wooden spoon

The Danes love to party, and with Solvang’s annual Danish Days celebration just around the corner I decided to take a hard look at Denmark’s most famous liquor, akvavit.

Akvavit has a long and illustrious history. The Danes and other Scandinavians have hoisted, toasted and skåled their friends, relatives and countrymen for centuries.

There is tradition to akvavit. In fact, drinking akvavit borders on ritual and turns any party into a fest.

Akvavit is always served with smørrebrød — Danish open-face sandwiches — with Danish beer as a chaser.

When dining with Danes if anyone at your table says “skål” all must raise their glass and join in. Akvavit is always served ice cold, in fact the alcohol content is so high, like vodka, it will not freeze solid. Served in small glasses, akvavit is meant to be downed in one swig and followed by the beer.

Also in Danish tradition, one raises their glass and looks each fellow diner in the eye. No stretching to clink the glass across or down the table, just eye-to-eye contact with one and all.

While there are several songs associated with drinking akvavit, perhaps the most rousing one is “Han ska leve,” the Danish toasting or birthday song. Loosely translated to “he shall live” it varies. For an honored lady it’s “hun ska leve,” and if for a couple at their wedding dinner it’s “de ska leve.”

There are several verses to it and of course it always ends with a shout, “skål” or, as I like to think of it, Danish for “down the hatch.”

At one of our Rebild National Park Society parties about five years ago the talk turned to making akvavit. Lis Herbertsen volunteered her recipe and I started experimenting. While nowhere near the quality of Aalborg’s product, I have had some success and figured this is the year to share her recipe.

Also, I ran across an appetizer dish that calls for marinating cherry or grape tomatoes in vodka. Why not try it with akvavit? I did, the dish was a success and in time for Danish Days 2019, here are both.

This is Lis’ basic recipe. I’ve tweaked it a couple of times with all results being good. Feel free to experiment on your own. Skål!

AKVAVIT (water of life or snaps)

700 ml vodka

1 tablespoon caraway seeds (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon dill seeds

1/2 teaspoon anise seeds (1/4 teaspoon)

Put vodka in large bottle, add seeds and cap. Store in a dark place for at least two weeks, turning slowly up and down a couple of times a day. Strain through a coffee filter, pour into a traditional “snapseflaske” or other flask, store in freezer and serve ice cold.

DANISH TOMATOES

3 pints firm small mixed cherry and grape tomatoes

1/2 cup akvavit

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons sea salt

1-1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped (for garnish)

Cut a small X in bottom of each tomato. Blanch tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water no more than one minute. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain and peel, transferring to a large shallow dish. Mix akvavit, with lemon juice, sugar and zest until sugar has dissolved, then pour over tomatoes. Toss gently to coat. Marinate, chilled, for one hour. Mix salt and pepper and serve with tomatoes for dipping. To serve, drain well, place in shallow bowl and sprinkle with dill. Pass the toothpicks and dive in.

Cooks’ note: Tomatoes can be peeled and marinade prepared one day ahead and kept separately, chilled. Be sure to drain these well and don’t use coarse salt, as it can overwhelm the tomatoes.

I know, I know, it’s not soup weather. Too hot to cook, you say. My dad subscribed to the theory that you should heat up your insides to match the outside, and you won’t feel the heat as much. Therefore, he loved soup in the summer.

Long-time Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com

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