Swedes celebrate their spring rite called Valborgsmässafton or Walpurgis in English at the end of April.
Walpurgis Night, an abbreviation of Saint Walpurgis Night, also known as Saint Walpurga’s Eve, is the eve of the Christian feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia, and is celebrated on the night of 30 April and the day of 1 May. Wikipedia
A celebration stemming from the Middle Ages, Walpurgis is a symbol of welcome to the lengthening days. The return of brighter and lighter days is a just cause for celebration. As evening falls on April 30th, bonfires are lit. As the fires roar, happy Swedes sing songs welcoming spring into the atmosphere.
The first May bonfires were held in the center of Sweden in the early 1700s. In days gone by, bonfires were lit on mountaintops and were thought to frighten away demons of darkness and gloom. In actuality, the fires scared away wild animals so the farmers could let their animals out for grazing.
When I was a child in Oregon, we would gather all of the sticks and brush from winter and make a huge pile. Often times we would climb on this growing pile, completely knocking it down, and have to start all over again. On Walpurgis Eve, my father and uncles would light the fire, and we would roast hot dogs. It would also be the first unveiling of the Saffron Schnapps.
May 1st always led to a large potluck feast at the end of a long workday. Before spring could really come, we had to mend our fences and barns first. This feast always included kallops, and mashed potatoes and ended with a community dance and songfest. Along with working, we would also play tricks, or should I say everyone played tricks on me.
I can still hear my grandfather laughing and yelling, “May, May, moon!” Growing up in Swedish America lends itself to marking the year with wonderful memories and celebrations.
In Sweden, there are celebrations everywhere. Two of the largest are in the University cities of Lund and Uppsala. Lund and Uppsala have a long tradition of greeting Valborgsmässoafton with a breakfast of herring and Schnapps.
The afternoon is filled with graduating students dressed in “whites” for the first time, singing songs, making speeches to their professors, and lighting bonfires.
Where ever you may be, this fine Walpurgis, light a fire, enjoy a hot dog or two, and welcome in spring. Oh and don’t forget the Saffron Schnapps.
We hope you are having a wonderful Valborgsmässoafton and happy May 1st. Here are some of the recipes plus a couple extra that we mentioned in our April 30th post about our Valborgs tradition.
· 1 ½ lbs of sirloin steak cut into strips or stew meat
· 2 tbsp.butter
· 2 onions
· 2 or 3 peeled carrots cut into long slices or chunks
· 1 tsp salt or to taste
· 5-8 whole allspice corns
· ¼ tsp white pepper
· 3 bay leaves
· 3 cups of water
· 3 tbsp of flour
A splash of vinegar or wine (not too much)
· Peel and cut the onions into slices
· If using sirloin, cut the beef into slices
· Melt the butter in a pan. Once the butter has stopped bubbling, add the beef and brown on all sides.
· Add the onion slices and cook with the beef until the onions are clear.
· Put the meat and onion mixture into a stew or 2 quart pot.
· Mix the salt, pepper, allspice, bay leaves and vinegar. Stir and mix well before adding water.
· Add 3 cups of water to the pot. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 45-60 minutes.
· At the 30-minute mark, add the carrots.
· In the last 5 minutes of cooking, take 2 to 3 tbsp of flour and mix with warm water. Pour into the stew pot and stir constantly. This helps to thicken the gravy.
We always serve mashed potatoes and pickled beets with our kallops. The recipes follow
· 8 to 10 medium red potatoes peeled
· ½ cup of Milk
· 8 tbsp or 1 stick of butter
· ½ cup of fat free sour cream
· Salt and Pepper
· Chives on the side.
· Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until they are fork tender. With an electric mixer whip the cooked potatoes until fairly smooth. Add the milk, butter, and sour cream. Mix until very smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whip again and adjust thickness of the potatoes with more milk if necessary.
The Quick Version. We use canned beets so that we can eat them quickly.
· 2 cans of sliced beets
· 2 cups of water
· ¾ of cup of sugar
· ¾ of a cup of distilled white vinegar
· ¼ tsp white pepper
· 5-7 whole cloves
Bring the water, vinegar, sugar and spices to a boil until the sugar has dissolved and thickened into a light syrup. Cool completely to room temperature. Put the red beet slices in a glass jar or Pyrex dish and pour the pickling mixture over them. Place in the refrigerator and enjoy your pickles.
Saffrons Schnapps or The Golden Elixir
· 1 bottle of Vodka
· ½ oz of saffron threads.
· 2 Cardamom pods
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 tsp of sugar
Place the vodka and the saffron in a loosely sealed canning jar. You will really hate yourself if you put the lid on tightly.
Place the jar in a pot of gently simmering water. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool just a little bit until you can handle the liquid, and it won’t break the glass bottle. In the glass bottle, add the cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar.
When cool enough, add the vodka to the spice mixture. This will be ready to drink the next day. This has a wonderfully intense flavor. The longer you let the schnapps sit the more flavorful it becomes. Skål
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