these techniques are forms of cooking that don’t require the application of heat. We do apply heat, for example, to get milk up to temp in preparation for culturing, to curdle milk for cheese, or to blanch sausages in preparation for pickling; however, the heating process is not by itself a cooking technique sufficient for achieving preservation, like the sauté, fry, or grill methods are. The grain of knäckebröd is preserved through the application of heat and then left to dry. Culturing involves encouraging certain bacterial growth in dairy products over a period of days, weeks, months or even years. The result is a tangy, sour, or savoury effect on butter, yogurt, or cheese. Cultured milk products can last for months in the refrigerator. Curing is the first step taken when preserving any meat product. The meats are then desalted and pickled. If they are pickled long enough at the right temperature, meat products, especially fish, will ferment. Vegetables are pickled and fermented. Our materials Our three guiding values (availability, Nordic flavor, shelf life) all play a role in how we select materials for processing. There are some ingredients, however, that are not locally available but serve the Nordic flavor profile to a significant enough extent to justify importation. To this end we get our lingonberries (and our juniper berries) from Washington state because cranberries don’t provide the sour tang essential for our jam product that lingonberries do. Our main product, knäckebröd, requires flour imported from a mill in Minnesota. We have to use the best coarse rye flour for this product, so Nordic flavor trumps local availability in this ...
  • About Our Knäckebröd

    Crispbread (Swedish: knäckebröd) isn’t much made by Swedish people. I made meatballs and plättar with my mother as a child, but we only ate crispbread on Christmas and it was one of the factory-made brands. I first became interested in crispbread when I started working out Swedish recipes in a commercial culinary context. I made gravlax, meatballs, cultured dairies, and lingonberry jam. I found a recipe for crispbread in one of Magnus Nilsson’s cookbooks. Nilsson was a major player in the original New Nordic trend that began almost a generation before me, and his recipe, which calls for strong wheat and coarse rye flour, yeast, aniseed, and milk, spoke to me in its simplicity, and the breads were perfect, the aniseed was tangy. They store well, are flavorful and can take a lot of protein. I started making a lot of crispbread.   History of crispbread Crispbread was the primary preserved grain for most Swedish people at certain critical times in history. It was originally toasted on hot stones around 500 CE. Because crispbread, once cooked, can stay fresh for years under the right conditions, it became the backbone of the powerful Viking societies, allowing them to travel long distances and colonize faraway lands. It gained a renewed importance in Swedish culture during the industrialization period. One of Sweden’s first factories was a crispbread factory, and crispbread fed Sweden’s burgeoning populations that resulted from the rise of urban centers from the mid-19th century onward.    Crispbread nutrition and Swedish diet Crispbread continues to form a critical component of the average Swedish person’s diet. Most Swedish people eat it every day, often first thing in the morning with a slice of hard cheese. Crispbread has numerous health benefits. It is rich in dietary fiber and resistant starch, it contains minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that are hard to find elsewhere, and it has photoprotective qualities, which refers to substances that help in mol...
  • Nordic artisans from pastoralism to the hedonistic period

    The role of the artisan in food production is often considered primordial, feudal, existing on a plane of time both bucolic and fleeting into the vanishing past of absolute time. The real history of artisans and food in northern Europe, however, is welded to the power of some culturally complex and little-known societies, the best of known of which is the Vikings. The first peoples of northern Europe were migrant hunters. These were tiny tribes that followed the migratory patterns of large mammals. As a tactic of survival, food consumption was always possible because these tiny groups lingered near the great masses of flesh that grazed on the tundra grasses. With the domestication of bovines, sheep, horses, and dogs, pastoralism took the place of migratory hunting. The pastoral societies could support a slightly larger population than the migrant hunter groups could, and this excess was prudently specialized into two classes of citizen: warriors and artisans. The first got their keep through the raiding of their wealthier but subordinate southern agricultural neighbors; the latter justified themselves through the production of cheese, yogurt, cultured butter, and textiles. And when the raiders brought home salt and liquor, the artisans made themselves even more useful, producing jerkies of all kinds, and pickling the fish. The kings of Sweden and Norway are the progeny of the generals of this warrior class. They saw the French employing men who could concoct foods that would please the palate, lengthen life, and bring spiritual empowerment through the incorporation of the various imported foods and spices as the result of the expansion of Islamic trade, so they got chefs of their own, who utilized local ingredients and artisan-produced goods to turn canapés into smörgås. The first factories in Sweden produced crispbread and candy. The former was an old standard, a preserved milk and grain product that bore the Vikings to the New World, and would now stimulate th...
  • Preserving dairies

    At K-bröd, we preserve dairies to make three different products: [1] cultured butter, [2] skyr, and [3] cheese. We take a holistic approach to dairy preservation; in this way, we formerly preserve the cream and secondly preserve the milk. Cultured butter, cultured milk Lactic acid preservation of cream and milk is as old as the domestication of dairy-producing animals. While the isolation of live bacteria cultures is relatively recent, it is possible that the original bacteria that cultured the first dairy products could be traced to a single source, since the trade of a cultured dairy product is far easier and likelier than the accidental invention of a probiotic dairy product at multiple times and locations. Once some dairy has been cultured, it is quite easy to culture a new batch. Because cream and milk come from the safety of an animal’s body, immediately culturing it and keeping it out of heat of the day temperatures will have a nearly 100 percent success rate for producing cultured butter or yogurt. Modern artisans must heat the milk to be sure of its safety before culturing, but cream is normally ready to be cultured straight from the carton. Yogurt, Cheese Yogurt and cheese are preserved using two different methods for the same milk product. Yogurt, like cultured butter, is infused with probiotic bacteria that produce lactic acid, in which these bacteria thrive but most other kinds of microbes fail to grow in. Cheese, on the other hand, is coagulated with rennet (a product often made from the bones of a baby cow) and strained. The coagulated, dry environment is hospitable to good bacteria that stink pleasantly, but is unfriendly to other kinds of microorganisms. The humble homemade cheese we produce is ethnically called gammelost, and commonly called priest cheese, after the monks who let the curd ripen on their windowsill while copying classical manuscripts. Nutrition Preserved dairies are really good for you. Lactic acid fermentation preserves rare...