My paternal grandparents immigrated to Canada from Denmark in 1954 to farm in the Giltedge area with my Great Uncle Hans. Growing up Danish Canadian meant many unique traditions and an abundance of family recipes.
My grandparents have two sons. One had long ago moved with his family to California. For grandchildren, that left my brother and I nearby. During my childhood, most grandparents were retired, as were mine. This enabled sleepovers, frequent visits, and their presence at every recital, awards ceremony, or sporting event either of us ever participated in.
My grandparents lived at the end of 7th Avenue where the neighborhood never seemed to change. The Parsons, Tchirs, and Goddards lived on that block with my grandparents for more than 30 years. I remember many summer afternoons spent on the front lawn, with a blanket spread under the canopy of the big oak tree, playing with my dolls. Hot days were spent running through the sprinkler with the other grandchildren that came to visit the street. It was basically a Norman Rockwell painting.
Danish delicacies were incorporated into morning and afternoon coffee breaks (in the backyard adjacent to their prize garden), all daily meals and, of course, holiday dinners. It's not an exaggeration to say that Danish cuisine was the epicenter of all gatherings - not the cause for celebration itself, but rather the food we collectively enjoyed.
Later, in my early twenties, when my boys were just little, I felt this incredible desire to learn some of these family recipes so the traditions could continue - to some extent. I spent days with Grandma re-enacting these recipes and trying to both translate her notes from Danish and to capture the nuances in her mind. This was't an easy feat as, around this time, was the onset of her dementia.
One of the most coveted family recipes is Ollebrod. This dark Danish porridge is comprised of dry rye bread ends and crusts boiled with beer. Lots and lots of beer. The alcohol content burns off during cooking if you were wondering! It is served warm and thick covered by a creamy white sauce of raw egg yolks and sugar.
But, in order to have Ollebrod, one must first bake rye bread. So, about 4 times per year, I spend the better part of a day baking rye bread.
I haven't much of a recipe to share I'm afraid; the salt is still measured in the palm of my hand. At Grandma's we would mix the ingredients in a massive plastic laundry basin - I have a handful of oversized bowls instead which makes the process a little more cumbersome.I still grease her metal bread pans using a portion of wax paper and soft butter as she showed me. We add honey and Roger's Golden Syrup for sweetening. I remember Grandma lamenting about how the rye flour was "so much lighter [in color] than it used to be". Gravy browning was a staple in her pantry and just the solution she needed to achieve the deep brown dough desired. So, I add that too. I'm likely one of the few people around to purchase these rare ingredients - perhaps that's why none of the local grocers carry the rye flour anymore. My menial purchases 4 times per year don't make it lucrative I suspect.
Which brings me to this past Sunday. Weeks ago, Anita (our Daines & Daubney Brand Ambassador who has been avidly baking sourdough bread) and I were talking bread and I described this family favorite. I told her of my struggles finding the rye flour and how we had even checked in Camrose once at a couple grocers. Anita managed to find me some (was able to get me four bags in fact) and while my boys were at the motocross races and her husband carried on with their driveway re-paving adventure, we drank coffee, told stories, and baked!
A dozen loaves and a few hours later, I was 1/3 of my way to a big batch of Ollebrod. Slicing the bread and crumbling it up (since we all prefer the Ollebrod so much, I only save about 1 loaf to enjoy and break the rest up for the porridge) takes another hour at least. I'll spend the better part of another day boiling the crumbs in beer until it reaches the right consistency. Then I'll divvy it up into containers to freeze for future use.
It was great to have Anita's company while I baked. I got to reminisce a little and proudly share some of the childhood experiences that shaped me. We even enjoyed a Danish open-faced sandwich of sliced cold boiled potatoes and mayonnaise - another of my Grandma's creations!