May 1, 2010

Råmjölk, Kalvdans,
Bo & Ebba

Down the road from our farm, on the left hand side as you drive towards the outer edge of the village of Eden, you will see another beautiful farm.  The houses are perfectly painted, the grounds are immaculate, the barn is pristine.
Years ago, what is now several farms was one large farm.  When it was divided two brothers got a chunk of land each, but only one of the parcels had homes and buildings on it.  The agreement was that an identical home would be built on the parcel that was split off. Later, family members joined forces to construct the barn and other necessary outbuildings. 
Our farm was the original.  The second, where the identical home was built, belonged to the ancestor of Bo Anders and Ebba Henriksson, the brother and sister team who still live there today.

There is seemingly nothing that  Bo or Ebba don't know.  Any question you may have about farm processes or procedures, care of the animals, management of the forest, cooking, preserving, etc. finds it's answer on the tip of their tongues. They are revered throughout all of Angermanland and beyond for their wisdom and integrity.
They are wonderful people.

When the calf season begins, one of the products is Råmjölk (colostrum).  The mother's udder is full of it when the baby calf is born and the baby drinks freely for the first day.  But at the second milking after birth (actually the first manual milking of the mother) some is collected in the milking can and saved in 2-liter bottles in the freezer in case it would be needed for any reason for the new calf later on.  If the baby calf dosn't need it, then it is available for household use.  It is thicker than normal milk, a creamy golden color, and full of proteins, vitamins and minerals. 
It is the Råmjölk.  And it is as precious as gold.

Since Bo and Ebba retired as dairy farmers years ago, each season we are sure to save some of the first and best Råmjölk for them.  This year, Bo arrived a few days after receiving the Råmjölk with a gift that Ebba had sent....
A still warm basin of
The whole bowl was eaten up in one sitting. 
It was obviously time for me to request the Kalvdans 101 Training Session.
Hans arranged the time with Ebba (neither she nor Bo speak any English at all), and I arrived at her door at the specified hour, camera in hand, to make a pictorial record since the verbage between us promised to be minimal (I'm learning, but my Swedish so far would not be adequate).

 There are so many variables from year to year and cow to cow that a test must be conducted first every time the Kalvdans is to be made.  Ebba worked so fast I had to snap it up to get the pictures.  She poured the 2 liters of Råmjölk into a bowl with one egg and whisked it up.

Next, a little salt and a surprisingly small amount of sugar (the milk itself is quite sweet) was stirred in and a small amount of the mixture was put into a metal cup and into a pot of simmering water.

  We waited.  In a few minutes a change began to take place and the mixture began to gel. This let us know that another egg was not required, that the milk in this batch would thicken as it should.  The simmering water from the test was poured into a cast iron frying pan and set on the stove to heat up even further. 
The whole process was so much faster and simpler than I thought it would be.

Then ZIP! A cinnamon stick comes out of the spice packet and into the bowl, TAP! More ground cinnamon into the mix,  
And SWISH! The creamy, sweet smelling liquid goes into the buttered pan.
More cinnamon on top and I am in HEAVEN, it looks so good.

I have loved Ebba from the first moment I met her.  She is kind and sensible and warm.  But what happened next cemented my kinship with her for eternity.....
 Taking out a block of pure butter, she began to whack off chunks and drop them onto the surface.  This picture doesn't begin to show the amount of butter that made it's way into the Kalvdans mixture.  It was thrilling! A final hit of cinnamon and it was ready to be put into the cast iron bain marie and slid into the hot oven at 220 degrees centigrade for thirty minutes.  
That was it.  So easy, even with the 'test' that had to be done first and had sounded so foreboding before I saw it.

I am told that this dish got it's name, Kalvdans (Calf Dance) because it kind of jiggles when it is slightly warm and ready to eat - much like a new calf will dance when it is playing in the pen.  It is somewhere between an egg custard and a mild vanilla pudding but not exactly like either one.
There is something almost romantic in the way that it is created from a unique type of milk that comes only at a certain time of year from the animals we work so hard to protect and raise. 
We take care of these creatures.  We nourish and shelter them.
And in return, they provide us with nourishment and strength  from the food they produce.
Later that evening we whipped up the cream, mixed the fresh berry sauce, slathered them both over a bowl of barely warm Kalvdans,

And ate every bit of it up!
Tack så mycket, Ebba.  

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