Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Norwegian/American Thanksgiving, part 1--Cooking

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends and family!

Having found a whole turkey to purchase at our local grocery store, we are going to have our own Thanksgiving celebration here (but on Saturday instead of today, because of course there is work/school today!). We have invited a few of the Professor's colleagues over to experience American Thanksgiving with us.

Here are some of the "interesting" aspects of celebrating Thanksgiving abroad:

1. Turkey: not a staple here. Luckily, Norwegians often have turkey at the holidays, New Year's in particular (so I've been told), so I was able to talk a gal at the local grocery store into getting one out of the big freezer in the back for me (they hadn't yet put them out to sell). She brought me a 6 kg turkey (about 13 lb). Then we decided to have more people for dinner, so I went back to see if they had anything larger. I asked for the largest one they had, and they brought me a 5.5 kg bird. I will roast both and we should come out ahead. We have since heard that use of growth hormones is banned here, so in general the poultry is smaller. Should be good taste, however. Amazingly, the turkey was not particularly expensive (less than chicken per kg).

2. Cranberries: Also not a staple here (not surprisingly--I don't know that they are grown outside the US). I haven't found either whole cranberries or canned, but I did find dried cranberries at our local international food market. I have a recipe for a wild rice pilaf that has dried cranberries as a garnish, so we will use that in order to have a token showing at the Thanksgiving table. (We brought some wild rice with us to give as gifts, so we will use some of that to introduce our Norwegian friends to this New World dish).

3. Pumpkin Pie: As a New World vegetable, pumpkin is not big here either. You can't find it canned unless you go to one of the stores in Oslo that has a greater variety of American products. However, because Halloween is catching on more and more, there were whole pumpkins for sale in October. I bought a few, cooked them up, and put the puree in the freezer. We have a family favorite recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, so we knew we would want some pumpkin in reserve!
Pumpkin pie step 1: buy a pumpkin before Halloween

Pumpkin pie step 2: figure out the names of spices, can you guess what these are?

The other trick to pumpkin pie is that you can't just just buy "pumpkin pie spice" at the grocery store. Thankfully, I have a "recipe" from my mother-in-law. For 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice, use 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp nutmeg. What are those spices called in Norwegian? Check the photo above and see if you can guess. Often the spice jars have photos or you can see through them, but finding the right packets took a little guesswork. (Answers at the bottom of this post).

Only Son did a presentation at school earlier this week. He showed photos of his home and also talked a little about American Thanksgiving. We made little pumpkin pie treats for his class. I used my mother-in-law's recipe for crust-less pumpkin pie and baked it in muffin cups. With a little whipped cream on top, they were good for a sample of American pumpkin pie. Some kids liked it better than others, but the spices are familiar as they are basically the same as those used in making Norwegian pepperkaker cookies during the Christmas season.

Individual pumpkin pies brought to school
Crust-less Pumpkin Pie
(adapted from Betty Crocker New Choices Cookbook)

1 16 oz can pumpkin (about 2 cups puree)
1 12 oz can evaporated skimmed milk (Viking Melk is the brand here for evaporated milk)
3 egg whites (I used 2 whole eggs so as not to waste my expensive eggs!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see above for spice mix)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

topping: 1/4 cup quick cooking oats, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 Tbsp margarine, softened

Heat oven to 350 degrees, Prepare brown sugar topping by combining ingredients into course crumbs. Spray 10" pie plate with non-stick spray. Mix remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour into pie plate and sprinkle with topping. Bake 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes. Refrigerate about 4 hours.

I used double muffin liners to line the muffin pan, because I thought it might be a bit soggy. I would have used foil liners if I could find them. I baked them for around 20 minutes and then started checking with a clean knife.

Our favorite pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins 
(adapted from Muffins cookbook by Elizabeth Alston
This is probably my favorite cookbook of all time. Everything in it is very good!
It's out of print, I believe, but you can find used copies on the web)
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (see above for recipe)
1 tsp baking soda (have your in-laws bring some over from the US!)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt 
2 lg eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (about 1/2 a 1 lb can)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup (6 oz) chocolate chips (or chopped up baking chocolate if you live in Norway and can't easily get chocolate chips)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or use liners.
Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, spice, soda, baking powder, salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, add pumpkin and stir, then add melted butter. Stir until well blended. Add chocolate chips. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with rubber spatula just until blended.

Scoop batter into muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until springy to the touch in the middle. Remove from pan and cool on a rack. 

Key to Spices:
Kanel is Cinnamon (you can probably guess this one, there is a drawing on the label)
Nellik is Ground Cloves (I figured this out by finding a see-through package of whole cloves first)
Muskatnøtt is Nutmeg (nøtt means nut, I also found a see-through package of whole nutmeg)
Ingefær is Ginger (this was the trickiest. I actually went to the aisle where they sell jars of minced ginger to check the Norwegian name!)

If you guessed them all, come on over! You are more than ready to cook in my Norwegian kitchen!


  1. Very nice. I will be following this blog.

    Just started learning Norwegian here in San Francisco

  2. So interesting to read about. Thanks for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. I have trouble finding Festal Pumpkin here in AZ - (have never found it) so bring it from MN when we come in the fall. I thought I had to "do backflips" for our favorite pumpkin pie but it's nothing compared to your experience!
    Love your blog, M.

  4. Sounds good, would be fun to be celebrating with you. Wish I could have shared some cranberries with you, found a 3# bag at Sam's Club, thus we had plenty for the 3 of us. I'm ready with cranberry relish for the Holidays. MOM