In a splendid reflection of cultural priorities, count on the Danes to assign a bowl of soup as a measure of linguistic ability. For us well-intentioned yet decidedly non-Danish spouses and friends who have attempted to speak the language, there is an inside joke among Danes when it comes to testing our purported linguistic skills. Simply put, it’s to repeat the tongue-twisting phrase rødgrød med fløde, which directly translates as “red porridge with cream,” or a red berry soup.
So, what is it about this phrase that never ceases to delight our Danish friends while consistently providing them with a laugh? Suffice it to say that if you can even get your mouth around the correct sound for an “Ø”, you will likely stumble when you try to pronounce the “D” (of which, so it happens, there are many in this phrase). When spoken correctly, the Danish “D” should sound as though you are attempting to enunciate the letter “D” with a mouth full of, well, red berry soup.
Despite the challenges with this phrase, the upside is it describes a beloved and iconic dessert that you will be pleased to eat. In a country where the summer season can be fickle, if not fleeting, the brief yet prolific berry harvest is cause for jubilation, and, frankly, pigging out.
From the season’s first strawberries, followed by raspberries, black currants, red currants, blackberries and blueberries, they are abundant and everywhere: wild and farm-picked, sold by the roadside and in markets, and grown in home gardens. With such an embarrassment of riches, these juicy jewels are gobbled straight up, folded into desserts, preserved for later use, and, best of all, jumbled into a pot and cooked down into a red berry soup.
Every home makes a version of this soup, in which berries simmer with sugar until the juices release. The mixture is sometimes blended, but always cooled and served with a dollop of whipped cream or a swirl of creme fraiche. Perhaps a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vanilla is added, or even chopped almonds for a more toothsome texture. No matter the tweaks, the results are unfailingly delicious -- as dependable as the response I get whenever I try to say rødgrød med fløde.
Danish Red Berry Soup
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes, plus cooling time
Yield: Serves 6
2 pounds mixed fresh berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, red and black currants
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Whipped cream or creme fraiche for serving (optional)
If using strawberries, halve or quarter if large.
Combine the berries and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves and the berries release their juices, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours before serving.
Serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche, if desired.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Photo by Lynda Balslev for TasteFood