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.
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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%.