When planning the menu for my Scandinavian Midsummer Porch Party, I wanted to make sure to have some sandwiches hearty enough to stand in for dinner. We can't all subsist on salads and dessert! But while these sandwiches are decidedly NOT friendly to folks who don't eat pork or meat (always make sure all guests can eat!), they are delicious and worth a try for those of you who do eat pork.
Although many people don't realize it, ham is quintessentially Scandinavian. It is a popular Christmas and Easter dish, and the Danish pork industry supplies most of Continental Europe. We always had ham for Easter growing up, and sometimes for Christmas, too (along with Swedish meatballs). It's also a popular sandwich meat in the United States, where deli-style hams are very similar to those produced in Denmark.
Jarlsberg is also a popular Scandinavian cheese here in the U.S. A Swiss-style cheese introduced to the dairy farms of Jarlsberg, Norway in the 1850s, it had disappeared by the 20th century. In the 1950s, scientists at the Agricultural University of Norway were intrigued by a graduate student's paper on the historic cheeses of Vestfold, Norway (where Jarlsberg is located) and set about to recreate the historic Swiss-style cheese.
Rich and very butter, with extra-large holes, Jarlsberg is coated in red wax and the details of its production are a trade secret.
Combining the two on pumpernickel rye with a dollop of lingonberry jam seemed like a match made in heaven, and I was right.
Lingonberries, also sometimes known as partridgeberries or cow berries, are a relative of the cranberry. Lingonberries are native to the boreal forests of Scandinavia and the rest of Northern Europe, Russia, Alaska, Canada, etc. Tiny and tart, they feature heavily in Scandinavian cuisine, especially with game meats and in desserts and drinks. If you can't find lingonberry jam, you can substitute cranberry sauce, but it won't be the same.
Ham and Jarlsberg Open-Faced Sandwiches with Lingonberry Jam
thinly sliced sturdy pumpernickel bread
shaved natural ham
lingonberry jam or preserves
Butter a slice of pumpernickel or rye bread thinly, edge-to-edge, and top with a slice or two of natural (I prefer bone-in) ham. Add a slice or two of Jarlsberg on top (use a Norwegian osthovel for best results!) and top with a small spoonful of lingonberry jam.
The salty, fattiness of the ham, the buttery taste of the Jarlsberg, and the acid sweetness of the lingonberry jam work just wonderfully together. Plus they're pretty, too!
You can serve these as part of a smorgasbord, like I did, or alone for a fancy lunch. The bread tends to dry out if left out too long, so if you have any party leftovers, be sure to seal and refrigerate to ensure freshness. I like to make the leftover open-faced sandwiches (if there are any!) closed by simply placing to of them together, open faces in!
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.
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