With the coming of fall colors, my cooking has changed. No longer does my palette crave the juicy tomatoes of summer or the fresh basil that I would sprinkle over nearly everything. Fall calls for cinnamon, apples, pumpkins and preparing for the winter. Which for me (for the first time ever), also means canning and of course, a book on canning from the 1950s.
Unlike Il Talismano della Felicita, Frukt og grønnsaker hele året (Fruit and vegetables the entire year) is not a book that contains 2,000 recipes that goes on for pages extolling the great gastronomic regional diversity of Italy. This book contains short and simple recipes written in the practical Scandinavian fashion (something that comes as a relief after trying to parse the rather disorganized and unclear thoughts of Miss Ada Boni.)
Since Noma and René Redzepi took the world by storm, Scandinavian food is very en vogue. This has always come as a bit of a surprise to me because traditional Scandinavian food is rather…….bland. This is largely because of the climate. About a 1/3 of Norway lies within the Arctic Circle. The growing season is short and the winters are long. In these circumstances, the first question is not “Which of the thousands of fresh ingredients shall we combine to make this new exciting dish?” but rather “We must grow enough food to survive the winter.” In my grandmother’s and even in my mother’s time this meant three things: potatoes, carrots and fish. That and food preserved from their summer garden.
So exactly how much did they have to preserve? Luckily for me the book gives exact figures. According to this book, in order to survive the winter months you will need the following: “If you calculate that you use fresh fruit and vegetables 4 months of the year, one should calculate for the next 8 months for one person 52 lbs of fruit or berries (total weight of raw ingredient), 66 lbs vegetables (total weight of raw ingredients) and 211 lbs potatoes (total weight of raw ingredients).” Yes, you read that correctly. 211 POUNDS OF POTATOES FOR ONE PERSON!! For those so inclined, here are the same instructions in Norwegian: “Regner en med at en bruker frisk frukt og friske grønnsaker i 4 månder av året bør en altså for de øvrige 8 månder ha: for 1 person: 24 kg frukt eller bær (brutto råvare), 30 kg grønnsaker (brutto råvare), 96 kg poteter (brutto råvare)”
This book was written at a time when the Norwegian food market was expanding and new exciting fruits and vegetables making its way to Norwegian tables. The national palette was expanding and they were becoming more aware of other nations dishes, but these dishes had not yet become main stream. The generation before mostly farmed, and had passed on these practices to their children. Additionally, this was only 10 years after the Second World War. Memories of German occupation and hunger were still fresh in their minds. Norwegians are never particularly prone to indulgence, but needless to say this cookbook fit perfectly with the times as canning was still an important part of their lives.
For any of you who have thought about canning, I should say this is not a simple task. As I mentioned, this book contains only a few recipes, 2/3 of the book is dedicated to explaining how to conserve. This ranges from what materials you will need, to what vitamins can be found in the various fruits and vegetables, to what the ideal “oppbevanringsrom” (storage space) looks like, but more on that later. For now, get your canning gear ready because the next few posts will be all about preservation. (I know, I know most of the summer fruit is already done and I should have posted this back in June, but I was too busy thinking about tomatoes then. I’ll be better next year. 🙂 )