The story behind 'risalamande' and cherry sauce

There are as many versions of 'risalamande' and cherry sauce recipes as there are of Danish meatballs, I think. We all have our own idea of ​​what the "right" version is. I think many families have a story about one year when Christmas dinner didn't go as expected.

In my family, there are two years we return to when the topic falls on mistakes on Christmas Eve: The year the sauce was way too thin, and the year my bonus mom experimented with adding some lemon zest to the 'risalamande'. She is still (lovingly) teased about that.

So 'risalamande' is a science in itself, and an important part of Danish food culture. That is why I have tested far and wide to find my favourite. But starting a company that primarily sells products for risalamande made me think about why it is that we actually eat that dessert and then precisely on Christmas Eve.

Why do we eat risalamande on Christmas Eve?

In Denmark, we have known about rice since the 7th century, and porridge for about as long as barley and water constituted a daily meal for the general population.

But it only becomes really interesting in relation to the dessert we know today, around the 17th century. Among other things, it is known here that King Christian the 4th was served rice porridge with cinnamon and butter one year for Christmas, and then it starts to look like something we know.

In the late 19th century, most people ate rice porridge on Christmas Eve. The farmers ate the porridge as a starter so that the meat could last longer as meat was super expensive. Even for the upper class, meat was in short supply until the end of the 19th century. At Christmas, you would use milk instead of water, to make the porridge a little extra luxurious on the special evening (a so-called sweet porridge). And here you start using rice in your porridge. And here, luxury goods such as cinnamon and butter were also possible for ordinary citizens to obtain.

The Danish newspaper Information says that there is a recipe for risalamande in Frøken Jensen's Cookbook from 1901. And as many know today, it is a 100% Danish invention, despite the French-sounding name.
Frøken Jensen's was a version where rice pudding was stiffened with gelatine and contained vanilla essence, sherry, almonds and whipped cream. Served with a cold sauce of cherry marmalade. And the dessert was called 'riz à l'amande'.

Even then, it was posh to eat French food, and here the upper classes could distance themselves from the Christmas dinner of the lower classes. So the French-sounding dessert is pure Danish.

There is also a rumor that risalamande was invented at d'Angleterre. Here, a chef had to make a dessert for a demanding guest, and thus came up with the dish when he had a cold portion of rice porridge, almonds, cream and served it with pickled cherries. But whether it is true, I do not know.


We also stole the almond gift

In France, there is a tradition of baking one bean into cakes, and whoever finds the bean gets a kiss or a gift. So it is very reminiscent of our almond gift.

Immediately after the Second World War, the risalamande is mentioned in various women's magazines, but as a spare dessert, where you can stretch the porridge by mixing the porridge with whipped cream (or a replacement product). But you couldn't get almonds, so it was there that you used a button instead of a whole almond.

Today risalamande is a slightly different dessert. You can find the recipe for my version here .


Sources for my article can be found here , here and here .

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