Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Danish/Scandinavian Christmas traditions, and Ris a l'amande

I've always felt like I had a good connection to my Danish heritage in some ways (saying "Tak fa mad" after meals, cooking fricadeller and æbleskiver, singing little Danish songs to my babies, etc.)---probably because Nana passed on so many of those things to my mom, and she to me. I felt that connection deepen even more when I took a year of Danish at BYU. But I don't consider myself an expert on Danish culture by any means, so I was excited to check out some books and learn more. I felt like it was such an inspired idea to look back and see how our grandparents celebrated Christmas (both sides are Danish, Nelson and Nielson!) and try to incorporate some of those traditions into our own celebrations, so they could be part of my children's lives too. Then I suddenly ran into a bunch of other posts and articles talking about celebrating your heritage at Christmastime, so maybe my idea was more due to zeitgeist, or something, than to inspiration. But it was a good idea however it came, and we really enjoyed this unit. We have a few more things planned for later, and I think some of them will become part of our yearly Christmas celebration. I love that.
This is ris a l'amande. (Almond rice pudding.)  The Danes put out a kind of rice porridge (this, without the cream and sugar) for the elves (nisse) on Christmas Eve. Then they make the rest into this delicious rice pudding and eat it at their Christmas Eve dinner. The cook hides a whole almond inside the pudding, and whoever gets the almond in their portion wins good luck, and the "almond prize"---usually a little treat like a marzipan pig. I was planning to just give a little candy cane or something, but when I found actual marzipan pigs at World Market, I couldn't resist! Marzipan isn't very good (in my opinion)---but the kids liked it and it was fun to taste!
Abe found the almond, so he got the big pig.
Of course we couldn't leave the others out. They got these small pigs.
I tried a different recipe for the ris a l'amande this year, and it was good, but I should have just stuck with Nana's recipe, which is slightly easier, and so yummy. Here it is.

Ris Alamande (this is how it's spelled in my recipe)

2 c. cooked rice
2 c. milk
1/3 c. sugar
1 t. almond extract
1 c. cream, whipped

Heat rice, milk, and sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy. (Quite a while---maybe 20 min to 1/2 hour?)  Remove from heat and add almond extract. Cool and fold in whipped cream.

I love this when it's still a bit warm and very soft. It's even good without the whipped cream!  And it's often served with a cherry or raspberry sauce on top, which is delicious, but I like it best plain.

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