Our Sunday Special: Jalapeño Poppers and easy-to-make Quesadillas

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Our family had a very active day outdoors today. We planted garlic for our italian-american cooking. The garlic needs a winter to grow and hopefully we’ll have lots of it next summer. We also did some maintenance on the house to get ready for the long swedish winter: we put another coat of oil on the wood on the front porch to make it last better under the snow. After an active day like this we wanted a nice Sunday supper. My son had one request: corn-on-the-cob. I also had some leftover jalapeño peppers after making Hot Pepper Jelly that I didn’t want to go to waste so I decided for an easy-to-make Tex Mex-buffet where everyone could pick their favorites.

There are two recipes I want to share with you. The Jalapeño Poppers of course and then our Quesadillas that are so easy-to-make that I am almost embarrased to call it a recipe. But hey, they taste good! You’ll need:

For the Jalapeño Poppers:

• 10-12 jalapeño peppers
• 3.5 oz (100 gram) Philadelphia Cream Cheese
• 3.5 oz. (100 gram) Cheddar Cheese, shredded (riven)
• salt and garlic salt for seasoning
• milk
• all-purpose flour (vetemjöl)
• Panko asian breadcrumbs (Panko asiatiskt ströbröd)
• Rape seed or Canola oil for deep frying (rapsolja för fritering)

Always wear latex gloves when handeling the jalapeño. Cut the jalapeño lengthwise and remove all seeds and membranes. Mix together Philadelphia and Cheddar cheese with a fork and season with salt and garlic salt. Stuff the jalapeños with the cheese mix and close them. Put them on a plate. Pour milk in a bowl and put flour in another bowl. Dip the jalapeños first in the milk, then coat them with flour and put them on a plate. Let them dry for 10-15 minutes.

Now put Panko in a bowl. Dip the jalapeños quickly in milk and coat them with Panko. Let them dry on a plate for 10 minutes and repeat the procedure with milk and Panko once more so that the jalapeños are covered.

Heat up an inch (2,5 cm) of oil in a deep frying pan or enamel (emalj) pot. It should be hot enough for a piece of white bread to turn golden brown when put in the oil. Deep fry the Jalapeño Poppers a couple of minutes and turn them so that they are golden brown all over. Let them dry off a bit on paper towels and serve as an appetizer, side or on a buffet.

And now for the Quesadillas. You’ll need:

• A bunch of wheat tortillas
• Brie cheese
• Your favorite ready made text mex salsa
• Slices of Serrano or Parma ham if you are a meat eater
• Rape seed or canola oil (rapsolja)

Slice the brie cheese using a knife (keep it refrigerated until it is time to slice so that the cheese is easy to work with when you slice it). Take a tortilla and spread some oil on one side of it using a cooking brush. Put a couple of slices of cheese on the oiled side. Spread a couple of tablespoons of salsa over it. The meat eater puts a slice or two of serrano or parma ham on ut now. Some more cheese. Take another tortilla and spread oil on one side. Put it on the tortilla you’ve been working with oil side diwn and press together.

Repeat until you have as many Quesadillas as desired. Use a Grill Frying Pan (grillpanna) (or a regular frying pan) to fry the quesadillas on both sides so that you’ll get a nice grill pattern and so that the cheese melts. You can also use your Barbecue Grill for your cookout or BBQ party. Cut the quesadillas in four slices and serve warm.

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Deep Dish Plum Pie on a very windy day

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Today summer really turned into fall here in Sweden. Far up north they actually had snow and here where we live it was very windy – even stormy – with grey skies and heavy rainfall. We watched the wind grabbing the trees on our property and we realized we had to get out and save the remaining plums from our tree. The cat kept us company as we collected the plums and when we came back inside we had two large bowls full of red and ripe Victoria plums with us. What to do with them? Some went into the freezer (rinse them, cut them in halves and remove the kernels) for the winter. Some will be turned into jam tomorrow. And some of them we couldn’t resist using for making one of the classic american pies: The Deep Dish Plum Pie.

The pie turned out so delicious that we have to share it with you. It was a real treat this rainy day and it is a great way to use the plums on your tree. Start well in advance since the crust needs some time in the refrigerator. You’ll need:

For the crust and lid:

* 2.5 cups (6 dl) flour (vetemjöl)
* 8 oz. (225 gram) of real butter
* 2 gram (2 kryddmått) salt
* 5-6 tablespoons of cold water

For the filling:

* 1 1/2 Quarts (1.5 liter) of plums, cut in halves and with the kernels removed
* 1/4 cup (drygt en halv deciliter) brown sugar (råsocker)
* 1/2 cup (1 1/4 dl) white sugar
* 3-4 tablespoons of Maizena
* 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (malen kanel)
* 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (vaniljsocker)
* 3-4 tablespoons of Madeira wine.
* 3 tablespoons of real butter

For the pie:
* Real butter (softened) for greasing.
* Some sugar and water to sprinkle on the pie before baking.

Start with making the dough for the crust and lid. Mix flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the butter cut in small dices and use your fingers to mix it with the flour. Add the water and quickly work it in making a smooth dough. Split it in two (one for the crust and one for the lid) and let it rest wrapped in saran wrap (plastfolie) in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Put the oven on 435 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celsius). Grease a deep dish (en djup pajform) with butter. Take out one of the doughs from the refrigerator. Use a rolling pin (kavel) to make a crust and cover the dish with it. Put it back in the refrigerator.

Mix together brown and white sugar, salt, Maizena, cinnamon and vanilla. Add the plums and use your hand and mix it together so that the Maizena spreads evenly over the plums. Add the Madeira wine and stir. Take out the pie dish and pour the filling into the crust. Spread the butter in small pieces over it. Take out the second dough and use a rolling pin to make a lid. Cover the pie with it and pinch together the lid and the crust. Use a knife to cut out decorative holes in the lid – this is not only decorative, it also lets the steam out from the pie when it is baked in oven. Sprinkle some additional sugar and some water over the pie.

Bake in the lower rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) and let it bake for another 30 minutes. Cover if it tends to get too dark.

Take it out, let it cool off a bit before serving it as it is or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Fried Green Tomatoes

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I think most swedes had never heard of Fried Green Tomatoes before the early 1990’s when the feelgood film Fried Green Tomatoes at Whistle Stop Café, based on the 1987 novel by Fannie Flag, became a huge success at the movie theaters. Well known and loved actresses Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy made the film very enjoyable together with then newcomers Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker. Set in Georgia during the 1930’s and in modern times it tells the story of Ruth and Idgie and their relationship. Together they open The Whistle Stop Café where chef Big George makes a famous BBQ and of course they have fried green tomatoes on the menu. The book and the film were a celebration of southern cuisine and of the strong women of the south teaching swedish women to say “ToWanda!”.

The fried green tomatoes are originally a side dish from the southern cuisine but they are also loved in the northern states, for example among the Pennsylvania Dutch and amish. The classic way to serve them is with Remoulade Sacue or Shrimp Remoulade as a side of for example fried chicken or catfish. They can also be served as an appetizer, in a Po’ Boy Sandwich or at a buffet. Fried Green Tomatoes tastes great with everything. We had them as our lunch today together with leftover salad and some bread and cheese.

For this recipe I used cornmeal (majsmjöl). Cornmeal can be bought in some supermarkets and online in Sweden, but if you can’t find it you can use swedish potatismjöl instead with a good result. Note that cornmeal and Maizena are not the same thing, so don’t replace it with Maizena. The recipe also calls for buttermilk which can’t be bought in Sweden – just use swedish full fat filmjölk (3 %) instead. I do and they come out great!

You’ll need:

* 3 large green tomatoes, not too ripe and mushy
* 1 cup (2,5 dl) + 1/4 cup (2/3 dl) of all purpose flour (vetemjöl)
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup (1 1/4 dl) buttermilk or filmjölk
* 1/2 cup (1 1/4 dl) cornmeal (majsmjöl) or potatismjöl
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* Ground pepper
* Oil (Canola, corn or rape seed (raps)) for frying

Start with slicing the tomatoes in 1/4-inch (1 centimeter) thick slices

Prepare three deep plates on the counter next to the stove:

Plate no. 1:

Put 1 cup (2,5 dl) of flour in the plate

Plate no. 2:

Beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk (or filmjölk) and beat it together into a batter.

Plate no. 3:

On this plate, mix cornmeal (or potatismjöl), all purpose flour (vetemjöl), the salt and some ground pepper together with a fork.

On the stove, pour about an inch (2,5 cm) of oil in a deep frying pan or enamel pot. Heat it up until a piece of bread turns golden brown when put in the oil. Coat the green tomato slices first in flour from plate one, then in the egg batter from plate 2 and then coat them with the mix in plate 3. Put a couple of them at a time in the pan/pot (not too many at the time since that will lower the temperature of the oil) and let them fry on both sides until golden brown. Take them out of the pan and put them on paper towels for a while to drain before serving. Sprinkle with some additional salt while still hot. They are now crispy on the outside and the inside is filled with soft fried green tomatoes. Serve while still warm. Enjoy!

The best Broccoli Salad ever

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I came across this tasty american recipe for broccoli salad made with crunchy raw broccoli at a birthday party in Sweden. My former neighbor turned 21 and invited us all for a buffet in a tent in the garden. There was a lot of good stuff to choose from at that buffet table but the one thing that got everybody in awe was this salad. Crisp and crunchy with broccoli, purple onions, nuts and seeds. Then the sweetness added through soft raisins and the unique creamy sweet and sour dressing that really brought the whole salad to perfection. The salad at the buffet was vegetarian but the meat eater can also add some crunchy pieces of bacon to it for more protein and saltiness. I am not a meat eater so my version is ovo-vegetarian, but with an egg free mayo you can easily veganize it too.

This broccoli salad has become a family favorite. I have served it as a side for dinners and BBQ:s, with bread for lunch, at buffets and I have brought it with me to cookouts both in the U.S. and in Sweden. Everyone loves it, has a second serving and wants the recipe so here it is as given to me by my former neighbor. This recipe serves at a buffet but can easily be converted for bigger batches. You’ll need:

* The florets of 2-3 broccolis (de små broccolibuketterna) chopped into smaller pieces (discard the stalks)
* 1 purple onion (rödlök) sliced in thin slices
* A handful of raisins
* A handful or two of your favorite nuts and/or seeds (for example cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds)
* The meat eater might want to add a handful of crispy small pieces of bacon

For the dressing:

* A little more than 1/2 cup (1,5 d) of mayonnaise (if in Sweden, use an american brand like Hellmann’s or Heinz since the swedish mayo is a bit different in taste and doesn’t give the same result)
* 1/4 cup (1/2 dl) of sugar
* 3 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
* salt to taste

Mix the ingredients for the salad together in a large bowl. Put the ingredients for the dressing in a separate bowl and stir it together with a spoon. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss the salad so that the dressing spreads over the veggies. Let the salad rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Toss the salad again from the bottom of the bowl immediately before serving so that the dressing becomes evenly spread again. This will be the perfect salad for your weekend! Happy Friday!

Saffron Pancake from Gotland

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Gotland. Sweden’s largest island, situated in the Baltic Sea, southeast of Stockholm, north of Poland and west of Latvia. Here you’ll find medieval buildings and a medieval city wall, beautiful beaches, caves and rauks – unique karstic rock formations. Gotland was the home of director Ingmar Bergman and this was also the place where the classic Pippi Longstocking films from the 1970’s were shot. You can enjoy the tranquility of the rural areas or the bustling night life of the town Visby. Every year in August the Almedalen Week takes place – considered the most important political forum in Sweden this festival of politics with seminars, speeches, parties and events gathers leading politicians, lobbyists, journalists and business people from all of Sweden. So the island of Gotland holds something for everyone – history bugs, geology bugs, families with kids, cineasts, club kids and EVERYONE into politics.

What about the foodie? The foodie is very well catered for at Gotland. The island was both isolated from the swedish mainland and a center of commerce for merchants and their ships from the age of the vikings, through medieval times and up until modern times. This unique history of the island brought a very distinct cuisine. There is no game like the moose and the deer that are common in mainland swedish cuisine so the staple meat on Gotland was and is sheep and lamb. In the old days seals were hunted and eaten and even crow eggs were used for cooking but that is history. Today you can eat both traditional Gotlandic food and trendy international cuisine on the island, often made with locally produced ingredients.

Since Gotland very early in its history attracted merchants from the whole Baltic region imports like saffron and rice reached the island and were incorporated in the cuisine. That is very evident in the Gotland Pancake, a puddinglike indulgence made with round glutonic rice, cinnamon, almonds and saffron. It was originally eaten at Christmas, made from the leftovers of the traditional swedish Christmas rice porridge but later it also became common at anniversaries, weddings and funerals. Today you can eat this golden saffron pancake all year around since it has become a hallmark of Gotland and its tourism industry. The Gotland Pancake is traditionally served with jam made from Salmbär, European dewberry, but it’s also delicious with other kinds of jam together with whipped cream. I couldn’t find Salmbär jam at my local mainland store so I served with raspberry-bluberry jam today.

It takes a while to make saffron pancake from Gotland but it is well worth the effort. You start with making a rice porridge that you use for the batter. You’ll need:

For the porridge:

* 3.5 cups (8 dl) of water
* 1 3/4 cups (4 dl) round glutinous rice (grötris)
* 3 tablespoons of real butter
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 5 cups (12 dl) full fat milk
* 1 cinnamon stick (kanelstång)

For the batter
* The porridge, cooled off
* 8 eggs
* a little less than a cup (2 dl) of sugar
* 3.5 oz. (100 gram) almond flakes (mandelspån)
* 1/2 cup (1 dl) full fat heavy cream (vispgrädde)
* Softened real butter to grease the pan

Start with the porridge. Put rice, water, salt and butter in a large pot with a thick bottom. Bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes, lid on. Take the lid off and add the milk and the cinnamon stick. Bring to boil again. Lower the heat and let it cook, lid off, on very low heat for approx. 40 minutes. Be careful so it doesn’t burn. Stir occasionally. Now you’ll have a smooth, thick porridge. Remove from heat and let it cool off before proceeding with making the batter.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the porridge. Beat eggs, saffron and cream in a separate bowl. Add the mix and the almond flakes to the porridge and mix it together into a smooth batter with a large spoon. Grease a large rectangular cake pan (långpanna) with butter. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake in 350 degrees Fahrenhet/ 175 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes. Serve luke warm (ljummen) with whipped cream and jam.

Plum in Madeira: a classic dessert

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Plums were domesticated by humans very early according to hortoculturist Jules Janick who in an article in Plant Breeding Rev. 25 describes how the fruit was first domesticated in Asia. By antiquity plums had been fully domesticated in the west. In our garden we’ve got a Victoria plum tree and we enjoy its fruits every fall.

To make Plum in Madeira has become a family september tradition and when I did some research on the Internet I discovered that this is a popular dessert in both Sweden and America. I didn’t find much about the origins of Plum in Madeira, but one website claims the origins are danish. The classic danish chocolate brand Anton Bergh has a chocolate covered marzipan bar with Plum in Madeira so maybe that is true.

Plum in Madeira are really easy to make but it takes a couple of days for them to become ready to eat. I usually make a few batches and store some in plastic jars in the freezer so that I can serve them during the winter. They taste excellent served warm with cold whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. You’ll need:

• 1 1/4 lbs (cirka 1 kilo) plums
• 24.5 oz. (700 gram) sugar
• a little less than a cup (2 dl) water
• a little less than a cup (2 dl) sweet Madeira wine
• 1 vanilla bean (vaniljstång)
• 1 gram (1 krm) benzoate (bensoat) for preserving if desired.

Rinse the plums. Split them longside and remove the kernels. Put the plums in sterilized jars. Put sugar and water in a pot and bring to boil. Skim off the white foam from the surface. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds. Add Madeira wine and the vanilla seeds to the syrup you made of water and sugar. Dissolve the benzoate in a couple of spoonfuls of the syrup and then add it. Pour over the plums. Put lids on. Keep in the refrigerator and stir occasionaly. After three days they are ready to be enjoyed.

A farmer’s daughter’s Apple Cake

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My mom grew up as a farmer’s daughter in a beautiful small village in the north of Sweden. Since my grandparents had eight children and a farm with cows and sheep to take care of my mother and her siblings did not have the opportunity to get higher education but from young age they on the other hand learned a lot of skills that they later told and taught us kids. Every summer in the 1950’s she would accompany her aunties as they walked with the cows from the farm to the summer farm up in the mountains where the cows would roam free in the forest during the day eating grass, mushrooms and other nutritious things. The aunties milked the cows every morning and made butter, cheese and sometimes a pudding made with saffron out of the fresh milk. These summer farms were common in northern Sweden but after the decline in small farming after the 1960’s more and more of them were put out of use. Just a handfull of working summer farms still exists today, many of them open for visitors that can learn about old low tech farming methods and buy the freshly made products made of the morning’s milk.

Of course my mom also were taught how to cook and to take care of the yearly harvest of apples, potatoes and berries. Nothing would go to waste. When she had lots of apples she would make several batches of this very easy and tasty apple cake, cut it in pieces and store them in the freezer so that we’d have apple cake for our swedish fika (coffe with something sweet like apple cake or cinnamon rolls served with it) during the winter. My mom passed away a couple of years ago (it is her as a school girl in the 1950’s in the picture) but I still find notes with her hand written recipes in my cookbooks and I wanted to share her recipe for Apple Cake with you. Note: if you make this in the U.S. it might take some trial and error since flour works differently in different countries and this recipe is based on swedish wheat flour. With that said this is a wonderful way to take care of your apples for winter. To make the farmer’s daughter’s Apple Cake you’ll need:

• 3 eggs
• Approx. 2 cups (4,5 dl) of flour
• 2 cups (4,5 dl) of sugar
• 3 teaspoons of baking powder
• 3 tablespoons of softened real butter
• A little less than a cup (2 dl) of water
• 5-6 apples
• Sugar and ground cinnamon to sprinkle over the cake
• Real butter and breadcrumbs for the cake pan

Rinse and core the apples. Don’t peel them. Cut the apples into wedges and set aside.

Put the butter and the water in a pot and bring to boil. Let it cool off. Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy with an electric mixer. In another bowl, mix together flour and baking powder. Add the flour mix and the water/butter to the egg mix and stir it together carefully with a large spoon so that you get a smooth batter. Grease and bread a large rectangular cake pan. Pour the batter into the pan. Put the apple wedges in a layer over the batter and push them down a bit into the batter. Sprinkle the cake with some sugar and ground cinnamon. Bake in 390° Fahrenheit / 200° Celsius for about 20 minutes. Let it cool off a bit and then cut the cake into serving size squares. Eat luke warm or cold. You can also serve them with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Leftover cake can be stored in freezer. I hope you’ll enjoy my mom’s recipe!

Ze Lingonberry Pancakes

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I love the Coen brother’s films Fargo and Big Lebowski. Peter Stormare – a swedish actor who actually grew up in a village very close to the village where I grew up in northern Sweden – plays the character Uli Kunkel in both these films. In Big Lebowski Kunkel is the leader of a gang of german nihilists that are the alledged kidnappers of Bunny, the protagonist Lebowski’s young trophee wife (or are they actually her friends…?). There’s a scene where the german nihilists visit a diner and Kunkel orders “Ze Lingonberry Pancakes” with a thick mock german accent. The female nihilist actually tries to order blueberry pancakes in german, but Kunkel (Peter Stormare) for some reason translates her order to Ze Lingonberry Pancakes to the waitress. I always wondered if the Coen brother’s wrote this scene as a joke for the swede in their cast. Stormare surely grew up in Lingonberry Country, just like I did.

Swedish lingonberry pancakes have become popular in the U.S. through IHOP and other pancake houses. I’ve had them in Ohio and they are OK, but if you want the real swedish lingonberry pancake experience, here are some hints. Pancakes are not eaten for breakfast in Sweden (other than in some hotels catering to international guests where you can find them at the breakfast buffet). Traditionally pancakes were eaten on Thursdays as a dessert after the classic swedish yellow pea soup served with pork and mustard (I’ll give y’all that recipe too some day). Pancakes are also served without soup for as a lunch or supper main course especially appriceated by kids. We never have our pancakes with butter and maple syrup but with lingonberry jam (or some other kind of jam) sometimes accompanied with a generous serving of whipped heavy cream. Swedish pancakes are also much thinner than american pancakes, resembling french crepes but larger in size. You can buy ready made Lingonberry jam in both America and Sweden but nothing compares to the Lingonberry pancake experience you’ll get with home made jam. This blog has a post with the recipe for our not-so-secret-anymore family recipe for lingonberry jam. You can read it here: https://ourswedishamericanpantry.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/the-lingonberry-king-and-my-family-recipe-for-lingonberry-jam/

Now for the swedish pancakes:

You’ll need:

• 3 eggs
• 1/2 teaspoon of salt
• 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
• 1 cup (2,5 dl) of flour
• 2 cups (5 dl) full fat milk
• real butter for the frying pan

Start with beating the eggs together with salt and vanilla. Add the flour and one cup of milk and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the milk and beat until you get a smooth and runny batter. Put butter in a frying pan. When the butter is melted and the sizzling stops pour a little less than half a cup of batter in the pan. Tilt the pan so that the runny batter covers the bottom of the pan. Fry until golden brown and you can flip it over to fry on the other side. Serve immediately with your home made lingonberry jam and maybe some whipped cream. Milk is the recommended beverage according to most Swedes.

Here you can practice at ordering your Lingonberry Pancakes the same way as Peter Stormare:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=w6_PtNRYhy0

Make Amish Pickled Eggs and get tasty pickled beetroots at the same time

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The first time I visited Ohio Amish Country we stopped for lunch at one of the many amish heritage restaurants. The restaurant had a generous all-you-can-eat salad buffets and there I saw some purple round things I first thought to be some kind of vegetable. It turned out to be eggs. My partner told me that they were called beetroot (redbeet) eggs or amish pickled eggs. They are very common in these types of buffets and a lot of non-amish Ohioans like them too. My italian-american mother-in-law for example makes them now and then.

I heard that there was a tradition among the amish to serve “seven sweets and seven sours” at festive meals and that the pickled eggs were one of “the sours” (the sweets were said to be different relishes and jams) and I had to look into the history of this. It turned out to be a myth. The famous writer and amish expert John A. Hostetler, he himself born and raised in an Old Order Amish family in Pennsylvania, wrote in his book Amish Society that “The only place I have ever eaten the seven sweets and sours is in a tourist hotel”. Hostetler says that this food history myth was created by the tourism industry and I do believe him. At the same time, this is something I have seen in many places where people have turned to the tourism industry when their traditional sources of making a living isn’t enough to feed everyone anymore and that is not only a bad thing. I’ve seen it in the village in northern Sweden where I grew up – an area that in many ways resembles amish country. My village was a rural area with a lot of farmers until the 1970’s and after the decline in small farming people who wanted to stay in the village had to find other or at least additional ways of making a living. Today I see a lot of people in my home village entering the food industry opening restaurants or producing food with tourists as their most important market. Even if they market their dishes and products as traditional I wouldn’t always say they are in the sense that my grandmother would have cooked or made them. But they do have roots in tradition and are made of locally grown products thereby making it possible for people to stay in the village instead of moving elsewhere to find jobs. And I guess we can look at the tourism industry of amish country in Ohio and Pennsylvania the same way.

No matter what the Amish Pickled Eggs look lovely with their purple color and they do taste great. They make a wonderful source of protein in any salad or in a sandwich. And they would be an awesome contribution to any swedish smorgasbord or at any buffet – at Christmas, Easter or whenever. Another flipside with this two-day recipe is that you first make pickled beetroots/redbeets (rödbetor) and that you can use them after day one. We used ours in a wonderful spontaneous salad invention with the beetroots, kamut wheat, feta cheese and roasted hazelnuts served with a creamy garlic dressing. Here’s our recipe. It’s easy, but takes two days for the eggs to be ready for serving. You’ll need:

• 8 small beetroots (rödbetor)
• 1 cup (2,5 dl) white wine vinegar
• 1 cup (2,5 dl) water
• 1/2 cup (1,25 dl) brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 6 hardboiled eggs
• 1 cinnamon stick (kanelstång)
• 3 whole cloves (3 hela kryddnejlikor)

Day 1:

Rinse the beetroots and boil them until soft. Peel them and put them whole in a sterilized jar. Put white wine vinegar, water, brown sugar and salt in a pot and bring to boil. Then pour it over the beetroots. Put a lid on and keep refrigerated overnight.

Day 2:

Boil the eggs. Then peel them. The secret behind peeling eggs without breaking them through eggshell pieces that get stuck is to let cold water pour over them from the tap straight after cooking and the whole time while peeling. Take the beetroots out of the jar and replace them with the eggs. Don’t discard the beetroots – they taste lovely! Eat them, for example in a salad like suggested above. Now add the cinnamon stick and the cloves (kryddnejlikorna) to the jar with eggs. Put the lid on and keep in refrigerator overnight again. After that your pickled eggs are ready to eat! Keep in refrigerator and consume within a couple of days.

Peanutbutter church spread – indulge yourself amish style

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Spending time in Ohio challenged my swedish prejudices of so many things so many times. For example I thought amish cooking would be a bit ascetic but that was before I encountered Amish Peanutbutter Spread. This is a smooth indulgence combining sweet marshmallow creme with smooth peanutbutter in a way I never came across in Sweden and both kids and grown ups love it. This spread is also called Church Spread since the Ohio amish brings it to the church gatherings that are so important to the social culture of their community.

This spread is perfect for your family weekend gathering: you can dip fruit like pieces of bananas or your garden apples in it, pour it over ice cream or use it for sandwiches. Our own family serendipity invention was dipping popcorn in it. Oh, how I love the combination of the salt on the popcorn with the peanutbuttery sweetness of the Amish Church Spread.

Marshmallow creme/marshmallow fluff, corn syrup and high quality natural peanutbutter can be bought in regular supermarkets in Sweden nowadays. Make sure the peanutbutter is natural and creamy. In Ohio we love Smucker’s and in Sweden Green Choice is our recommended brand. It’s sticky but easy to make. You’ll need:

• 1 cup (lite drygt 2 1/4 dl) corn syrup
• 1/2 cup (drygt en deciliter) creamy natural peanutbutter
• 1/2 cup (drygt en deciliter) Marshmallow Fluff
• approx. 1/4 cup (cirka 1/2 dl) water
• 1 tablespoon brewed coffee

Put all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix with electric mixer until you get a smooth spread (add half of the water first, and then a little at a time until you get the smooth texture you want) Keep in airtight container. Serve with pieces of fruit or popcorn, on a sandwich or poured over ice cream. Happy Friday!

How hot do you like your Hot Pepper Jelly?

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The inspiration for today’s kitchen experiment came from my morning visit to Nelins Food Market – a store specialized in vegetables. My eye was caught by some baskets filled with the most beautiful, shiny and colorful peppers: jalapeño, red peppers and green peppers. I just couldn’t resist them so I bought a bunch of each and decided to finally try to make my own hot pepper jelly: a delicacy I loved from the first spoonful when I tasted it in the U.S. I have never seen a jar of hot pepper jelly in a store in Sweden, but I always bring some home from America and my mother-in-law has also sent me jars.

The origin of the Hot Pepper Jelly is texan. The first jars were made and sold in Lake Jackson, Texas, in the 1970’s and today you can find hot pepper jelly all across the United States. The classic way of serving it is together with Philadelphia Cream Cheese and crackers like we do in the picture above (note the Texas beer bottle holding Armadillo that two lovely ladies from Texas sent us – the iconic Lone Star bottle included). It also tastes wonderful with brie cheese, as a condiment for fish and burgers or melted and poured over your meat. You can also make your peanut butter and jelly sandwich a bit more grown up and spicy by using the hot pepper jelly. It is great for parties and buffets.

There are so many versions of the hot pepper jelly and every cook can experiment until she or he finds the unique family signature for their recipe. The original recipe is made from jalapeño peppers only but I wanted to start with making a somewhat milder hot pepper jelly using all three kinds of pepper fruit I bought. It turned out very mild but flavorful (probably too mild for most americans but perfect for swedes to start with). So let my recipe be an inspiration for your own hot pepper jelly. Add more jalapeño peppers for more heat. Be careful when you handle the pepperfruits. I wear latex gloves so that I protect my hands from the fruits so that the pepper doesn’t accidently end up in my eyes afterwards.

The secret of making jelly is to find the right mix of pectin, sugar and acid and since pepper fruits are very low in pectin you’ll have to add it. Different brands and texture (powder or fluid) of pectin works differently. For some you’ll have to add lemon juice for the best jelly result, so read the instructions of your brand of pectin carefully before you start. It can be a bit of trial and error. My first batch ended up runny (but still tasty) but when I made the second batch I used more pectin, added some lemon and it came out perfect. With that said, making hot pepper jelly is easy and not at all time consuming. Here’s my recipe. You’ll need:

• 1 large red bell pepper (röd paprika)

• 2 jalapeño peppers

• 1 red italian pepper (spansk peppar)

• 1 green pepper

• 6 cups (14 dl) of sugar

• 1.5 cups (3,5 dl) of apple cider vinegar

• pectin according to instructions on package (plus freshly pressed lemon juice if needed according to the instructions on pectin)

Rinse peppers, split them longside and remove all seeds and membranes. Use a food processor to chop finely. Put the chopped peppers in a large pot (not aluminum) and add sugar and apple cider vinegar. Bring to boil and let it boil for about a minute (stir occasionaly during the heating up and boiling so it doesn’t burn). Remove from heat. Add pectin according to instructions. You might have to add lemon and/or bring to boil again. Skim off all the foam from the surface and discard. Pour in clean sterilized jars, put lids on and can according to usual canning procedures if you need to do that. Opened jar should be stored in refrigerator. Have a nice texan party!

Ruth Wakefield: the dietitian that gave us the Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Milk and cookies after football practice – does it get more all-american than that? One of the most famous and loved american cookies must be the chocolate chip cookie: a delightful indulgence with nuts, chocolate and brown sugar. What most people don’t know is that was actually a dietitian that invented this sweet chocolate treat.

Ruth Graves Wakefield was born in Massachusetts in 1903. She took an early interest in cooking and when she was in her twenties she got a degree from Framingham State School Department of Household Arts. During the rest of the 1920’s she worked as a food lecturer and dietitian. That changed in 1930 when Ruth and her husband bought a hotel – The Toll House Inn – in Whitman, MA. Ruth did the cooking at the inn but she also started writing cookbooks. Her classic cookbook Tollhouse Tried and True Recipes became very popular with many editions and printings. In the 1938 edition the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies appeared for the first time, then called Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies.

Ruth Wakefield’s recipe soon gained popularity on the east coast – especially after being featured in the Betty Crocker radio show. It was during and after World War 2 that the popularity of the Chocolate Chip Cookie became national and the all-american icon cookie was a fact. Chocolate was scarce during the war, but housewifes were encouraged to bake them anyway and send them to “that soldier boy of yours” who fought in Europe, Africa or Asia.

There are many stories about how the cookie was invented and all of them says they were invented by mistake, either because Ruth Whitfield was out of ingredients and replaced them with chocolate chips or that she accidently dropped a package of chocolate chips in the batter. Ruth Wakefield herself said she invented the recipe deliberatly and not by mistake. This has also been said by food writer Carolyn Wyman who in her book Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book says it is highly unlikely that Ruth Wakefield who held a degree in culinary arts would have done this by mistake. It is more plausible that she developed the recipe based on her knowledge of cooking and baking.

Mistake or invention – these are really good cookies and they come in many versions. Here’s a really easy recipe I often use when baking with my kid. You’ll need:

• 1 cup (cirka 2 dl) of hazelnuts
• 5.3 oz. (150 gram) of softened real butter
• 4/5 cup (2 dl) of brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 1/4 cup (3 dl) of flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bakpulver)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• semi sweet chocolate chips

Pre heat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit/180° Celsius. Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes and peel them by rubbing them in a clean dry cotton or linen towel. Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat the egg lighty with a fork in a separate bowl and add to the butter and sugar. Stir until mixed in completely. Mix together flour, baking soda and vanilla in a bowl and add to the batter and mix thoroughly. Add the whole hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Make a big roll out of the sticky dough and wrap it in saran wrap (plastfolie). Put in the freezer until firm. Take it out and slice it into cookies with a sharp knife (a little less than half-inch thick/centimetertjocka). Bake for 10 minutes in 350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius. Cool off on oven rack (låt kallna på galler). Enjoy!

A colorful fall lasagna made with butternut squash

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We woke up to a damp and grey september Saturday and the kid and I went for his junior rugby team practice and when we came back the grey day had turned into a sunny, bright and colorful swedish fall day. We wanted to make something that reminded us of the beautiful colors of fall for supper so we decided to make something of butternut squash since we had two of them at home. Here they are:

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A classic american butternut squash recipe is lasagna made with the golden-orange puree made of the squash. We wanted to add a swedish twist to it so we decided to grate it with swedish Wästerbotten cheese (can be purchased from scandinavian online stores in the U.S.) that we had left from yesterday’s swedish crayfish party. The trinity of Wästerbotten cheese, pasta and butternut squash would then symbolize our swedish-italian-american family, which turned out to be a succesful combo. Here’s our recipe. There are some preparations to make, so start in good time. You’ll need:

For the puree:

• Two butternut squash
• 4-5 tablespoons of softened real butter
• salt & pepper
• zest of 1/2 organic lemon
• 3-4 tablespoons of freshly pressed lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons of honey
• ground nutmeg (malen muskot)

For the bechamel (white) sauce:
• A couple of tablespoons of real butter
• A couple of tablespoons of flour
• Full fat milk
• 1/2 cup (en dryg deciliter) ricotta cheese
• salt, garlic salt, ground nutmeg and thyme (timjan) for seasoning

For the lasagna:
• no-cook lasagna noodles (lasagneplattor)
• Olive oil for the pan
• The butternut squash puree
• The bechamel (white) sauce
• Grated cheese (Wästerbotten cheese or your personal favorite)

Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit/175 ° Celsius. Start with the puree. Cut the squash longside into to halves each. Remove the seeds. Put the four halves in a greased pan, skinside down. Spread the butter over the halves. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for approx. 45 minutes until the squash is soft and mushy when you stick a fork in it.

Scoop out the flesh and put it in a bowl. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and honey and use a mixer wand to make a smooth puree. Season with salt and nutmeg (muskot). Leftovers from making the lasagna can be stored in freezer. You now have a mild but flavorful puree with a wonderful golden-orange color:

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Now make the bechamel (white) sauce:

Heat up the butter in a pan with thick bottom. Add the four and stir until it makes a smooth ball. Add milk,(a couple of cups depending on how much lasagna you want to make) beating it as i thickens into a smooth sauce. Add ricotta cheese, stirring it into the smooth sauce. Remove from heat and season with salt, garlic salt, nutmeg and thyme.

Now for the lasagna: grease a lasagna pan with some olive oil. Start with a thin layer of bechamel sauce at the bottom. Cover with lasagna noodles. Add a layer of butternut squash puree, some bechamel sauce, more lasagna noodles and repeat making layers finishing with a generous layer of bechamel sauce on top. Cover with aluminum foile and bake at 350° Fahrenheit/ 175° Celsius for 20 minutes. Take it out of the oven, cover with grated cheese and put it back in the oven for another approx. 20 minutes (no aluminum foil this time). Let the lasagna cool off a bit before serving. Buon appetit!

Amish Green Tomato Relish

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The first time I visited Ohio we went for a road trip to Kidron, Wayne county. Kidron is a place were there’s a large amish community which is reflected in the local stores and retailers where the amish are both customers, producers, workers and sometimes owners. One of the most well known stores is Lehman’s Hardware that today also is a major tourist attraction. Lehman’s was founded in 1955 by Jay Lehman whose business idea was to cater for the amish communities and their need for non-electrical machines, tools and products. The first two decades 95 % of Lehman’s customers were amish but in the mid 1970’s something happened that changed the customer stock of Lehman’s and made business boom: the oil crisis. Many americans needed and wanted an alternative and they found it at this store with the motto “Simple things for a simple life”. Lehman’s today brands itself as The Low Tech Superstore and Purveyor of historical technology. When you shop at Lehman’s today you do it not only together with the amish but also together with tourists, preppers, survivalists, home makers, Hollywood set designers, doctors working in developing countries and local farmers. You’ll find everything here from footpedal sewing machines, hand crafted amish furniture and quilts, kerosene lamps, water pumps, wooden barrells and wooden toys to jam, popcorn and home made saltwater taffy. Check out their website at http://www.lehmans.com . They do ship overseas, for example to Sweden.

I of course fell in love with the kitchen section of the store where you can find cookbooks, old school utensiles and everything else you need for preserves and canning. I understood that this is an important part of amish culture: not to let anything go to waste and making tasty and nurturing products for the whole family. One of the things I really liked tasting was Amish Green Tomato Relish which is great for sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, burgers and as a side for meats. This is a great way to take care of your green tomatoes for the winter or for bringing a jar as a gift. To make this relish you need:

• 2.5 lbs (1,1 kilo) of green tomatoes
• 2 large onions
• 1 red bell pepper (röd paprika)
• 2-3 sweet green peppers (söt grön paprika – till exempel de avlånga turkiska som bl.a. Coop säljer)
• 3/4 cups (drygt 1,5 dl) of apple cider vinegar
• 1.5 cups (knappt 5 dl) sugar
• 1 teaspoon of salt
• 2.5 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds
• 2 teaspoons of celery seeds (celery seeds – sellerifrön – can be difficult to find in swedish stores but they can be bought online or ordered at your local supermarket. If you don’t find celery seeds – make the relish anyway. It will be different, but still tasty)

Rinse all the veggies. Half and seed the peppers. Ground all the vegetables a little at a time coarsly in a grinder or food processor. Stir the mixture when done grinding so that the vegetables blend. Drain this tomato mix using a colander with cheese cloth (använd saftsil av tyg) for an hour. Put the drained mix in a large pot (not aluminum) and add the sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, mustard seeds and celery seeds. Stir. Bring to boil and then lower the heat and let the relish simmer for 5 minutes while stirring it often. Put in sterilized jars. Fill to the top and carefully screw on the lids. Canning: Boil the jars according to regular canning procedure for half an hour. Store in a dark, cool place (refrigerate after opening). This relish is so good. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Pickles from Gherkin City

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Västerås in central Sweden is one of the oldest cities of the country with a city seal from the 13th century and archaeological findings of settlements from the bronze age. Today Västerås is known mainly for two things: for being an important industrial city and a city of engineers and for its gherkins. In fact, Västerås is referred to as The Gherkin City and has a long tradition of growing gherkins and making pickles. The gherkins were introduced in Västerås by the new castle gardener Bonsack in the 1730’s. He also made and sold pickled gherkins at markets. The gherkin business in the city declined in the 1930’s, but today there’s a new interest of growing gherkins and branding the city after this tradition in Västerås. Who knows? We might even see a gherkin festival by the size of the pumpkin festival of Circleville, Ohio?

To make a jar of swedish dill pickled gherkins is easy. You’ll need:

• 1 lbs (0,5 kilo) gherkins
• 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds
• some fresh Crown Dill (can be bought online in the U.S if you don’t find it at your local supermarket)

• 1/4 gallon (1 liter) of water
• 1/2 cup (1 dl) of distilled white vinegar (when in Sweden use Ättiksprit 12 %. In the US distilled white vinegar with 12 % acidity can be difficult to find, then use a distilled white vinegar, for example Heinz, with at least 5 % acidity. The result will be a bit different than the swedish, but still very tasty!)
• 1/4 cup (1/2 dl) salt
• 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Rinse and brush the gherkins and cut them in smaller chunks. Put in a sterilized jar, add a tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds and put Crown Dill on top. Bring water, distilled white vinegar, salt and sugar to boil and make sure the sugar and salt dissolves. Remove from heat, let it cool off and pour it over the gherkins. Make sure it covers the content of the jar. It takes about a day for the pickled gherkins to become ready to eat. Store in a dark, cool place and in the refrigerator after opening.

Note! If you want a chunky texture: cover the gherkins with salt and keep it refrigerated overnight. Rinse wawy the salt and then follow the procedure of the recipe. Enjoy as a condiment for meatballs, make a swedish open sandwich with liver paté and sliced pickled gherkins, use it for your all-american peanut butter & pickles sandwich, for burgers or as a side.