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When we lived in the upper peninsula of Michigan, an energetic Moravian preacher’s wife introduced our family to Ebelskivers.  I have one of those heritage, cast iron cooking vessels in my kitchen to this very day.  The Danish word means apple pancakes, or something close to that.  We spent entire Sundays stuffing our faces with these spherical pancakes, until nearly comatose.  We ate them, but we were also expected to spend time at the stove.

Recently I made a batch and asked my friend Debbie to taste the recipe.   She was already familiar with them, and happy to help out.  They’re small apple pancakes, either baked on the stovet0p with a slice of apple in the batter- or filled with applesauce in the middle, as they’re cooling.  We ate them with jam in the middle, dusted with confectioners sugar.

It’s a ridiculously rich, yeast raised batter, spiced primarily with cardamom and lemon peel, and therefore recognizably Scandinavian.  You spoon the batter into a special skillet with deep indentations.

They cook fairly quickly, but if you only have one pan and a crowd of people, someone, or a small team will have to be a martyr and simply do nothing but make the ebelskivers, but in the end your sacrifice will earn you unfailing appreciation.

If you haven’t made them before, the only real trick you have to master is actually flipping the little cakes in the pan neatly.  It takes practice, sometimes quite a bit of practice- so you have to be patient with yourself at the beginning.  I use a little spatula and a dessert fork- that method works well for me; you could probably also use a nice long wooden skewer to just catch the edge in order to make the process a little easier.

Sprinkle with a dusting of confectioners sugar, and at the table, split them open with a spoon and fill them with a little preserves or applesauce- anything that you like as a sweet filling actually.  But be careful- you can easily lose count how many of them you eat!

Danish Aebleskivers- I’ve been using this recipe for 35 years

3-1/2 c flour

5 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup sugar

2 c milked, scalded and cooled

1/2 c butter, melted

1 cake of yeast (or 2-1/4 tsp dry, proofed in 1/4 c of the milk, with a pinch of sugar)

grated rind of 1 lemon, or 1 tsp vanilla (I always use the lemon)

optional crushed cardamom

Put flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center, and place the egg yolks, sugar, 1-3/4 cup milk and melted butter.  Work together well with spoon.   Add proofed yeast, flavoring and salt.  Beat everything until smooth.  Now beat the egg whites till stiff and fold into mixture.  Set aside until doubled.  Heat the well seasoned and greased ebelskiver pan over medium heat until hot  and put a spoonful of the batter in each well and carefully check to see if they are browning after about 2 minutes or so.  They actually bake fairly quickly, so when you turn them, try to do that quickly as well.  They will  be done in another 2-3 minutes.  Regulate the heat carefully on the pan, because sometimes it will get too hot.  Between batches brush a little more oil or melted butter in the pan to prevent sticking.

Put a little powdered sugar on top, fill with your favorite filling and enjoy!

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Citty’s mackeral pie propelled me into action, and I made Salmon Cakes today.  The herbs grow on my city apartment balcony.

For quite a few years, our family lived in a village in very rural Upper Michigan.   The area is Potawatami  tribe and Ojibwe or Ottawa I think.  It had also been settled for about a hundred years at that point- during the 7 years we spent there- by Finns, Swedes, German and Norwegian families.  Lots of old farms that had been in the families for a few generations.  Today, Wikipedia says that there are 270 people there.  http://www.infomi.com/city/daggett/  That sign representing an arrow on Highway 41 was there 30 years ago.

There were endless  church basement dinners (my dad was the minister at one of the churches in the town).  Every single time without exception, there were Swedish Meatballs, homemade beans in huge cookers, and dozens of kinds of other ethnic specialties.  Of course there was also the compulsory jello salad with little marshmallows, and fluffy dessert concoctions with tons of Cool Whip (at that time new, and regarded as nothing less than a miracle food by almost everybody, I think) – people really put the kitchen sink in those cool whip creations.

At Christmas, there were incredible cookies and holiday sweets.  Krumkaka, which the high school girls from Swedish families had to help make.  I think a lot of them more or less enjoyed making them, although they would  remark about what an unbelievable amount of work was required to make such a small amount of exceedlingly fragile sweets.  Here’s a youtube link with an idea of how these were made in Upper Michigan, by dozens of families- and the family in the video is are very entertaining about their cookie production.  Not a lot of people overall made them, though, so they were definitely savored as a delicacy by everyone:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM1vbbMtyso

Then there was the ‘Daggett Merchantile’.  If I say, that in 1972, when I was 11 years old, that there was an honest to god general store in our village, it might make you think about the American TV series Little House on the Prairie (not recommended for historicity’s sake, btw, although it adds to the mythos of colonial popular culture), or something like that.  Actually it was much better in real life.  There was the merchantile store and attached feed store.  The store itself seemed to be as big as an airplane hangar inside, and it had wooden floors and huge front plate glass windows, and a meat locker in the back.

There was a wooden counter that must have been at least 25-30 feet long with a massive metal cash register in the middle, and a glass covered candy-case near the front.   When you came into the store, you walked up to the counter and asked Miss Violet or Miss Ellen for a jar of peanut butter, a box of crackers, Calgon dishwashing liquid, canned vegetables or fruit- Jello, and anything else that you happened to need.  All the grocery-store type items were on wooden shelves going all the way up to the top of the tall ceiling behind the ladies.  They would smile and talk- and sometimes use the ancient wooden grabbers to reach the items up in the stratosphere up near the ceiling.  They knew the news before it appeared in the newspaper- but then we all did, because that’s what it’s like in a small community.  Everyone knows everything about everybody, all the time.  At Christmas time there were huge wooden barrels of candies- chocolate covered ‘Angel Food’, which we used to call Honeycomb in Canada; various hard candies – Anise and Horehound were still popular in the 70s; peanut brittle, of course.  The wooden barrels weren’t hollywood props either.  They had simply never stopped using them to store and display foods for sale.  There was also every kind of dry goods you could imagine, from big bolts of cloth on the other side of the store-, to household goods, school supplies, kerosene lamps and small machine parts and tools.  I still have a kerosene lamp I bought there that is now almost 38 years old and  still in very good condition.  One of my best friends, Dan, rode his horse, Fart Blossom (recall:  that is the same affectionate nick-name that George Bush II used for Karl Rove) through Main Street quite often.  I rode the horse bareback the first time & he galloped across the meadow and just about tossed me.

When you ordered a cut of meat, Ms. Ellen was in charge of that and would step into the walk-in cooler and heave a haunch of beef with( or various other primary cuts) out by the modest refrigerated meat display.  She would then expertly apply her formidable cutlery to the carcass and chop it right on the big, ancient wooden chopping block with deadly precision (n.b.- that wooden chopping block would not meet any current food inspection that we know of in this country today, but that’s how they’d done it for well over 1/2 a century I’m sure).  That lady knew what she was doing and I’m sure she must have done it a good part of her life.  She and Mr. Rob had been engaged for nearly 40 years although they hadn’t hitched the knot in all that time.  Mr. Rob ran the feed store.  They frequently took walks around the village together in the evenings and always sat next to each other in church on Sunday mornings.