It's a Snow Wonderland/ Snow Hell in Denmark (and most of Northern Europe) right now-- depending on whom you talk to.
Thousands of families have celebrated their Christmas Eve together with strangers in a gym hall on military bunk beds as their further journey was clogged with several tons of snow. That sure takes a truckload of Christmas spirit to endure.
But, for once, I was one of the lucky ones. I had booked a plane ticket almost two months ahead and I reached the far away outskirts of the country in time before the storm hit again. And now, I'm enjoying the countryside coziness only interrupted by my mom's cooking and occasional playtime with the kittens.
The snow is so beautiful this year. Outside it's freezing -23˚C / -9.4˚F, which makes the ice crystals go bonkers and grow to enormous sizes.
At night the snow glitters and shimmers in the moon light like a gay disco.
We always begin our Christmas Eve preparations by finding the perfect tree in our forest. Usually it takes a lot of walking around before we decide that most natural young pine trees are hideous mutated vultures.
These "spots" are where the local gang of deer spent their night while it was snowing.
I find it kinda cute.
We finally spot a good little tree and chuck it in the trailer.
Inside we try to keep check of three different fireplaces/ovens and feed them regularly with firewood. It's much cheaper to fire with our own chopped wood than turning on the gas heat.
My mom has started on the duck, which needs three hours in the oven.
It has a filling of apples and prunes and is rubbed in rough salt.
Also preparing the risalamande-- a dessert with rice, cream and almonds which is the traditional dessert on a Danish Christmas Eve.
Peeling the almonds. They need to be boiled and warm to get the skin off.
Cooking the rice in milk.
Small potatoes roasted in sugar to caramelize and sweeten up.
It's getting dark, the sun sets at 4pm.
The whole fjord is frozen over and animals walk from coast to coast to feed.
We set the table
My mom is trying to stay healthy so she's made a raw salad of red cabbage, oranges and walnuts.
On the table is also the more traditional version of chopped, boiled red cabbage.
Finally the evening's main star is out of the oven and being cut open.
The fat is poured out and used for a delicious, brown gravy sauce.
The best pieces of meat are placed along with the sweet 'taters and prunes.
Uhm, the meat is so tender it almost falls off my fork.
Usually I'm not a fan of beer, that bitter ooze that reminds one of pee in colour and smell.
But at Christmas time you can get "hvidt-øl" which is sweet beer without alcohol and bitterness. It fits a heavy Christmas dinner perfectly, but a single bottle is also enough.
For dessert: risalamande!
Tradition dictates you play a game while eating: a whole almond is hidden somewhere in the bowl. If you find it inside the scoop you get on your plate (without chewing it to pieces), you win a prize (usually a marzipan pig or a box of filled chocolate).
Add warm cherry sauce for extra deliciousness!
After dinner all family members open their bags and stuff the tree's feet with presents.
A traditionally Danish decorated tree consists of flag-garlands, goats made of hay and red strings, wax candles and all sorts of other gay crap.
But it's tradition and it's all colour matching, so of course I like it.
In the "kræmmerhuse" (cone-shaped paper baggies) you drop homebaked biscuits and other candy goodies. For the elves... or for someone who writes for a food blog and likes everything edible - like me! Munch!
I wish you all had a very skanky Christmas and a happy new year full of culinary adventures.