21 January 2010

HISTORY / Historie: Frøken Jensen, the Danish Betty Crocker.

This article recently caught my eye as it reminded me of a very precious book that my sister gave me some years ago. I hope you enjoy this story of Frøken Jensen and her cookbook as much as I did.  Here is my 1990 edition of the 1901 Danish Classic Cookbook with protective plastic dust jack and embossed title.

The little old lady in everyone’s kitchen
The Copenhagen Post Online

For over 100 years, thrifty yet discerning cooks everywhere have depended on the laconic wisdom of Miss Jensen’s Cookbook, the Bible of the Danish kitchen

The book finds its way on to the gift table of every newly married couple, though if you have a kitchen in Denmark your copy may have been handed down to you, dog-eared and stained, upon getting your first flat. The recipes are far from the decadence of ‘Babette’s Feast’, but for anyone who wants to learn the A to Å of the national cuisine-simple, hearty fare, cleanly presented – on which every youngster in the country cuts their teeth, ‘Frøken Jensens Kogebog’ (Miss Jensen’s Cookbook) is the tome no kitchen can afford to do without.

Like the fictional American Betty Crocker, Miss Jensen has acquired an ironic status as the spinsterish patron saint of the national kitchen.

The matronly Jensen was a real person, however, a product of a nineteenth century way of life that pushed girls into lifelong domestic service due to circumstances largely out of their control. Kristine Marie Jensen was born in 1858 in Randers, and was orphaned during her early childhood. Miss Jensen lived with her grandmother until reaching confirmation age, when she made her way to Copenhagen to pursue a course in household management at the famous Nathalie Zahle School.

After an apprenticeship in England, Miss Jensen was hired by the Melchior household, whose son, Laurentz, would go on to become one of the great Wagnerian opera singers of the age. Following years of faithful household service, Miss Jensen composed her modest guide to housekeeping in 1901 - a book which began, modestly enough, with Jensen’s preface: ‘How often one hears our housewives complain over the great burden they bear through housekeeping, and especially daily food preparation!’

The book became an instant bestseller, appearing in no less than 27 editions prior to Jensen’s death in 1923.To understand the sensational popularity of Miss Jensen’s cookbook upon its initial publication- and perhaps why its appeal endures today requires some understanding of Miss Jensen’s times. The nineteenth century in this country was itself a Golden Age of gastronomy, the great age of culinary art marking the final period before wholesome ingredients gave way to the modern conveniences ushered in by industrialisation. Miss Jensen was hardly the first cook to compile a popular cookbook. In the 1850s, girls around the country were captivated by Madam Mangor’s ‘Cookbook for Young Girls, Written by a Grandmother’. Later in the century came ‘Fru Constantin’s Housekeeping and Cookbook’ (Fru Constantin was a pseudonym for Mathilde Muus, a later romance-writer).

But the domestic queen of the era was Louise Nimb, the legendary cookbook author and restaurateur whose 1888 work became a virtual catalogue of national eating habits. Nimb is remembered fondly for composing the recipe for the ‘Poor Man’s Lunch’, a mashed potato and pork-leftovers dish similar to today’s ‘Burning Love’. Nimb was admired for her commitment to quality ingredients, and her easy translation of haughtier French and English cooking terms to the lay reader, appealing to a growing middle-class audience.

Miss Jensen appropriated Louise Nimb’s adeptness with hearty ingredients, but partnered in with an even saintlier virtue: the first duty of any wife was to become actuely familiar with her husband’s eating habits, and accommodate them; keeping precise tabs on household expenditures ran a close second. Jensen was the first home economist to instruct her readers to plan meals several days in advance, to use a base of very few ingredients in several combinations, and to leave nothing edible unused, Likewise, Jensen employed a charming economy of prose, relying on a minimum of numerical measurements, to make her book easily understandable to ‘servant girls’ and others with little formal education.

Miss Jensen’s appraisal of her own expertise in household matters was like her no-fail recipes for frikadeller and potato fare - modest and sober.

‘May I succeed in achieving what I have set out to serve as some benefit to the public at large; and to arouse an interest in household duties so that they are not perceived as a weighty burden, but as a noble task charged to every housewife…’

It is difficult to overstate her success - the only author to outsell her in this country is Hans Christian Andersen.

15 January 2010

BAKERY/Bageri: Rustic Fruit Tart (Gammeldags Tærte)

A wonderful free-form tart that I modified to make it a bit more Danish than French. It takes on the flavors of the rich, fruity sweetness of accompanying dessert wine syrup that beautifully complements the natural sugars of the natural organic fruits.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

here is my pear tart version made with baby Bosc pears + pear wine

::Basic Crust (make ahead):: 1 cup all purpose flour - organic ½ cup almond meal 3 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
or grate and freeze, if using the manual method for making the crust (see below). 1 large egg yolk 1 tbsp sweet white dessert wine (use matching flavor to filling)
1 tbsp ice water (if needed)
::Basic Filling:: (Use organic fresh organic fruit, if possible + leave the skin on…if not, remove skin) 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar for the syrup 1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Choose one option below: • OPT A: 3 large ripe pears, cored, thinly sliced (I like…. Bosc pears) • OPT B: 3 large ripe yet firm apples, cored, thinly sliced (I like to mix both + tart apples together) • OPT C: 3 large ripe yet firm peaches, pitted, thinly sliced ::Topping:: Pearl sugar / Slivered almonds ::Syrup:: 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweet white dessert wine (use matching flavor to filling)* 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
* pear = pear wine / apples = calvados / peaches = do not use peach brandy…use a sweet dessert wine Vanilla ice cream DIRECTIONS 1: BASIC CRUST: 
Processor Method: Blend flour, meal, sugar, and salt in processor until combined. Add butter; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk, wine and water; using on/off turns, mix just until moist clumps form.

Manual Method: Blend flour, meal, sugar, and salt by hand using a mixing spoon, until combined. Add frozen grated butter and blend together until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk, wine and water; mixing well just until moist clumps form.

Complete Crust for Both Methods: Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 40 minutes and up to 2 days.

2: FILLING: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to 12-inch round or 8x14-ish rectangle. Remove top sheet of parchment and transfer dough, with bottom parchment, to rimmed baking sheet. Place fruit slices, 1 tbsp sugar, and flour in large bowl along with a little almond meal and almonds; toss to combine. Spoon the fruit mixture into center of dough, leaving 1 1/2-inch border. Using parchment as aid, fold up outer edge of dough over edge of filling. Top with slivered almonds and pearl sugar. Bake until fruit is tender, about 20 minutes.
3: SYRUP: Meanwhile, boil 1 cup wine, 1/2 cup water, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in medium saucepan until syrup is reduced to 1/2 cup (no less), about 10 minutes. This may take longer depending on altitude. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Drizzle half of syrup over filling. Continue baking tart until juices are bubbling thickly, about 20 minutes. Cool and enjoy.
4: LAST - BUT, NOT LEAST: Whisk 2 tablespoons wine into remaining syrup. Cut tart into wedges. Drizzle with syrup. Serve with ice cream and enjoy.

12 January 2010


Here is a favorite recipe of mine for remoulade.

Until this easy recipe landed in our laps, we had always bought ready-made tubes of the stuff to put on our sandwiches and there was not a danish market in sight for about 100 miles at the time.  For some reason, our Danish mother had never made for us given I was crazy for it.  Then again we really did not have any good herring or fish eat with it.

However, by odd coincidence a Danish Deli/Bakery had recently opened in our town (unfortunately, it did not last long...this was many years ago).  One day I happen to ask it's owner if he knew how to make 'remoulade'.  Much to my delight and surprise, he did!  It is his recipe that I share with you today with minor modifications by me from years of fine tuning it to the homemade version I grew up with in Denmark.

If you are familiar with the American version called 'tartar sauce', you may very well trade it in for this one. It's special texture and taste compliments many different types of 'smørrebrød', especially seafood and those crab cakes that we all love. It also works well as an important condiment for various other Topless sandwiches. So, it is worth having in the fridge.

I am sure that once you have made this you will find it a typical part of your condiment/pålæg repertoire.
Homemade Danish Remoulade 
with pickled herring and red onions on pumpernickel bread.



1 cup mayonnaise (made with olive oil)
1/2-3/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1/2-3/4 cup kosher pickles, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
curry powder (to taste + color)
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
dash of salt (to taste)

(Remember that the main goal of this recipe is a balance of taste and textures to the palette.)
So, let's begin:
1:  PREP: Chop onion, pickles and parsley and set aside in small bowls and add mayonnaise to a small mixing bowl as shown above.
2:  COLOR: This part may seem a bit tricky only because I have not stated the amount to use for the curry powder.  But, this is how I do it since the intensity of the powder may vary with age and type.  There are two goals that I am aim for here.  One is color and the other is taste. However, in this early stage color is my motivation.  So, I only take the color near to what I want it to be making sure the taste is not too dominate.  This color should be a very light yellowish-green.
3:  Next, add the dry mustard (hold off on the salt until you have added the other ingredients as the brine flavor from pickles might do just the trick).
4:  TEXTURE: This part is the fun part for me since now we will begin to add the chopped ingredients a little at a time.  First, add some parsley - about half and mix. Second, add some onion and pickles to the mix. The taste at this point starts to come together.  But, we are far from being finished here.  This is actually the point where you may realize that the onions are a bit too strong or that the pickles are a bit salty.  Pay attention to these little taste factors. Repeat and add additional curry powder as necessary. The consistency should be like chunky porridge.  Aim for what tickles your texture and taste buds.

5:  STORE:  Keep in a cool place for up to two weeks maximum in an airtight container.  Just mix up the ingredients each time you use it.

....And if you have yet to venture into the land of open face sandwiches, it also tastes great on uncured natural salami with fried onions on pumpernickel.  My personal favorite is to use it on herring with a little bits of red onion!

04 January 2010

EVENT: Spring Cookbook Exchange!


::check out your kitchen bookshelf and bring what's not cooking to this book exchange::

Click here to find out more!

02 January 2010

Why Going 'Topless' Continues...

The beginning of each new year always brings promise.  It takes us down the mental path of goals and experiences achieved and not yet realized.  In continuing to go 'topless' with my blog, I hope for those who have occasionally chosen to ponder my musing on danish foods were not too disappointed and perhaps, went away enlightened. I look forward to you further joining me as I explore my passion for bringing this wonderful type of dish to you. 
This first year has been a trying one on my both physically and mentally as I have been hampered by injury and pain. But, I hope that you will choose to remain here...even, if for a visit now and then as I will try to make posts palatable and timely for those of your wishing to share in my kitchen and in the recipes that have become part of my Danish gastronomic heritage.

It's time to continue.

Tusand Tak/Many Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...