Øllebrød (Danish Rye Bread Porridge)
Literally translated, øllebrød means “beer bread.” This hearty porridge is a traditional Danish dish, made to use up pieces of leftover rye bread. In a country that’s known for dense rye bread and lots of smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) you can imagine that it would be easy to end up with a few leftover pieces of bread every now and then.
In my own kitchen, we make a lot of 100% rye sourdough bread, and while it lasts a long time without going dry, inevitably when you get to the end of the loaf, there’s the dry and stale bit that you just don’t want to bite into. Solution? Soak it in beer. The perfect recipe for zero food waste cooking.
This isn’t your average porridge, and depending on what style of beer you use you can play with the flavors. I like a fuller bodied, sweeter beer, like a porter or a stout. A holiday ale works well too. I tried it with an IPA once and the result was, well… hoppy. If you’re not big on beer – or you don’t have any lying around – you can also make this dish by replacing the beer with water.
The porridge isn’t very sweet, but it’s perfect if you have a liking for anything that’s a little tangy. You can use orange zest, but I like to use dried citrus peels, which I always have on hand in the kitchen for cooking with, and they have a slightly more bitter flavor than straight orange zest, which I think pairs well with the porridge.
Traditionally, øllebrød is served with a spoonful of cream on top, but you can use yogurt or pour in a little milk or non-dairy milk to soften the flavor. I also like to add currants or raisins for additional sweetness.
The bread needs to be soaked long enough that it softens up and absorbs the liquid. The time this takes will depend on how dry the bread is to begin with. I find that it’s easiest to just let it soak overnight.
Øllebrød – Danish Rye Bread Porridge
Makes: About 4 portions
About 8 slices (325 grams, 11.5 ounces) rye bread
A 22-ounce/650 milliliter bottle of beer (about 2 3/4 cups of beer) – local and craft brewed, of course!
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
A handful of currants of raisins
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Zest of one orange (or 1 tablespoon dried citrus peels, crushed)
Juice of one orange
Before you go to bed:
If you can, tear the bread into smaller pieces and place in a bowl. If the bread is too dry to tear, just places the slices in the bowl as-is. Pour the beer on top. Let soak overnight.
The next morning:
Pour soaked bread and beer into a large pot, along with the honey, currants, cinnamon and orange zest. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so that the porridge doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Reduce the heat and let simmer, stirring regularly, until the bread has broken down and the porridge has become fairly smooth. Use a wooden spoon to break any large pieces of bread that remain. The porridge will be very thick.
Remove from the heat and mix in the orange juice. Spoon into serving bowls and serve immediately.
You can serve with cream, yogurt or any milk of your preference.
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