Even though winter comes faithfully every year, it always catches me by a surprise. We have had snow for over a week but I keep being amazed at the winter wonderland I seem to be living in right now. Snow is very welcome in the wintertime, as everything is so much brighter when there is snow. Freshly fallen snow, untouched, also paints such a beautiful picture of peace and purity.
Winter is not my favourite season - somehow, fingers and toes frozen numb, only a few hours of daylight in December, and the coldness that is hard to shake off, do not make it a favourite of mine. Still, many of my favourite memories from my childhood set in the wintertime.
The best days have always been the ones with snow but the temperature only a few degrees below 0C (32F). Those days you get the best out of the winter activities without completely freezing. Whether sledding or ice skating, we would put on about 17 layers of clothing to protect us from the cold, and Mom would prepare for us a thermos bottle containing hot beverage of sorts, like glögg or hot chocolate. When finally done, our fingers would be numb, noses red, and the thermos empty. Mom would meet us at the door, trying to keep the snow outside and control the chaos caused by the clothes; yet we would all end up with wet socks from the melted snow.
Something about the winter makes me go back to the traditional Finnish dishes. Whipped porridge is something so very traditional Finnish and I find it fits the winter. Maybe it's the tartness of the berries, or the fact that it is eaten cold. Maybe it is the bright pink colour that is rather welcome in the dark season.
Whipped porridge is made of berries - usually lingonberries - and semolina, cooked into this pink porridge that is cooled down and then whipped until light in colour and fluffy in consistency. Once whipped, the porridge is eaten with cold milk, and a sprinkling of sugar if the tartness is too much. This porridge makes a great breakfast or a snack, although we Finns are also known for eating this for dessert.
Cranberries make the porridge fit for the season, though other berries such as lingonberries, red currants, or even raspberries could be used. I definitely recommend the addition of vanilla, though it could be left out for an even more traditional version of whipped porridge. I find the vanilla cuts nicely through the tartness, bringing out the sweetness just enough to enhance the flavour of the berries.
Whipped Cranberry Vanilla Porridge
serves 4 to 6
500 ml frozen cranberries
1 litre water
3/4 tsp salt
100g sugar (adjust to taste)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Combine the cranberries and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then strain the juice into a mixing bowl or a 4-cup measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1 litre and pour the cranberry juice back into a saucepan. Add sugar and salt; bring to a boil. Whisk in the semolina and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes.
Once the porridge is done, put the saucepan into a sink and fill the sink with cold water until it reaches halfway up the saucepan. Stirring occasionally, cool the porridge to room temperature. Pour it into a mixing bowl and add the vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on high for 3 to 5 minutes, until lighter in colour and fluffy in consistency. Serve room temperature or cold with cold milk and sugar, if desired. Store in the refrigerator.