In Denmark we celebrate midsummer on June 23, which we call “Sankt Hans.” We celebrate the white nights and the coming of summer with a lovely dinner from seasonal ingredients. After the dinner we light a bonfire and sing “The Midsummer Song” by Danish writer Holger Drachmann. It’s a very special evening celebrating life, sun, nature and history. In the old days, the evening was also about witches and trolls. Nowadays we put homemade toy witches on the bonfire.
This year I celebrated Skt. Hans at Knuthenlund, one of the country’s largest organic farms, on an island called Lolland in southern Denmark. I cooked dinner for 60, and then gave the bonfire speech.
Lolland has some of the most fertile soil in Europe, and grows rye, wheat, sugar beets, cherries, plums, apples and lots of berries. Hunting is also popular, and Knuthenlund also has its own dairy. The goats and sheep come in twice a day from the fields to get milked. In between the stables and dairy is a shop where you can look into the milking area and watch the animals being milked, and if you are lucky you might see some of the kids get a bottle of milk. You can also look directly into the dairy and watch the process.
Knuthenland Farm welcomes tourists
The farm is open to visitors, who walk on the beautiful estate, meet the animals and get closer to mother nature and the daily life on the farm.
Knuthenlund is 100 percent sustainable in its production of high quality goat and sheep cheese, yogurt (strawberry and rhubarb are favorites, made from old Danish recipes) and milk and has won prestigious prizes in Europe. Their animals graze freely, and the mixture of the clove and herbs they eat gives a wonderful taste to the milk. Besides the cheese they also do rhubarb and strawberry yogurt, both made from old Danish recipes.
Knuthenlund just started breeding black mottled landrace pigs. For this year’s midsummer party, we slow-roasted a whole pig on the large grill. I made salads from early summer ingredients: new potatoes, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, elderflower, pointed cabbage, peas and wild herbs.
The menu I chose for the midsummer evening included: barbecued pig, new potato salad with tarragon goat yogurt cream, rhubarb relish, cucumber and radish sweet and sour salad, pointed cabbage salad, baked asparagus and rhubarb trifle with rye bread.
Below are recipes for pork side dishes. If you are not planning to roast a whole pig, barbecue pork chops or sirloin.
For more on Danish traditions and recipes, see Trina Hahnemann’s Zester piece on gravad lax.
- In a saucepan, mix all ingredients and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Cool and store in refrigerator. Relish will keep for at least a week.
New Potato Salad With Tarragon Goat Yogurt Cream
For the potatoes:
For the cream:
- Scrub the potatoes and boil with the skin on in salted water. They are done when they are soft but still firm.
- Cool and cut each into four wedges. Place in a big bowl with enough room to mix the salad.
- Chop the spring onion medium fine, chop the parsley and set aside.
- Mix the cream ingredients together.
- 30 minutes before serving mix the potatoes with the peas, spring onion, herbs and the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cucumber and Radish Sweet and Sour Salad
For the brine:
For the vegetables:
- For the brine, boil all the ingredients for 10 minutes; whisk until all the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
- Cut the cucumber into thin slices and place on a flat tray. Sprinkle with salt and let rest for 1 hour.
- Rinse in cold water, and let drain in a colander.
- Rinse the radishes, cut tops off and chop finely. Place in a bowl with cucumber and then pour the brine over and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon take up the vegetables and serve right away.
The brine can be reused 3 to 4 times. Keep in the refrigerator.
Pointed Cabbage Salad
- Cut the cabbage into thin slices.
- Chop the herbs medium fine.
- Cut the feta into small pieces.
- Mix all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
- Just before serving squeeze over the lemon juice.
- Heat oven to 325 F.
- Rinse asparagus, cut off the tough ends.
- Place in ovenproof dish and mix with olive oil. Squeeze lemon slices over the asparagus before adding them. Mix well, season with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes and serve.
Rhubarb Trifle with Rye Bread
For the rhubarb:
For the cream:
For rye bread crumbs:
- Heat oven to 375 F.
- Rinse rhubarb and cut into slices. Place on a baking stray and sprinkle with the sugar.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then cool.
- Cut the bread into small cubes and roast in a dry frying pan until crisp. Add the 2 tablespoons coarse sugar and turn down the heat. Let sugar melt, stirring regularly. Cool.
- Mix the yogurt with regular sugar and scrape out the vanilla pods and add to the mixture. It can all be prepared the day before.
- Put the dessert together just before serving. In 4 tall glasses: place the rhubarb, then the rye bread crumble, and finish with goat yogurt cream.
Zester Daily contributor Trina Hahnemann is a Copenhagen-based chef and caterer and the author of six cookbooks, including “The Scandinavian Kitchen.” She has catered for artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones. Her company Hahnemann’s Køkken, which runs in-house canteens, counts the Danish House of Parliament among its clients. Trina writes a monthly column in Denmark’s leading women’s magazine Alt for Damerne.