Numedal is a valley, nestled in the belly of Norway, on route between Oslo and Bergen, with an enormous variety of excellent ingredients and products. This is a valley where culture, history, tradition and food collide. A gem; hidden among the towering mountains, lush forests, and winding rivers. Summertime brings a handful of activities which highlight the area’s natural environment, creativity and people. One of these events brings together a variety of food producers and artisans from the valley to entice locals and visitors alike. Now on it’s fourth year, the Numedal Matfestival is an annual two-day event featuring a local food market, cafe and pub, concerts, food courses, competitions and a nightly creative restaurant headed by a group of young chefs.
Here is the first part of the festival – the day’s activities – which I’d like to share with you. It’s the heart of the festival, where local food and local producers are showcased.
Taking place in Rollag, the atmosphere is a triumphant one when you see the splendor of the mountains, the flowing river and the green valley. It’s a small town, of course, but with a large and cheery personality. The old train line from Kongsberg to Rødberg remains and the imagination only has to fill in what once would have been the clanking of steel against the tracks. The old train station, converted into a cafe and a brewery, overlooks the market and restaurant, acting as a pivotal landmark.
Rain could not put a damper on the day’s activities. Fun games for all included milking a makeshift cow and a potato peeling competition. Visitors could sign up for food courses including beer brewing, sausage making, preparing and cooking fish and making kling. Local producers, selling everything from sausage to lefse to jams and salts and fur hides, happily greeted visitors and passed out samples of their wares, making it impossible for visitors not to indulge in aged goat cheeses, wienerbrød and other baked delights as they made their way around the tents.
Norway has some of the best ingredients on offer and local producers and farmers are ensuring that quality and tradition are at the forefront of Norwegian cuisine. They keep to generational recipes and techniques, such as lefse and kling, lomper, and brunøst, to name a few. While flavors of spruce tips, wild berries, nettle, wild garlic, and edible flowers make their way into the sausages, teas, juices and jams. The method of smoking plays a vital part as well, in products such as flaked salt and fish. The range is varied and exciting. A taste of the past and the present, all in one.
Innovation is an important concept for the area of Numedal, and food is no exception. Unveiled at the festival are the new, local food boxes which can be ordered to personal taste and lifestyle. Competitions for the best amateur beer brewer in two categories received a handful of local entries as well as the competitions for best kling/lefse and sausage in Numedal. Up and coming artisans are sprouting up all over the valley, raising the level of quality and range. With greater interest in food and local ingredients, farmers, producers and hobbyists are able to do what they do best and enhance their products.
Local food festivals are a unique way to connect with the community and natural surroundings. Supporting local farmers and producers means preserving tradition and quality. If you find yourself in the area of Numedal, be sure to stop by one of the local markets or attend the annual food festival. You can always bring a part of the Numedal Matfestival into your kitchen and here are a couple of traditional recipes from local producers which I have already featured here on North Wild Kitchen: