Monday, July 21, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Jodekager

Have we forgotten the pleasure of picnicking? Long before the convenience of mosquito spray and portable grills, prairie folks were quick to pack a picnic and enjoy a pleasant meal outdoors in the company of family and friends.

Many occasions called for a picnic: rodeos, sport days, end-of-school parties, church gatherings, Canada Day, 4th of July (a good many homesteaders were American), berry picking and harvest time.

With the arrival of automobiles, picnicking became an outing in itself. Community picnics often included a rare treat: ice cream made on site, the children taking turns churning the handle of the ice cream maker. Of course, the cream came right from the cow.

In summer 1915, Julie Feilberg packed a picnic for a family outing. The occasion: her husband, Ditlev, has discovered a "forest" not far from their homestead at Nokomis, which was such a novelty they hitched the horses to the wagon and went to see it.

In a letter home to Denmark, Julie noted that the trees were not much bigger than a "Danish hedge" but it was the first time her boys had climbed trees since coming to Canada. Their picnic included egg sandwiches, bread and butter, citron marmalade, layer cake, rhubarb pudding with cream and these traditional Danish cookies.

Jødekager are still popular in Denmark, especially at Christmas time, but are also quite at home in a prairie picnic basket.

1 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar, separated
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Cream butter with 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cardamom.

Gradually mix flour into butter mixture until well blended. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and rest on the counter for one hour.

Working in batches, roll the dough on a floured surface. To prevent sticking, cover dough with floured wax paper. Roll to a scant 1/4 inch. Cut cookies and place on a baking sheet. Combine the scraps and roll again.

Mix cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Brush cookies with egg white and sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake at 375F until the edges are just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

Do you have a prairie recipe with a story? Tell me!

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)


Anonymous said...


It was funny to read the article.

When we Danes think of Canada and Canadian nature what comes to mind is something with vast forests and big old trees and certainly not forests with trees not much bigger than a Danish hedge. The article made me take a look at the Canadian map and to read up a little on Canadian geography so your article provoked me to learn again something I had forgotten which always is good.

Maybe you in return will like to learn a little more about the jødekage:

The word ‘jøde’ means ‘a Jew’ and the word ‘kage’ means ‘a cake’ so a ‘jødekage’ is a Jew cake or Jew cookie (the Danish word for a cookie is a småkage – a small cake).

Historically there were not many Jews in Denmark, only approximately 1600 in 1780, and many of these Jews were peddlers who sold all kinds of small things like for instance sewing needles, ribbons, imitation jewellery and cookies.

The cookies the Jews sold were different kinds and they were all called jødekager – Jew cookies. The rate of turnover was usually slow so the cookies had to be kinds that were dry and not had to be freshly baked.

Today the cookie mentioned in your article is the only cake or cookie known in Denmark as jødekage.

Thank you again for the funny and interesting article.


Amy Christiansen said...

Thank you Sven. I was just wondering the history behind Danish Jewish Cookies. Interesting. The name reminded me of a decades old family story. My Danish great aunts were at La Guardia airport, on their way to visit us in Blair, Nebraska (former home of Dana College) when they were approached by someone who had heard them speaking in Danish. The gentleman said that he was Jewish, and that he wanted to thank them for safely evacuating the Jewish people from Denmark during the period of Nazi occupation.

Amy Jo Ehman said...

Thanks Sven and Amy for your interest in these cookies. It certainly fills in the history for me. Here's something else to add: Holland was once controlled by Spain. When it embraced the Protestant faith, it broke away from Spain, which was Catholic. Holland was tolerant of other religions. So when Spain evicted those of Jewish faith, Holland welcomed them. From Holland, Jewish families spread out into Denmark. So the connection goes back a few hundred years. I like Sven's story about the cookies too!