Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Litha! Happy Solstice! Glad Midsommar!

Hello! Happy Solstice! It really is something to celebrate up here in the northern states; these long summer days, the sunlight that lasts almost until 10pm - it's glorious. Of course, it absolutely POURED all day yesterday here in Seattle - but it was a good day for a lot of cooking!
Cooking and cleaning are all I've been doing since submitting my dissertation and final paperwork. I graduated! I'm all done - really done - now; I even received my confirmation that my dissertation was accepted (read: the lady with the ruler approved the spacing of my title page, the format of my pagination and margins, etc.). And so, with that under my belt, the entire week had been devoted to party preparations - and let me tell you, I'm glad we still have two days because I'm POOPED. Making a smorgasbord for 40+  people is a LOT. OF. WORK. We won't make the meatballs or the turnip-and-potato mash until the day of the party, and I won't make one of the desserts (a salmonberry panna cotta) until tomorrow, so we have a few things left to do, but right now we are in pretty good shape. Most of the food has been prepared and is ready to go!

It begins with a shopping trip at the Scanselect import shop for cheeses, licorice, lingonberry preserves and wasa, and the fisherman's terminal for a beautiful fillet of salmon fresh from Alaska

We picked alpine strawberries (tiny, elusive, and super sweet) in the mountains with Cass' parents, and I turned them into compote. I plan to use some leftover salmonberry jam to make a big panna cotta; we'll pour this bright, sweet strawberry compote over it - that's just one of our desserts!
Here's the other: gooseberry cakes, that I am infusing with elderflower and cloudberry liqueurs for the party.
We'll also have a big bowl of fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Oh! And Anna's ginger cookies. And licorice candy. We always have all of those. Yum, yum!

After three days coated in salt, sugar, spices and buried under dill, the salmon had cured into gravlax. I washed it off, patted it dry and wrapped it up for the party. Look at that pretty red colour! Can't wait to slice it up and serve it with bright green dill-mustard sauce on slices of rye.

We'll also serve smorrebrod - open faced sandwiches - of herring and beets on slices of rye. Here's the herring in mustard sauce (there's even a little bowl of it made without dill, for my friend who is allergic to the herb), and this year I pickled tiny little cubes of rosy chiogga beets for a pretty colour.

We always have too many pickled beets left over, so this year we are serving most of the beets boiled and sliced, in that beet salad I made this spring (I even made a big jar of pickled rose petals just for the occasion). It's not traditional, but it's lovely, and I'm hoping it's going to be a big hit. It's so pretty and tasty, I think it's just the thing for a party.

Here's a half-gallon mason jar with quick pickled cukes, a favorite Swedish condiment. I think there might be room in there for one more cuke ... maybe? Or maybe half a cuke? We bought FIVE. The rest will just be sliced up and served fresh with cheeses and nibbles early in the party.

I baked two batches of rye this year, because we have a larger-than-normal list of attendees. This is always the challenge with the Midsommar party; either you have to be really strict and not invite some of the people you want to invite, or things just rapidly expand beyond what our little house can hold. FINGERS CROSSED THAT IT DOESN'T RAIN because this is shaping up to be a pretty big one this year.

And last but not least: the salmiakki! (Salt-licorice liqueur, made by grinding Faber's Turkisk Peber candy and dissolving it into vodka.) Skal!

Tonight we have to get some housecleaning done, and start buying all the flowers for the flower crowns. I have THREE women helping me make the crowns this year (awesome; maybe we won't be rushed?), but I still have to make all the wire bases for the crowns before Sunday.

Tomorrow is Herb's memorial. Kathy asked a friend and I to come early and serve as ushers/greeters and hand out programs, so I think the day is mostly going to be spent building the perfect updo to support the perfectly chic little hat I found in Spain last year. Only the best for Herb. Honestly, I'm looking forward to when the memorial is over. I don't know how I feel about it, if I even want to be there, if I want to weep in public with hundreds of others ... I don't know.  I started dreaming about Herb again this week. I miss him so much. It's still hard to believe that he is not in this world anymore, that I will never see him again, never hear his laugh again. Okay. Best not think about this too much now. It's going to be hard enough to get through tomorrow; I don't need to start the memorial tonight. I just wish he could be here. God, wouldn't he love it? I bet he really would have. All that food, all that gaiety, plenty of his students here to talk to. I've imagined how we'd toast to all of us who graduated this year. I like to think he would have been so proud of us.

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