How can one get through Christmas without gingerbread or gløgg? I know my family couldn’t! Making the gingerbread is a family affair! I love the fragrance of gingerbread baking! So, who made the first gingerbread and gløgg?
Originally the term gingerbread (from the latin word zingiber, via the Old French word gingebras) meant preserving ginger. It was any concoction made with honey and spices.
Today, gingerbread is a broad category of baked goods, flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar or molasses. Gingerbread can be anything from a soft moist loaf cake to a gingerbread biscuit!
The Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis, is claimed to have brought his gingerbread skills from the modern day Greece to France and stayed there for seven years teaching gingerbread classes to French Christians. Then the cookies were brought to Sweden by German immigrants, who had their own gingerbread guild. By 1444, Swedish nuns baked gingerbread to ease digestion. It was their custom to bake the biscuits and paint them white and use them as window decorations.
In Norway, the most popular ginger concoction is the pepperkaker, a thin, brittle biscuit made especially at Christmas. They are also used as window decorations, but made thicker than usual and are decorated with a glaze or candy.
The traditional Norwegian winter drink is gløgg, made especially at Christmas. It is a spiced, usually alcoholic, mulled wine or spirit. Hot wine has been a common drink since the 16th century and the spiced liquor was consumed by messengers or postman, who travelled by horseback or skied in cold weather. They would have been some happy messengers! By the 19th century gløgg was a common winter drink, mixed and warmed with juice, syrup and sometimes a splash of a harder spirit or punsch. Swedish/Finnish punsch was made from five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and tea.
Gløgg recipes vary greatly, but start out with a white or sweet wine, brandy or cognac. The making of gløgg begins by boiling water and adding spices to it, After a few minutes of simmering, the mixture is sieved and the fruit juice, wine or spirits are added. The most common spices for gløgg are cloves, cinnamon, cardamon and ginger. Added ingredients are citrus peel from oranges or lemons, and then you can add raisins and almonds. Gløgg can also be made without alcohol with fruit juices only. As we have seen before with coffee, gløgg was subject to prohibition in the 19th century, but by the 1950’s drinking gløgg was again a tradition in the Nordic countries.
I hope you have enjoyed my posts on the Nordic Christmas Traditions! There are more to come before Christmas!