Danish cuisine (Danish: det danske køkken), originating from the peasant population's own local produce, was enhanced by cooking techniques developed in the late 19th century and the wider availability of goods after the Industrial Revolution. The open sandwiches, known as smørrebrød, which in their basic form are the usual fare for lunch, can be considered a national speciality when prepared and decorated with a variety of fine ingredients. Hot meals are traditionally prepared from ground meats, such as frikadeller (meat balls) and medisterpølse, or from more substantial meat and fish dishes such as flæskesteg (roast pork with crackling) or kogt torsk (poached cod) with mustard sauce and trimmings. Denmark is known for its Carlsberg and Tuborg beers and for its akvavit and bitters, but amongst the Danes themselves imported wine has gained in popularity since the 1960s.
Cooking in Denmark has always been inspired by foreign and continental practises and the use of imported tropical spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and black pepper can be traced to the Danish cuisine of the Middle Ages and some even to the Vikings.
Danish chefs, inspired by continental practices, have in recent years developed an innovative series of gourmet dishes based on high-quality local produce known as new Danish cuisine. As a result, Copenhagen and the provinces now have a considerable number of highly acclaimed restaurants, of which several have been awarded Michelin stars.
- 1 History
- 2 New Danish cuisine
- 3 Main meals
- 4 Open sandwiches
- 5 Cold buffet
- 6 Options for dinner
- 7 Christmas festivities
- 8 Eating out
- 9 Other popular foods
- 10 Drinks
- 11 Criticism
- 12 Frøken Jensens Kogebog
- 13 See also
- 14 Literature
- 15 References
- 16 Bibliography
- 17 External links
Danish cooking is rooted in the peasant dishes served across the country before the Industrial Revolution in 1860. It was based on the need to make use of natural products available on or near the family farm. As a result, a variety of brassicas, potatoes, bread, fish and pork were eaten everywhere. Families had their own store of long-lasting dry products, rye for making bread, barley for beer, dried peas for soup and smoked or salted pork. While industrialization brought increases in the consumption of fresh meat and green vegetables, rye bread and potatoes continued to be staples. With the arrival of dairy cooperatives in the second half of the 19th century, milk also gained favor. Wood-fired ovens and meat grinders contributed to a range of new dishes including frikadeller (meat balls), roast pork, poached cod and steaks of ground beef. Desserts of stewed fruits or berries such as rødgrød date from the same period.
Over the centuries, sausage, which was not only economical but could be kept for long periods, was together with rye bread behind the development of smørrebrød. By the end of the 18th century, there were several different kinds of sausage but the preparation of cold meat products developed rapidly in the 1840s when the French butcher Francois Louis Beauvais opened a business in Copenhagen. In the 1880s, Oskar Davidsen opened a restaurant specializing in smorrebrød with a long list of open sandwiches. Leverpostej (liver paste) became available in grocery shops at the end of the 19th century but it was some time before its price was comparable with that of cold cuts. Around the same time, the one-hour lunch break which had allowed people to enjoy a hot midday meal was shortened to 30 minutes, encouraging them to take a few pieces of smørrebrød to work in a lunch box. In the 1920s and 1930s, tomatoes and cucumbers were added as a topping to the cold cuts. In the 1940s, Henry Stryhn popularized leverpostej by making deliveries around Copenhagen on his bicycle.
In the 1960s and 1970s, with the availability of deep frozen goods, the concept of fast food arrived together with an interest in Mediterranean dishes as Danes travelled more widely. By the 1990s, ingredients were being imported from the south while new products were farmed at home, providing a basis for a developing interest in gourmet dishes. Much of the inspiration came from France, as Danish chefs went on television explaining how to prepare dishes such as canard à l'orange or authentic sauce Béarnaise. A younger generation of chefs soon started to travel abroad themselves, learning how to adapt the expertise of French and Spanish chefs to the use of local ingredients as a basis for creating beautifully presented, finely flavoured Nordic dishes. As a result, in recent years Danish chefs have helped to put Denmark on the world gastronomic map, with several Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen and the provinces.
New Danish cuisine
Danish cuisine has also taken advantage of the possibilities inherent in traditional recipes, building on the use of local products and techniques that have not been fully exploited. Products such as rapeseed, oats, cheeses and older varieties of fruits are being rediscovered and prepared in new ways both by restaurants and at home as interest in organic foods continues to grow. The Nordic Council's agricultural and food ministers have supported these developments in the form of a manifesto designed to encourage the use of natural produce from the Nordic countries in the food production industry while promoting the "purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics" associated with the region's cuisine.
In 2012, Danish chef and food activist Claus Meyer had his own show about Nordic cuisine on BBC Lifestyle. His recent book Almanak contains 365 new cuisine recipes, one for each day of the year.
Most Danes have three regular meals a day, usually consisting of a cold breakfast with coffee or tea, a cold lunch at work and a hot dinner at home with the family. Some also have a snack in the middle of the afternoon or in the late evening. Meat, especially pork, is by far the most common ingredient of hot meals. It is usually accompanied by potatoes and sometimes by another vegetable such as carrots or lettuce. Most hot meals consist of only one course: starters are fairly rare but desserts such as ice cream or fruit are a little more frequent. Beer and wine are fairly common drinks at mealtimes but so are soft drinks, plain water and, to a lesser extent, milk and coffee. Many families follow the old traditions. Mothers and fathers cook together and teach their children how to cook. Meals form an important part of family life, allowing for socializing and contributing to the sense of the well-being known as hygge.
The basic Danish breakfast consists of coffee and rye bread, white bread, or rolls with cheese or jam. Bread at breakfast time most often comes in the form of a white loaf known as franskbrød (French bread), a baguette, or a variety of white or brown rolls (boller, birkes, rundstykker, håndværkere) or croissants. The bread is usually buttered and topped with soft or creamy cheese, sausage, pâté, cured cold meat or jam. On festive gatherings or when time permits, as on Sundays, for example, a variety of bread rolls can be included as well as wienerbrød, as Danish pastry is known in Denmark. Fruit juice, mostly orange or apple, and sometimes a bitter such as Gammel Dansk, may also be served, especially when breakfast is served to guests or on special occasions and celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries. In Danish hotels, soft-boiled eggs and cold meats are usually served for breakfast, too.
On weekdays, various cereals such as corn flakes, muesli or rolled oats are often served for breakfast with just cold milk and sugar. Soured milk products are popular, too, and are served either plain or with cereals or fruit. The typical local soured milk product of ymer is topped with ymerdrys, a mixture of dried grated rye bread and brown sugar. Porridges such as oatmeal and a traditional local porridge called Øllebrød are also popular on work days. Øllebrød, a thin porridge cooked with bits of rye bread, hvidtøl, water, and sugar, and served with milk or sometimes whipped cream, is gaining in popularity as reflected on the breakfast menus of many cafés.
In Denmark, lunch is usually a cold meal consisting of a few simply prepared pieces of smørrebrød (open rye-bread sandwiches) with slices of cold meat, sliced sausage or hard boiled egg. Leverpostej, a liver paste prepared from pig's liver and lard, is also frequently used as a spread. Rather than eating at home, most Danes have a quick lunch at work or school either in the cafeteria, if there is one, or more often in the form of a packed lunch or madpakke prepared before they leave home. This typically consists of a few pieces of smørrebrød (see Open sandwiches below).
For the average family, dinner is the one meal of the day where everyone can be gathered, due to the pressures of the modern life where both parents are likely to work, and the children are in school or pre-school institutions. Dinner usually consists of just one main course, often a meat dish with potatoes and a vegetable or salad. Starters are seldom served at home. If there is a dessert, it is likely to be ice cream or a fruit dish. Much more elaborate dinners are served on special occasions or when guests have been invited.
Confusingly, the evening meal is sometimes called middag (midday) because hot meals were traditionally served in the middle of the day. Over the past few decades, the meal has developed as a result of the increasing availability of foods from supermarkets as well as the growth of the local food industry. As a result of American influence, there is now considerable interest in barbecues, salad buffets and ready-to-serve dishes. Italian preparations including pizza and pasta have also become common options. Meat is increasingly popular, pork still remaining the most frequently served. Cuts are often prepared in the frying pan and accompanied by brown gravy and potatoes.
Smørrebrød (originally smør og brød, meaning "butter and bread") usually consists of a piece of buttered rye bread (rugbrød), a dense, dark brown bread. Pålæg (meaning put-on, actually "that which is laid on [the bread]"), the topping, then among others can refer to commercial or homemade cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheese or spreads. More elaborate, finely decorated varieties have contributed to the international reputation of the Danish open sandwich or smørrebrød. A slice or two of pålæg is placed on the buttered bread and decorated with the right accompaniments to create a tasty and visually appealing food item.
Some traditional examples include:
- Dyrlægens natmad (Veterinarian's late night snack). On a piece of dark rye bread, a layer of liver pâté (leverpostej), topped with a slice of saltkød (salted beef) and a slice of sky (meat jelly). This is all decorated with raw onion rings and garden cress.
- Røget ål med røræg Smoked eel on dark rye bread, topped with scrambled eggs, herbs and a slice of lemon.
- Leverpostej Warm rough-chopped liverpaste served on dark rye bread, topped with bacon, and sauteed mushrooms. Additions can include lettuce and sliced pickled cucumber.
- Roast beef, thinly sliced and served on dark rye bread, topped with a portion of remoulade, and decorated with a sprinkling of shredded horseradish and crispy fried onions.
- Roast pork (ribbensteg), thinly sliced and served on dark rye bread, topped with red cabbage, and decorated with a slice of orange.
- Rullepølse, (rolled stuffed pork) with a slice of meat jelly, onions, tomatoes and parsley.
- Tartar, with salt and pepper, served on dark rye bread, topped with raw onion rings, grated horseradish and a raw egg yolk.
- Røget laks. Slices of cold-smoked salmon on white bread, topped with shrimp and decorated with a slice of lemon and fresh dill.
- Stjerneskud (lit. shooting star). On a base of buttered toast, two pieces of fish: a piece of steamed white fish on one half, a piece of fried, breaded plaice or rødspætte on the other half. On top is piled a mound of shrimp, which is then decorated with a dollop of mayonnaise, sliced cucumber, caviar or blackened lumpfish roe, and a lemon slice.
The Danish koldt bord or cold buffet corresponds to its Swedish counterpart, the smörgåsbord. It is usually served at lunch time. The cold buffet is traditionally a buffet arrangement but the many and varied items may be brought to the dining table and passed around family-style.
The meal begins with fish, usually pickled herring (marinerede sild), or another herring dish. The herring is normally marinated either in a clear sweet, peppery vinegar sauce (white herring), or in a red seasoned vinegar (red herring). It may also come in a variety of sour cream-based sauces, including a curry sauce which is very popular. The white herring is typically served on buttered, black rye bread, topped with white onion rings and curry salad (a sour-cream based sauce, flavored with curry and chopped pickles), and served with hard boiled eggs and tomato slices. Herring can also be found which is first fried, and then marinated this is called "stegte sild i eddike" (lit.: Fried herring in vinegar). On extra festive occasions a prepared silderet (herring dish) might be served in which the herring pieces are placed in a serving dish along with other ingredients. Examples might be herring, sliced potato, onions and capers topped with a dill sour cream/mayonnaise sauce, or herring, apple pieces, and horseradish topped with a curry sour-cream/mayonnaise sauce. Other fish dishes may include:
- Rejer (shrimps), usually served on white bread with mayonnaise and lemon
- Røget ål (smoked eel) with scrambled egg
- Gravad laks (salt-cured salmon) with a dill and mustard sauce
- Rødspættefilet (breaded filets of plaice), served hot with lemon and remoulade
- Røget laks (smoked salmon)
- Røget hellefisk (smoked halibut)
The cold table also consists of a wide variety of meat dishes and, despite its name, nearly always includes a few items which are served hot. Some of the more common components are:
- Frikadeller (meat balls), sometimes hot,
- Leverpostej (liver paste), sometimes hot, with pickled beetroot, mushrooms or fried bacon
- Mørbradbøf (pork tenderloin), sometimes hot, with fried onions
- Flæskesteg (roast pork) with crackling, usually with red cabbage
- Medisterpølse (coarsely ground pork and bacon sausage)
- Pariserbøf (ground beef steak), usually served hot on toast with pickles
There will also be cold cuts such as hams, roast beef, salami, brisket of beef and spiced roulade. Buffets usually include accompaniments such as potato salad, scrambled egg and a variety of salads. Desserts such as fruit salad and fruit pies as well as various cheeses may also be included.
Options for dinner
The everyday evening meal for most Danes consists of a main course and perhaps a dessert. At weekends and on special occasions, a more elaborate meal is served. Good restaurants usually serve a three course dinner. While an ever wider range of foreign foods are available in Denmark, traditional dishes are still popular. A selection of the more common options is given below.
Soup is often a meal on its own, or served with bread. It can also be served before the main dish. In addition to soups common outside of Denmark, specialities include:
- Gule ærter (pea soup), a meal in itself served together with salted pork, carrots and other vegetables
- Hønsekødssuppe (chicken soup) served with melboller (small flour dumplings), meatballs and cubed vegetables.
Denmark has a long tradition of fishing, since it is surrounded by the sea, consisting of many islands and a 7000 kilometer coastline. Fish consumption is a natural part of the Danish food tradition.
The most commonly eaten fish and seafood are:
- Cod (torsk), a common white fish in general food preparation (baked, steamed, poached). It is also dried (klipfisk). Danes are particularly fond of cods roe. The roe are in season in January–February, but is sold and consumed year round canned. Prices have risen in recent years, making this once-favorite fish drop down the list. It has mainly been replaced by other white fish, such as haddock and ling.
- Norway lobster (jomfruhummer)
- Eel (ål), smoked or fried. Smoked eel is almost exalted in some homes.
- Herring (sild), a whole section should be written about Danish herring dishes. Most involve the herring served cold after being pickled, but also smoked, fried, breaded, or charred herring is popular.
- Plaice (rødspætte), in the form of fried, battered fish filets or as a common white fish in general food preparation (baked, steamed, poached). It is often replaced with the more common European flounder, known as skrubbe in Danish.
- Salmon (laks) -- smoked or gravad lox style. Cooked salmon has become much more common in recent times, and is now fairly widespread.
- Shrimp (rejer) -- Small shrimp from the north Atlantic are most common. Fjord shrimp are a rare delicacy: very small and flavorful, about the size of the smallest fingernail.
- Roe (rogn) -- Fish eggs from cod, lumpfish (stenbider) and salmon.
Fish from Bornholm, Iceland and Greenland also has a special place in the Danish cuisine. The island of Bornholm, a part of Denmark located in the Baltic Sea, to the east of Zealand and south of Sweden, is noted for its smoked fish items. Iceland and Greenland have long shared histories with Denmark, and the fish from these North Atlantic lands is a sign of quality.
As regards meat-eating, the Danes primarily eat pork: salted and smoked pork, hams, pork roasts, pork tenderloin, pork cutlets and chops are all popular. Ground pork meat is used in many traditional recipes requiring ground meat. Danish bacon is generally of good quality (in Denmark; exported Danish bacon is of exceptional quality), and available in both the striped and back varieties. While still the most popular, pork has lost ground to turkey, beef and veal in recent years.
Beef is also very popular in the modern Danish kitchen. Danish cattle are primarily used for dairy and Denmark has a centuries-old tradition of dairy products. Hence, cattle bred for their meat were rare and thus expensive. Dairy cattle rarely make good meat cattle - especially after several years as dairy cows. For that reason beef has usually been ground and cooked as patties or cooked as boiled roast or soup. Today steaks are nevertheless popular. Especially culotte steak is a classic dish to serve for guests.
Chicken is also popular, both served in the old traditional way, but also as a tray of frozen chicken pieces ready to put into the oven, lørdagskylling (lit. Saturday chicken) which is a quick and cheap way to feed a family.
Traditional main course dishes
Many traditional dishes have been abandoned in Denmark in the last 4-5 decades, especially dishes requiring long preparations but also organ meat dishes. Fast preparations, pre-cooked meals and foreign inspired cooking from around the world, has increasingly found its way into the kitchens of the common Danish family. Traditional Danish main course dishes includes:
- Boller i karry (lit.: dumplings in curry). Meat balls of pork in curry sauce, served with rice and cucumber salad.
- Gammeldags kylling (lit.: old fashioned chicken). Pan-cooked chicken served with boiled potatoes, thick brown sauce, cucumber salad and rhubarb compote.
- Frikadeller, pan-fried meat balls of pork or veal and pork with spices. There are many variations on the recipe and "Frikadeller" can be served with a variety of accompaniments and vegetable side dishes, hot and cold. Boiled cabbage in a white sauce (stuvet hvidkål) is a classic.
- Hakkebøf, ground beef steak. Traditionally served with soft caramelized onions (on top), brown sauce, boiled potatoes and pickled beets or cucumbers.
- Hjerter i Flødesovs (lit.: hearts in cream sauce) Calf's hearts are cleaned and stuffed with parsley and smoked bacon or lard from pork. They are seasoned and fried in a pot with butter and onions. Bouillon and cream is added and they are left to simmer for 1½ hour. The hearts are sliced and served with the sauce, mashed potatoes and "surt" (a general term for pickled vegetables).
- Stegt lever (fried liver), fried slices of calf's liver served like "Hakkebøf", but without the pickles. Sometimes accompanied with fried mushrooms and often substituted with pig's liver.
- Stegte sild (fried herrings). Herring has traditionally been a popular fish and there are numerous recipes for fried, pickled or smoked herring served as a main course.
- Æbleflæsk (lit.: apple-pork), fried pork slices served with a compote of apple, onion and bacon.
- Stegt flæsk med persillesovs, slices of fried pork served with potatoes and a bechamel sauce with chopped parsley (persillesauce)
- Medisterpølse, thick, spicy sausage made of minced pork, fried and served in a variety of ways. Rødkål (see below), rye bread and mustard are classic accompaniments.
- Gule Ærter (lit.: yellow peas), a thick and hearty soup of yellow split peas, cooked and served with pork. Served with ryebread and mustard and sometimes "medisterpølse" and potatoes. In some families and in some regions "Gule Ærter" is enjoyed at specific events, traditions or at larger gatherings.
- Hønsekødssuppe (lit.: hens-meat-soup). A strong soup boiled on a large hen with herbs and vegetables like carrots, celeriac, onions and leeks. The meat is usually reserved for other dishes like Høns i Asparges, Høns i peberrod or chicken salad for smørrebrød and the soup is then served with meatballs of pork (kødboller), small white dumplings of flour and milk (melboller) and a few of the vegetables.
- Høns i Asparges (lit.: Hens in Asparagus) Boiled hens meat (traditionally from Hønsekødssuppe) is cooked with a little chicken soup, a bit of flour and some chopped white asparagus. Sometimes chopped champignons are added. The dish is thickened and flavoured with cream and egg yolks and served with boiled potatoes and a drizzle of parsley.
- Tarteletter. Small bowls of crusty pastry traditionally filled with Høns i Asparges.
- Æggekage (egg cake) -- similar to an omelette. Traditionally served in the pan with fried bacon, sliced tomatoes, copious amounts of chopped chives and buttered rye bread. Smoked herring is sometimes offered on the side.
- Påskelam (Easter lamb) grilled lamb with dry herbs and garlic.
- Culottesteg, top sirloin steak with dry herbs served with potatoes and green salad.
- Stegt gås, roast goose is sometimes served for Christmas.
- Stegt and, roast duck prepared like roast goose, stuffed with baked apples, prunes and thyme. Most popular Christmas dish in Denmark, often accompanied with "flæskesteg" and almoast always with "Rødkål". Also served on Morten's aften (St. Martin's Day, November 11), where it has replaced an older tradition of roast goose.
- Flæskesteg, roast pork with crackling, often served at Christmas.
- Rødkål, sliced red cabbage stewed with duck grease, sugar, vinegar, apples, onion, red wine and spices such as cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice. Served for Christmas, but not exclusively. Rødkål is a traditional accompaniment to "flæskesteg", "medister", "frikadeller", "stegt and" and "stegt gås".
- Brunede kartofler, boiled potatoes caramelized with sugar and butter. Mostly served for Christmas, accompanying the roast duck, goose or pork.
- Øllebrød (lit.: beer bread), a pudding made of rye bread, sugar and beer. Formerly served accompanying main courses like fried herring, now almost exclusively served for breakfast.
- Millionbøf, (lit.: million steak), fried ground beef (a million tiny steaks) with gravy. Usually served over pasta or mashed potatoes.
- Brændende kærlighed (lit.: burning love), mashed potatoes made with butter and milk or cream. A well is made in the top of the mashed potatoes and filled with a mix of fried diced bacon and onions.
- Risengrød, (rice porridge), a dish that has a special relationship to Christmas. It is traditionally the favorite dish of the Nisse. Usually served with butter, cinnamon sugar and nisseøl. It is also the basis of the Danish Christmas dessert Risalamande.
- Æblekage, (apple charlotte). Stewed sweetened apples layered with butter-roasted bread crumbs and crushed makroner (an almond-flavoured meringue), topped with whipped cream and sometimes redcurrant jelly. Served cold.
- Citronfromage (lemon custard). A very thick lemon flavoured custard made with both gelatin and beaten egg whites with sugar (see Meringue). Served cold with whipped cream. Flavouring with rum instead of lemon, is a traditional variation known as Romfromage.
- Karamelrand (lit.: Caramel-ridge). A cream and egg based custard flavoured with caramel and shaped like a ring. Served cold with a caramel sauce. A traditional variation is Fløderand, which is flavoured with vanilla and served with pickled fruit, instead of the caramel.
- Frugtsalat. Fruit salad topped with vanilla cream or whipped cream and grated chocolate. This is a more recent addition to the Danish cuisine and tropical or foreign fruits like banana, grape, orange or pineapple are standard ingredients. Also known as abemad (monkey food).
- Rødgrød med fløde, stewed, thickened red berry compote (usually a mix of strawberries, rhubarb, raspberry) served with cream or as topping on ice cream.
- Pandekager, a thin, crepe-like pancake, rolled up, often sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, and served with strawberry jam or vanilla ice cream.
- Koldskål. A sweet cold buttermilk dish with vanilla and lemon, often served in the summer.
- Danish strawberries with cream, and sugar served in the summer when in season.
- Risalamande (or ris à l'amande), a cold rice pudding mixed with whipped cream, sugar, vanilla beans and chopped almonds, served cold with hot or cold cherry-sauce. Almost exclusively served on festive events related to Christmas and commonly eaten on Christmas Eve in particular.
Cakes are usually not served for dessert in Denmark, but as an occasional sweet treat in between meals or at celebrations and particular festive events. Coffee or tea is usually offered with cakes.
A special variation on det kolde bord is the Christmas lunch, a festive holiday smorgasbord, served during the holiday season. A traditional julefrokost is a family event on Christmas Day or shortly after. However, during the whole of December all groups of people (coworkers, members of clubs and organizations) generally hold their own annual julefrokost on a Friday or Saturday. The "lunch" often include music and dancing, and usually continues into the very early hours of the morning with plentiful drinking. All over Denmark trains and buses run all night during the julefrokost season and the police are on a special lookout for drunk drivers.
A favorite at Christmas lunches is Risalamande, a rice pudding for Christmas, traditionally served with hot or cold cherry sauce; it consists of mainly cold rice pudding with vanilla flavouring and chopped almonds. A Danish tradition is to put a whole almond in the bowl of pudding. The one that finds it wins a present.
A very special part of not only the julefrokost but of most festive, celebratory meals is the selskabssang (party song). These songs are very special to Denmark. They are sung to traditional tunes, and have specially written lyrics that fit the occasion.
Christmas dinner at home
In Denmark, the Christmas (or Jul) dinner is served on the evening of 24 December (Christmas Eve). It takes the form of a main dish (usually pork, goose or duck) and the Risalamande dessert. The traditional recipes from Frk. Jensen's 1901 cook book (see below) still form the basis of Christmas cooking today.
The roast pork or flæskesteg, a cut from the breast or neck, is roasted in the oven with the skin cut through to the meat in strips, providing more crispy crackling. It is accompanied by both boiled potatoes and caramelized potatoes (brunede kartofler) specially prepared in a frying pan with melted sugar and a lump of butter. Red cabbage, which can be bought in a jar or a can, is always included too.
Goose and duck are filled with a stuffing of apple boats and prunes before they are roasted in a hot oven. The bird is served with a brown sauce based on the broth obtained by boiling the heart, neck, liver and gizzard, thickened with a little fat from the bird, flour and sour cream. Gravy browning may be added. Just like the pork, the bird is served with two kinds of potatoes and red cabbage.
Eating out in restaurants can be a costly affair, with the average price running higher than that of the European average. As a result of the New Nordic Cuisine trend, Danish restaurants are now firmly on the international gourmet map.
In the big cities, and in shopping districts, there are many more reasonably priced eating places, including such chain fast food possibilities as McDonald's and Burger King. The most common quick food restaurant is the "burger bar" or "grill bar", offering hamburgers, hot dogs and a wide variety of other fast food staples. Pizzarias are equally popular and can be found in every town in the country, large or small. Other commonly found fast foods include Turkish and Middle East food specialties such as falafel, shish-kebab and spit-roasted meat (most often shawarma) with salad in pita bread, or wrapped in durum wheat based flatbread.
Denmark has many fine dining restaurants, not only in the larger cities, but also in the countryside. The kro (roughly equivalent to an inn, but held in higher social regard) provides lodging as well as meals and drinks. Especially the royally privileged lodges have a long and interesting history. Danish cuisine continues to evolve and keep up with the times. It has become more health-conscious, and has drawn inspiration not only from the traditional French and Italian kitchens, but also from many other more exotic gastronomical sources. Increasingly, restaurants are turning to trends based on a combination of continental cooking and the growing interest in products from the local environment served in accordance with seasonal availability.
Another reasonable place to eat is at a café. These are plentiful, especially in the bigger cities, and usually offer soups, sandwiches, salads, cakes, pastries, and other light foods, in addition to the expected coffee, tea, beer and other beverages. Quite a few cafés serves breakfast and brunch and a few is also evening restaurants.
International café chains has become increasingly dominant in the capital of Copenhagen, currently including two Starbucks and several Caffè Ritazza (UK), at the Copenhagen Airport, Magasin Torv by the Magasin Du Nord department store, and at Copenhagen Central Station. The Danish coffee-bar chain of Baresso Coffee, mainly serves coffee and tea related products like Starbucks, and is present in Copenhagen, Odense, Svendborg, Aarhus, Aalborg, Hellerup, Randers, and the Faroe Islands as well as Copenhagen Airport and MS Crown of Scandinavia.
Hot dog vans
The pølsevogn (lit. sausage wagon) food truck is a common fast food option, the "original" street food outlet in Denmark, serving a variety of pork sausages, including Denmark's renowned red sausages, røde pølser. These hot dog-like sausages of the Vienna type are about 20 cm long, about the diameter of an index finger and stuffed in brightly coloured red skin. Røde pølser are traditionally served on a small, rectangular paper plate with a bread (similar to a hot dog bun, but without a slice in it) on the side, and a squirt of both ketchup, Danish remoulade sauce and mustard. Danish remoulade is somewhat similar to American relish and the mustard served with sausages is hot and unsweetened. The bread and sausage is eaten alternately, dipped into the condiments. Typical and classic sausages served from a pølsevogn also includes, thick and juicy knækpølser (both red and uncoloured), long thick and grilled frankfurtere, hearty grilled medisterpølse, large grilled kryddersvend sausages spiced with curry, and pølse i svøb (sausage in a wrap) which are a sausage wrapped in and grilled with bacon.
When the sausage is served in a traditional hot dog bun, it is called a "hot dog". It is commonly served with Danish remoulade, ketchup, mustard, onion (both raw and toasted, i.e. ristede) and thinly sliced pickles on top. The ristede løg fried onions are similar in taste to French-fried onion rings. The pickled condiment varies from region to region, and includes red cabbage in some places, but cucumber relish is the most widespread. Another variety is the French hot dog (Fransk hotdog) which is a sausage stuffed into a special long baguette-like bread roll. The roll has a hole in one end, and after the requested condiment has been squirted in (ketchup, mustard, different kinds of dressing), a sausage is slipped through. The simplest sausage wagons are portable and very temporary. They are typically a metal wagon with an open window to the street, and a counter where customers can stand and eat their sausages. More advanced wagons includes limited seating, usually both inside and outside. Through the years the number of sausage wagons has dropped as competition from convenience stores, gas stations, kebab and pizza-places has increased.
Other popular foods
Potato recipes are ubiquitous in Danish cooking. The potato was first introduced into Denmark by French immigrant Huguenots in Fredericia in 1720. The potato is considered an essential side dish to every hot meal.
Especially prized are the season's early potatoes, such as those from Samsø.
- Au gratin potatoes
- Baked potatoes with crème fraiche
- Boiled new potatoes with herbs
- Potato wedges au natural or baked with beetroots and carrots marinated in olive oil, garlic and dry herbs.
- Boiled potatoes smothered in butter with fresh dill or chives
- Caramelized browned potatoes (brunede kartofler). Usually an accessory to the Christmas meal, roast goose, duck or pork.
- Cold sliced potatoes arranged on buttered rye bread and decorated with mayonnaise and chives
- Mashed potatoes covered with a meat stew
- Pommes frites (French fries)
- Potato salad (kartoffelsalat)
Vegetables and salads
Although the potato is the central vegetable in traditional Danish cooking, it is by no means the only vegetable associated with Danish cuisine. Those other vegetables that play an important role often had to be preserved for long periods of time in cold rooms, or were pickled or marinated for storage. Cauliflower, carrots and a variety of cabbages were often a part of the daily meal, especially when in season, in the days prior to widespread refrigeration.
- Beans (bønner)
- Peas (ærter) Especially popular when freshly picked.
- Brussels sprouts (rosenkål)
- Cabbage (kål)
- Carrots (gulerødder)
- Creamed kale (grønlangkål), spinach or white cabbage
- Cauliflower (blomkål)
- Cucumber salad (agurkesalat)
- Italian salad (italiensk salat), a mixture of vegetables in a mayonnaise dressing, served on ham and other cold cuts. The name comes from the red-white-green coloring, the colors of the Italian flag. The salad's colouring originates from carrots, mayonnaise and asparagus, and green peas.
- Onion (løg)
- Pickled red beet slices (rødbeder)
- Pickles, a mixture of pickled vegetables in a yellow gelatinous sauce, served with corned beef
- Russian salad (russisk salat), a red beet salad (not to be confused with Olivier salad, which is also known as Russian salad).
- Sweet and sour red cabbage (rødkål). Sautéed red cabbage, boiled with red currant juice, apples, vinegar. Additional sugar may be needed, and cinnamon is an optional extra.
Sauces and condiments
- Béarnaise sauce, served with steaks
- Brown sauce (Danish: brun sovs), served with just about anything and everything. Variations include mushroom sauce, onion sauce and herbed brown sauce.
- Horseradish sauce (peberrodssovs), a cream sauce served with roast beef or prime rib. Sometimes frozen into individual servings for placement on hot roast beef.
- Ketchup, a must with red sausages, along with mustard.
- Mayonnaise, used in food preparation, and as a condiment with pommes frites (French fries). A generous dollop of mayonnaise is generally placed on top of shrimp.
- Mustard (sennep). A wide variety of mustards are available. Traditional mustard is a sharp flavored, dark golden brown, but many other types are widely available and used, including dijon, honey-mustard and other specialty flavored variants. Prepared salad mustard (yellow mustard) is generally eaten with red sausage or hot dogs. A special sweet, dilled mustard is eaten with smoked salmon (laks).
- Parsley sauce (persillesovs), a white sauce which is generously flavored with parsley.
- Pepper sauce, served with steaks.
- Remoulade, a very commonly used condiment. A popular dipping sauce for pommes frites (French fries).
- Whiskey sauce, served with steaks
- White sauce, often used with vegetables as a binding sauce (peas, peas and carrots, spinach, shredded cabbage).
Denmark is known for good cheeses. It can be part of the breakfast, lunch, salads and it can also be served as a dessert after dinner as a so-called ostebord or ostetallerken (lit: cheese-table or cheese-plate) with grapes, crackers and wine.
While the traditional, commonly eaten cheese (skæreost) in Denmark is mild, there are also stronger cheeses associated with Danish cuisine. Some of these are very pungent. Blue cheese can be quite strong, and Danish cheese manufacturers produce molded cheeses that span the range from the mildest and creamiest to the intense blue-veined cheese internationally associated with Denmark. Another strong cheese is Gamle Ole (lit: Old Ole - Ole is a man's name), a brand of pungent aged cheese that has matured for a longer period of time. It can be bitingly strong. It is often served in combination with sliced onion and aspic (sky) on Danish rugbrød spread with lard. Rum may be dripped on this pungent cheese prior to serving.
Strong cheeses are an acquired taste for Danes too. Elderly Danes who find the smell offensive might joke about Gamle Ole's smelling up a whole house, just by being in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator. One might also refer to Gamle Ole's pungency when talking about things that are not quite right, i.e. "they stink". Here one might say that something stinks or smells of Gamle Ole.
Denmark lost a long legal battle with Greece, to use the term "feta" for a Danish cheese produced using artificially blanched cow's milk. Since July 2002, feta has been a protected designation of origin (PDO), which limits the term within the European Union to feta made exclusively of sheep's/goat's milk in Greece. Because of the decision by the European Union, Danish dairy company Arla Foods (who also manufacture Danbo) changed the name of their Feta product to Apetina.
Some Danish cheeses include:
- Danablu, a strong blue creamy cow's milk cheese.
- Blue Castello
- Danbo, a semi-soft and aged cow's milk cheese. The designation Gamle Ole (lit.: Old Ole) denotes a particularly matured and strong variety.
- Mycella, a traditional cow's milk creamy cheese. This cheese is often described as a Danish version of Gorgonzola.
- Vesterhavsost, Hard cheese from cow's milk, and aged in caves. Has a slightly nutty flavor.
- Havarti, a semi-soft cow's milk cheese, named after the experimental farm from which it originated in the mid-19th century.
- Apetina, a blanched cow's milk cheese. This cheese is often sold sliced up in small cubes, sometimes submerged in herb flavoured oil and used in salads much like Greek feta.
- Rygeost or røgeost. A smoked fresh soft cream cheese, made of cow's milk and buttermilk and an original speciality from the island of Funen. This cheese is spiced with caraway seeds and traditionally served with radish, chives and rye bread.
Seasonings and herbs
Fresh herbs are very popular, and a wide variety are readily available at supermarkets or local produce stands. Many people grow fresh herbs either in the kitchen window, in window boxes or outside, weather permitting. Most commonly used herbs and other seasonings in Danish cooking:
Similarly to vegetables, fruit had to withstand long storage during the winter to become a part of the traditional cuisine. Fruit is generally eaten in smaller portions, often as an accompaniment to cheese, or as decoration with desserts.
Fruit that is traditionally associated with Danish cuisine:
- Apples (Æbler) Popular in traditional dishes as 'winter apples' store well. Can be fried and served with Flæsk (thick bacon)
- Blackcurrant (Solbær), literally 'sun berries'
- Cherries (Kirsebær) When in season eaten fresh. But famously cooked into cherry sauce, traditionally served over rice pudding (risalamande) at Christmas. Also used in making Heering, a famous cherry liqueur, produced in Denmark.
- Gooseberry (Stikkelsbær) literally 'thorny berries'. Used for stewed gooseberries (stikkelsbærgrød).
- Pears (Pærer)
- Plums (Blommer)
- Raspberries (Hindbær)
- Redcurrants (Ribs) Made to jelly or simply mixed raw with sugar as (Rysteribs), served to roast.
- Strawberries (Jordbær), literally 'earth berries'
A combination of strawberries, red currants, black currants, blueberries and mulberries is known as "forest fruits" (skovbær) and is a common component in tarts and marmalades. A popular dessert is made from boiling down one or more berries or rhubarbs into 'rødgrød (red porridge) med fløde (with cream)'. Cream is poured on top, but may be substituted by milk.
Rødgrød med fløde is often jokingly used by Danes as a shibboleth, as it contains the soft "d" several times, which most foreigners find difficult to pronounce.
Bread is a very important part of the Danish table. It is enjoyed at home, in the workplace or in restaurants and is usually based primarily on rugbrød, which is sour-dough rye bread. It is a dark, heavy bread which is sometimes bought pre-sliced, in varieties from light-colored rye, to very dark, and refined to whole grain. Rugbrød forms the basis of smørrebrød (see above). Many people still bake at home, particularly boller, which are small bread rolls, and often the traditional kringle, which is a pastry filled with Zante currants and remonce paste. The Danish franskbrød (lit: French-bread) are leavened wheat breads, roughly equivalent to white bread. Franskbrød are available in many varieties, ranging from whole wheat to pumpkin, chestnut, or poppy-seed sprinked loaves and loaves containing maize, müsli or honey. Some loaves are made with alternative wheat sorts like emmer or spelt and some contains small amounts of low-gluten grains such rye. Leavened brown loaves are also referred to as franskbrød. People often eat jam with cheese on crusty white bread for breakfast, and also very thin slices of chocolate, called pålægschokolade. Because of the popular rye bread, Danes eat less wheat bread than most other western countries, even though bread is part of most daily meals.
Denmark has a large variety of cakes and cakes are officially celebrated every year on Kagens Dag (Day of the Cake) across the country in April–May since 1997. The region of Sønderjylland has become known for its concept of Sønderjydsk kaffebord, serving copious amounts of coffee and regional cakes on gatherings and festive afternoons. Typical Danish cakes include:
- Wienerbrød (Danish pastry) – Denmark has a large variety of Danish pastries; most of the recipes are based on the same kind of dough.
- Kringle – a pretzel-shaped Danish pastry. It has symbolized bakers in Denmark since the early Middle Ages, and in the United States "kringle" is associated with the country of Denmark.
- Kagemand ("cake-man") – a Danish pastry in the shape of a man. Decorated with chocolate icing and candy. Traditionally served at children's birthday parties.
- Småkager ("small-cakes") – Cookies, usually baked hard and crusty in an oven, but both pan and deep fried versions exist. There is a large variety of småkager in Denmark. Most of the recipes came about when stoves became common property in the last part of the 1800s, but some recipes like Klejner and Pebernødder have been around since the Middle Ages. Quite a few recipes are associated with Christmas. Denmark has a significant export of quality butter cookies.
- Pebernødder – ("pepper nuts") – A small, spicy cookie associated with Christmas. Traditionally used in a number of games.
- Vaniljekranse – Vanilla-flavoured butter cookies in a ring-shape.
- Æbleskiver ("apple slices") – Similar to pancakes but made with a different dough and in special pans that produce a spherical pancake. Danes eat them throughout December as a Christmas tradition, served with both confectioner's sugar and jam (strawberry or black currant).
- Kransekage ("ringcake") – A marzipan-based cake, usually served at special celebrations and on New Year's Eve. It comes in various shapes and sizes. A popular arrangement consists of a stack of ring shaped cakes of increasingly smaller size, creating an upside down cone form. The cake rings are decorated with white icing, and the arrangement is decorated with small red-and-white Danish paper flags. On special occasions they will hide a bottle of champagne. Kransekage is typically served with champagne on New Year's Eve or to celebrate weddings, "round" birthdays and anniversaries.
- Flødekager ("cream-cakes) – These cakes earn their name from the generous amounts of whipped cream used to make them and are served cold. The many varieties do not always include baked ingredients. They were largely introduced in the 1800s and 1900s when Konditorier became popular in larger towns. A Konditori is Danish version of the French patisserie, and they were booming in the 1940s and 1950s.
- Lagkage (layer cake) – This cake has thin sponge cake layers, often with mashed berries and whipped cream or custard between the layers and decorated with fruit on top. Layer cakes are usually considered a flødekage in Denmark. They are often used to celebrate birthdays, on which occasion they will traditionally be decorated with as many lit candles as the age of the celebrated individual. He is then supposed to blow them all out in one try or he will be in bad luck. Some Danish layer cakes follow strict recipes like the Rugbrødslagkage made with crumbled and toasted rye bread or the Othellolagkage, made with marzipan and chocolate cream.
- Pandekager (pancakes) – These are thin pancakes usually served with jam, granulated sugar and sometimes vanilla ice cream and rolled up before eaten.
- Strawberry pie, very popular in the summer. Normally sold in bakeries with a chocolate covered crust and filled with marzipan.
- Apple pie, oven baked. Usually served with creme fraiche or whipped cream.
Denmark is not a noted exporter of candies, but Danes eat more candy per capita than in other countries.
- Chocolate – Denmark has a long tradition of producing delicious chocolate known worldwide, most famous brand is Anthon Berg.
- Liquorice – Sometimes salty licorice, made with salmiak. Denmark produces some of the strongest liquorice in the world.
- Marzipan – One variety being that of Anthon Berg.
- Wine gums – While similar looking and often similar branded as in other European countries, Danish wine gums are much less sweet and have more texture.
There also exists a vast amount of other types of sweets and candy, ranging from gumdrops and dragée to mints and caramel sweets. Bland selv slik (literally, "mix-yourself candy") is common in Danish supermarkets and kiosks, and consists of an amount of plastic boxes, usually between 20 and 50, each containing a different type of candy, which is then put into a paper bag with a small scoop. The paper bag is then weighed, and paid for.
Both Danish and imported candy are found in these box assortments, and the shape, texture and flavor differences are often extremely creative. Candy have been manufactured resembling a vast amount of objects, such as flying saucers, tennis raquets, soccer balls, butterflies, and, even stranger, teeth and toothbrushes.
- Akvavit, usually called snaps. A clear, high proof spirit made from potatoes but, unlike vodka, always herbed (dilled, etc.)
- Beer, in Danish øl. Carlsberg, Tuborg, local. Drinking a "pilsner" is a favored activity of many Danish people after work or when relaxing. The pilsner type is the dominant beer type in Denmark but many other types are available. Recently, small breweries have been budding up all over the country with new local brews.
- Bitters. The most popular bitter is Gammel Dansk (translated, Old Danish).
- Kaffe. Black home brewed coffee with the local Bodum coffee maker or filter coffee, often taken throughout the day and evening, and always in the morning.
- Hyldeblomstsaft. Sweetened elderflower drink, often made at home, served with added water. Sometimes hot in the winter but usually cold.
- Fruit wines. Cherry wine, apple wine, black currant wine, elderberry wine.
- Gløgg, hot punch made with red wine, brandy and sherry with raisins and almonds. Spiced with cloves and cinnamon, part of the Christmas tradition.
- Varm kakao, hot chocolate often served to children and an essential part of family hygge.
- Mjød, mead made legendary by the Vikings.
- Carbonated water, Danskvand, translated Danish Water, often flavoured with citrus.
- Saftevand, a juice drink made from fruit syrup and water, often served to children.
- Danish wine, produced in small quantities, but still very expensive. Imported wines are ever more popular.
The Danish food culture is sometimes criticized by gastronomes and nutritionists. The author and historian Søren Mørch has characterized Danish cuisine as a "garbage kitchen" of insipid, sweet and unspiced "baby food" where the tastes of milk and sweetness are the key elements. He believes that this style arose because the export policy of the Danish food sector was to use the Danes as a "gutter" for the products that were left over when the bacon and butter were sold abroad. Skim milk, meat scraps only suitable for chopping up, and the replacement product margarine are products which Søren Mørch describes as residues.
Regardless of this, substantial criticism has been directed at the nutritional content of Danish food; for example, at the ratio of meat, side dishes, and salad on the plate. Nutrition information campaigns have been trying to get the Danes to become healthier by eating less meat, fat, and sugar, and more raw vegetables. Instead of a healthier diet, however, the results too often have been feelings of guilt and a view of food as something which is just the correct fuel for the body's machinery.
Frøken Jensens Kogebog
The cookery book published by Kristine Marie Jensen (1858–1923) in 1901 and titled Frk. Jensens Kogebog (Miss Jensen's Cookbook) is considered by many Danes to contain all the authentic recipes for traditional dishes as well as for baking bread, cakes and biscuits. It has been reprinted dozens of times and new editions can be found in most Danish bookshops today. When Danes prepare meals for special occasions, for example at Christmas time, they frequently follow Frøken Jensen's detailed descriptions. The book has not been translated into English but many of the traditional Danish recipes on English-language websites are those of Frøken Jensen. The original edition (only in Danish) is available online.
- Gyldendal (Kristine Marie Jensen, 2008): Frøken Jensens Kogebog, 1st ed. ISBN 9788702070385 (Danish)
The first revised and updated edition by Nanna Simonsen. Published on K.M. Jensens 150 year birthday.
- Bent Christensen (2008): Gastronomien i Danmark, Lindhart og Ringhof Forlag, ISBN 978-87-11-43071-2 (Danish)
The story of the most famous chefs and the best restaurants in Denmark since WW II.
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- Den intensive ernæringsoplysning efterleves ikke altid, men kan føre til dårlig samvittighed, og flere har spiseforstyrrelser end tidligere. Read cand.phil. Bi Skaarups article Maden i kulturhistorisk perspektiv s. 22 nederst i Jacobsen et al. Carlsen
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- Meyer, Claus: Almanak, Copenhagen, Lindhardt og Ringhof, 2010, 694 p. (Danish) ISBN 978-87-11-43070-5
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