Sankt Hans Aften

June 21st, 2016 6 Comments



Sankt Hans Aften

St. John’s Eve, Midsummer, Summer Solstice (“sun stands still”)….whatever the name, it’s a good celebration: good food, friends, and a bonfire on a short summer’s night.


My friend Dennis Larson is an avid celebrator of this Danish version of a midsummer festival.  He invites the world to his yard to feast, fest and enjoy one another’s company as we’re visited by the slimmest night of the year and the hope is that all revelers will still be hanging around the fire when the dawn’s light streaks across the sky.  He’s been celebrating this for sixty some years and always makes it to dawn.  Most of the rest of us feast and fest then head to bed sometime in the wee hours…but occasionally the conversation gets really sweet very late, the Hygge is palpable around the fire, and even though you were not intending to stay the course for the evening at some point you begin to notice the birds growing louder, the fresh smell of morning emerging, and the hint of light growing in the east.  Then Dennis gathers the bleary eyed survivors and takes a photo to mark the victory of another year celebrated.  Then off to a nap.


I wish I could give you the menu of 27 smørrebrød choices that Dennis prepares but perhaps it’s better to be imagined.  Cod liver, Beef Tartar, Gravad lax, Rullepølse, Smoked Skinke, various other pølses, leverpostej, dry cured lamb…it takes half an hour just to read through the choices. Dennis does most of the prep work but this year I amazingly did not have a wedding to cater on the most popular wedding weekend of the year so I did what I could to help with the food and ensure the evening was fun for our host.






Not exactly pretty, but the bacon wrap adds flavor and moisture—we made it with organic chicken liver and it was sweet, creamy and really flippin’ yummy.  Great on bread with butter, lettuce, red onion, and cucumber.  The Scandinavian Kitchen by Camille Plum is Dennis’s favorite Scandinavian cookbook.





Aquavit (“water of life”)—–a not insignificant part of some Sankt Hans Aften celebrations.  Some of my favorite aquavits from the night: Øvrevann and Voyageur Aquavit from the Vikre Distillery in Duluth, MN; Rhubarb and Ginger “Tea” from In The Age Distillery of New Hampshire; Krogstad Gamle Aquavit from House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon; plus a number of homemade versions made by our host with thyme, pears, raspberries, lemon and mint.



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Matjes Herring Torte

Basically a crust of pumpernickel bread crumbs with melted butter, frosted with herring mixed into creme friache and topped with caviar.  This is a photo of the savory cake from the Swedish Homecooking cookbook, the torte was a favorite of many of the celebrators.


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Happy Solstice and Happy Sankt Hans Aften! 

I am enjoying all of this light, and I am also enjoying the idea of the other side of the journey…back to long nights when I can sleep and sauna and ski.  It’s all good.




The calm before the storm…

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  1. Patsy says:

    Sweet, Ruth. Dennis is so inspired.

  2. Alice says:

    Happy Aquavit Time!

  3. Nancy Randleman says:

    All looks relish, Ruth. Thanks! I love the concept of hygge and is the only way to make it through a midwestern winter, don’t you think? For now, let’s enjoy warmth, sun and refreshing rains..


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