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21 Sep 2010

Norwegian Yule Dinner

~ Recipe by Thistlemoon

Yuletide is a time that is filled with memories of the past, and hope for the future. It is a period of inner reflection, hunkering down, and enjoying quiet time with family and friends. The word Yule or Jul is still used in Nordic countries to describe the Holiday or Christmas season – which also coincides with the 12 Days of Yule. Yuletide in the Nordic countries is a melding of the secular and religious celebrations of the season. For Pagans and Heathens, Yule is a celebration of the coming of the sun and longer days ahead, after the longest night.

For me, celebrating the solstices and holy days throughout the year helps me stay connected to the natural world, and to appreciate the natural cycles that could have meant life and death to our early ancestors if they were unprepared. In turn, these celebrations help me think about being more prepared in my own life by canning and preserving foods and enjoying a more seasonal bounty. Winter Solstice is a time to celebrate the bright and joyous times in our lives and give thanks for days to come that will be filled with more light.

I get very inspired to cook Norwegian foods at this time of year. When I lived in Norway I really enjoyed all the special foods that were served and enjoyed during the Yuletide season. So when I came back to the US, I decided that I would celebrate the Winter Solstice by feasting on Nordic cuisine. That way I could enjoy all of the food traditions that I love at this time of year, and that bring me closer to my ancestors. Food has a way of really drawing us back to certain times in our lives; the smells and tastes are vehicles of memory.

When I am preparing a ritual meal, choosing the best of ingredients is always foremost in my mind. As a person who believes that the energy of the raw materials imbue the body when they are eaten, I always cook with the best ingredients I can find, and food preparation is very much a ritual. I try to seek out organic and local ingredients, as well as humanely raised meat. Ritual meals are an offering to ourselves and the Gods, as well as a sign of gratitude to the earth for the bounty we are blessed with. So for me, the ingredients I cook with are extremely important.

When making a ritual meal, especially one I will be offering to the Gods, I always think about how I would prepare a meal for a cherished guest. I would use the best of everything, use my nicest plates and platters, and pull out the best libations and special ingredients. I would play the best music I have, and cook the meal with joy. The Gods are our most special and cherished guests and deserve nothing less from us.

When cooking the meal, it is also important to realize that your energy goes into the food that you are cooking. So you should not be angry, sad, or upset in any way to cook this ritual meal. I like to prepare mentally and spiritually before I even go into the kitchen, doing a cleansing if necessary. During meal preparations, your kitchen is sacred ritual space, your utensils are ritual tools, your ingredients have their own mystical properties. This all goes into the food you are preparing.

Then of course there is the meal itself. During Yule, comforting, nourishing, and hearty meals come to mind. Cows and other herd animals were very important to the diet and survival of our ancestors. These spiced meatballs certainly fit the bill in many respects. Served with roasted potatoes, carrots, and sauerkraut, and toasted with a bit of aquavit, this is a quick but festive and healthy meal – and I enjoy every bite, reliving many wonderful times spent in Norway.

I love to prepare Norwegian spiced meatballs, or Kjøttkaker med Brunsaus – meatballs with brown sauce – for our Solstice dinner. Kjøttkaker are very common in Norway and every family has their own “in house” version. I make the gravy using homemade turkey stock from our Thanksgiving bird (waste not, want not), although a gravy made from beef is more traditional.

2 ¼ lb ground beef *
2 T salt
4 tsp flour
2 T fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
1 small onion minced
1 tsp ground cloves
1 liter of brown gravy
* I like to use pasture raised and grass-fed meats,
as well as organic, local ingredients.

Mix all ingredients together and form into oval shaped cakes. Fry in butter on all sides, then simmer in brown gravy until thoroughly cooked – about 5-10 minutes. Serve with roasted vegetables and sauerkraut or mashed potatoes and cabbage. Serves 6.

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