Denmark is the land of the (nearly) midnight sun. The sun sets just before 11:00 in the evening, only to begin its ascent again in the wee hours of the morning. In a land where the winters are long and very dark, it is no wonder that celebrations, and even a God or two, have been delegated to give thanks and perhaps curry favor with the fiery powers that be. Summer Solstice, or Sankt Hans Aften (which means the eve of St. John the Baptist Day), is the height of these jubilations, as it celebrates the longest day of the year. Bonfires are lit, and food and drink are plentiful, as the Vikings of yesteryear, and in spirit, party and feast until dawn.
This year we will attempt our own celebration on a nearby beach. We will light a bonfire and have a picnic dinner as the sun sets. It is likely that we will forego the authentic tradition of burning an effigy over the fire, as that may not go over too well with the local residents and could quite possibly get us arrested. (Proper solstice tradition would have a straw witch burned over the fire. This symbolizes the riddance of problems, worries, and threats from people’s lives.)
Food typically associated with the solstice celebration is simple picnic fare: grilled fish or meat, fresh boiled local crayfish (which can be a party unto itself) and remoulade sauce, potato salad, green salad. All of this would be accompanied, Viking-style, by beer, shnapps and wine throughout the evening.
For dessert, something making use of the fleeting yet prolific Danish strawberry season would be appropriate and always welcome.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
Mix the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl. Cut in the butter, and work it with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Refrigerate until use.
For the fruit:
4 large or 6 small rhubarb stalks, washed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and cut in half
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Gently toss rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together in a large bowl.
Arrange evenly in a rectangular baking dish.
Cover the fruit with topping.
Bake in oven until rhubarb is tender and the topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.