Perhaps the original one-pot-meal that hails from the 1700’s. This Danish stew was popular on ships back before refrigeration. Made from salted meat, potatoes and onions, this stew saved the day on long voyages. Aaaannd guess what? It’s absolutely delicious! Not exaggerating, darling daughter kept sneaking in the kitchen to snack on it before it was done cooking.
This thick stew will please both young and mature palates. The ingredients are plain enough to be a kid friendly recipe but still sophisticated enough for the parents too! This is truly a one-pot-meal so very few dishes to wash but maybe perfect for a weekend since it does simmer for 2 hours. You can feed a lot of people on the cheap too!
I am hoarding my library’s copy of Scandinavian Comfort Food, Embracing The Art Of Hygge by Trine Hahnemann. Nobody has it in reserve so I just keep renewing on-line. I might have to breakdown and buy this book, it’s a great starter cookbook for anybody thinking of delving into Scandinavian cooking. Most of the recipes are simple and easy to make but have that authentic Scandinavian essence to it, probably because it’s written by a Danish chef. She’s great, this book is great and this stew which was inspired by this book is great. Definitely gift it a test run if your library carries it.
This stew makes perfect sense to me, lover of all good stories from the past. I don’t know how long Labskovs goes back but I think as soon as ships were invented and pots were first molded, this old sailors stew was invented. There wasn’t refrigeration back in the 1700’s and beyond. Food preservation was done with salting, brining, pickling, smoking, dehydrating etc. Long voyages on ships were especially challenging when it came to planning and preparing food for the hungry sailors. This recipe was made in one pot using salted meats, potatoes and onions and sometimes served with pickled gherkins or beets. Spices were added when available. It was stewed over a couple of hours allowing the tough meat to tenderize and the flavors to meld. Also by stewing over a long time, it would have been easier logistically to serve sailors as they were relieved for dinner.
This isn’t just a Danish stew, this popular recipe spread to all of the Scandinavian and Northern European port cities and each country put their little stamp of originality into it.
Norwegians use leftover lamb, pork or beef and root vegetables such as carrots, onions, leeks, celery root and rutabagas. Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn (between 50th and 60th streets) is known as Lapskaus Blvd. due to the heavy Norwegian immigrant population there.
Labskojs ( Sweden)
Swedes make this with beef and mashed potatoes.
Labs Kauss (Latvia) –
Means ‘Good Bowl’ in Latvian. Leave a comment if you know what is in the Latvian version. I couldn’t find any references to it.
Labskaus (Hamburg, Germany)
Germany’s version is possibly the most fancy and definitely the brightest. The meat and potatoes are cooked with beet root and develops a bright pinkish-reddish color that really stands out. It is usually topped with or served on the side, a bit of pickled gherkin, and pickled herring rolled up around something savory known as a ‘Rollmop’. I’ve heard Germanys version is exceptional so if you are ever in Northern Germany, try it, don’t let the loud color scare you.
Lobscouse (Liverpool, England)
A modern day favorite in Liverpool that was originally made with beef, onions and pepper, served with ship’s biscuit which is a thick cracker. Today there are variations that differ quite a bit depending on what pub you are in. Lobscouse is so common in Liverpool that the residents in Liverpool are known as ‘Scouse’, similar to Germans being known as ‘Krauts’. Scouse style is also a ‘thing’. Think big hair and lots of makeup, similar to Dallas, Texas (Dallas big-hair anyone?)
Stew really is just beef and vegetables boiled in a pot. If you ever wondered what makes stew thick, it’s the starch. The starch can come from potatoes, flour and grain such as rice, barley, cornmeal etc. Common vegetables include root veggies such as carrots, onions, potatoes, celery root and parsnips. These root vegetables are some of the only vegetables that can be grown in the Northern climates’ short growing season so stew variations are quite common to Northern Latitude countries.
A lot of people wonder what cuts are stew meat or which steak for stew. The absolutely correct answer is, whatever meat you have! Stew is generally simmered or baked for an extensive amount of time, giving tough meat a chance to tenderize. Don’t waste your money on expensive cuts of meat and use up any meat that is lingering in your freezer.
Flavor in stew mostly comes from the vegetables but herbs and spices are common too. Fresh herbs are great, especially added at the very end or just lobbed on top as a garnish. Dried herbs are more potent so use a small amount. Also, kind of as a rule, don’t use more than two varieties of herbs unless it’s a popular herb blend such as Italian seasoning blend or Za’atar. You could overpower your stew if you use too many varieties. You can make stew spicy too with black pepper, paprika, chile powder etc.
So, don’t be afraid to whip up some stew, it smells amazing on a lazy Spring or Fall day! What about Summer you ask? Make it in the crockpot, it will still smell amazing but won’t heat up your kitchen:) Winter? Stew is a great way to heat up your house, high five!
P.S. Remember, you can feed a lot of people for cheap too!
Danish Sailors Stew, Labskovs
A traditional Danish stew that spread to all of the ports in Northern Europe. Made with meat, potatoes, onions and simmered for 2 hours. Super easy and super good!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
- Yield: 6
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: Denmark
1.5 lb beef, lamb or pork cut into bite size pieces
3 Tbs salted butter, divided
5 cups water
2 bunches of green onions, chopped
6 bay leaves
up to 1/4 cup fresh thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
5 medium-large russet potatoes, cut into medium cubes
fresh chopped chives for garnish
- Place 1 Tbs of butter in dutch oven pan and melt over medium-high heat, add meat.
- Sear on all sides then add water.Simmer for 1 hour.
- Skim off any scum that rises to top.
- Add green onions, bay leaves, thyme, cloves, pepper, salt and potatoes.Simmer for 1 more hour.
- Add more water if necessary.
- Add remaining butter and coarsely mash the whole pan leaving it somewhat chunky.
- Serve and garnish with fresh chives.
Optional Sides: pickled gherkins, pickled beets and/or pickled herrings
- Calories: 350