Heirloom Recipes: Rice Pudding and Smorgastarta

Recipes sometimes become traditions, being passed down through the generations.  What foods are traditions in your family?  Are there special heirloom recipes you have from your mom or grandma?  Is there something your family always had for Sunday dinners or for holidays?  Or are there family-favorite recipes that will become heirlooms as time goes on?

When I think of heirloom recipes, my thoughts go first to Denmark and Sweden.  I have both Danish and Swedish roots–Danish on my mom’s side, and Swedish on my dad’s (with a healthy dose of English and Welsh on both sides, too).  Today I’m excited to share with you two recipes (or, more specifically, one recipe and one idea) that have been used and loved in my family for years.

Danish Rice Pudding with Berry Sauce (and a prize!)

Rice Pudding

Danish Rice Pudding is a Christmas Eve STAPLE at our house!  Although it was not technically a recipe passed down in the family (my mom clipped the recipe from a newspaper since we have Danish roots), none of my siblings and I can remember Christmas Eve without it.  Now it’s part of our own Christmas Eve traditions in our own homes.  My entirely non-Danish husband really likes to eat Danish Rice Pudding leftovers for breakfast on Christmas morning.  In fact, since our children are getting to be adult-sized now, last Christmas I decided I better double the batch so we had plenty left over!

The Prize

Whoever gets the whole almond in his/her dish gets a prize or a gift!  When I was growing up, my mom always made the gift something that we could all enjoy, like a game, which the Whole Almond Winner would have the privilege of opening.

Danish Rice Pudding with Berry Sauce

Course: Dessert
Author: Jennifer Wise
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin + 2 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream whipped until thick
  • 1 whole almond
  • strawberry or raspberry Danish Dessert OR strawberry glaze OR 2 cups frozen raspberries and 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  1. In a large soup pot (with lid), bring 1/2 cup water to boil. Add rice and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until water disappears. Add salt and milk. Stir and cover; simmer over lowest heat until rice is tender and milk is absorbed (about 2-3 hours), stirring periodically. 

  2. In a small bowl, dissolve gelatin in 2 Tablespoons cold water. Stir into hot rice with sugar. Cool in refrigerator. 

  3. When cool, stir in vanilla, rum flavoring, and chopped almonds. Fold in whipped cream and the whole almond.   

  4. Top with Danish Dessert or glaze; or, if using fresh raspberry sauce: Heat frozen raspberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir and break apart raspberries as they thaw. When thawed, add cornstarch and stir until thickened. Will turn a deep burgundy color. Sweeten if desired.

Recipe Notes

The Prize: Whoever gets the whole almond in his/her dish gets a prize or a gift!


Swedish Smorgastarta

Swedish Smorgastarta

This is a fairly new tradition in my family, but it’s a fun and delicious one, with a sweet little nod to our Swedish roots.  As my cousin says, “We were Swedish before IKEA was cool.”

When I lived in New York, I had a dear friend who was Swedish.  Not Swedish like me–five generations ago–but born-in-Sweden Swedish.  She told me about smorgastarta.  The word “smorgastarta” means “sandwich cake,” and it’s a very popular dish served at gatherings and parties in Sweden.  Now Smorgastarta is a staple at our family New Year’s Eve party.  And we love it!

The fun thing about a smorgastarta is that it can be made any way you want.  It’s essentially a backwards sandwich, with more fillings than bread.  Swedes make it with salmon, seafood salad, prawns, mini shrimp, fresh dill, eggs, radishes, and chives (etc.), but there are variations with cucumbers and sandwich meats, olives, and tomatoes.  It’s spread with butter, mayonnaise, sour cream, or cream cheese (or a combination) inside and out.

There are recipes for smorgastarta, but since you kind of just pile things you like together into a giant, pretty sandwich, I kind of just go for it.  Since I don’t have a specific recipe of mine to share, here are a few recipes you can peruse until you find your favorite:

Although many of the recipes at that last link go to recipes in Swedish (sorry!), there are a lot of great pictures showing various types of smorgastarta.

How about you?

These two recipes are fun, delicious ways for my family to remember and enjoy our roots.  How about you?  What recipes do you have that are heirlooms, and what recipes do you have that are on their way to being heirlooms?







Jennifer Wise

consultant at Heritage Makers
I'm Jennifer, and I'm passionate about connections.I enjoy helping people discover the very real benefits of preserving stories, photos, and memories because of the impact they have on children, families, and individuals. I blog weekly at www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com sharing tips, ideas, solutions, and inspiration, and I'm over at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise, too. Learn more about me at the "About" tab.

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7 thoughts on “Heirloom Recipes: Rice Pudding and Smorgastarta

  1. My father’s family is from Finland, I would love to get some traditional recipes to start incorporating into my regular family traditions. It is fun to embrace our ancestral culture! I think heirloom recipes are so fun because, at least for me, they bring memories of loved ones as much as they make for good food.

  2. These both look delicious, and I may have to try them!!! Three “heirloom” recipes in my family come to mind – two from my dad’s side, one from my mama’s. On my dad’s side, hash and fried rice (both recipes I’ve put on my website in part to preserve/pass them on) are both examples of ways my paternal grandma stretched meat and leftovers as far as she could, feeding a farmhouse of five sons plus boarders and farmhands during the Depression and World War II. (The Fried Rice recipe was actually from a farm extension service pamphlet she got during World War II, where that month’s theme – in line with government propaganda regulations early in World War II – exalted Chinese culture in order to distinguish the Chinese from our new enemies the Japanese!) The one from my mama’s side, which I hope to publish next week, is our traditional Christmas eve dish, French meat pies. She is actually on her way here as I type this, and tomorrow morning we’ll prep the pies for this year’s Christmas Eve dinner! #heartandsoullinkup

  3. Oh yum! That danish rice pudding will have to go in my recipe book to try. Thank you! And the sandwich cake looks very interesting. Our Christmas has lots of Puerto Rican flair on the table: a 6-hour-roasted pork picnic seasoned with oregano and pepper and garlic and this little packet of magic called Sazon. On the side, we have rice and beans with Vienna sausages and olives and twice-fried plantains called tostones. I love the different cultural traditions of holidays and get-togethers. #HeartandSoulLinkUp

    • Me, too–I think bringing your family cultural history into special days is so much fun, and it’s a really important way to connect, too. Your Puerto Rican foods sound yummy! I hope you enjoy the Danish rice pudding. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for commenting, too.