What's that, you say?
Rysgryngröt is a traditional rice pudding. It's made like porridge and served warm and creamy, with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled generously on top. Mmmm....so good.
It is a Scandinavian custom to serve it before Christmas dinner, passed down from my grandmother Ragnhild. Grandma was a Swedish immigrant to America, and kept this tradition, as well as many others, alive in her home.
The reason for serving it first, before the Christmas feast, is that it meets two criteria for those with little food and meager funds, as in our forebearer's time: it's cheap, and it's filling. So eating it first fills the stomach and you need less meat and other Christmas fare.
My mother also kept the tradition alive for us, and we have since carried on for our families. Rysgryngröt has been served at every Christmas Eve celebration in my memory. It's the very first course, usually ready for guests upon arrival.
When my then-husband and I moved to Ohio where we lived for several years when our children were small, and we couldn't be present for the large family gathering, we felt closer with our servings of rysgryngröt on Christmas Eve.
What is most special, besides the fact that it's delicious to eat, is that the custom calls for the Christmas Elf to hide a nut, usually an almond, in the pudding. If the almond lands in your serving, you receive a special gift, maybe a decorated gingerbread cookie, or a candy bar. And with it comes good luck for the coming year!
When we were growing up, the nut truly was hidden, and there was only one recipient. My mother sticks to her story that she never "planted" it, but since I recall a different one of the six of us children getting the nut each year, I have my suspicions. What do you think?
Nowadays, there are numerous nuts and gifts from the Christmas Elf. As new members join the family, or boyfriends or girlfriends attend our celebration, the Elf sees to it that a nut is found in their serving.
The cooking process has changed and the tradition has been altered a bit since Grandma's time. We now make a double and a half batch for our Christmas gathering, cooked in a large crock pot.
Here is the original recipe, which you can alter by doubling or cooking in a crockpot, if you prefer:
Traditional Rice Pudding (Rysgryngröt)
Put into top of double boiler:
6 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup raw rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cover and cook over simmering water for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. The rice should be entirely soft and the mixture thick. (Remove the cover the last 10 minutes if not thick enough.)
Serve with cream (half-and-half) and a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
My granddaughters say Rysgryngröt is their very favorite part of Christmas.
Whatever your holiday tradition, embrace and enjoy. Traditions are an honored part of our past and bind us together.