As summer graces Denmark, a unique culinary tradition comes to life, marked by the consumption of a delightful dish known as koldskål. Essential to this dish are the crispy, round pieces of baked goods, intriguingly named kammerjunker. This term, seemingly echoing an old noble title, has spurred the curiosity of many.
Interestingly, “kammerjunker” was indeed a position at the royal court, ranking low in the hierarchy. This role, below the chamberlain, primarily involved serving and attending to nobility or court personnel. H.C. Andersen’s travel diaries describe the term used humorously: when a Dane arrived in Hamburg without a known title, he was often called “Kammerjunker.”
This title, not assigned since King Christian X’s death in 1947, has a unique connection to the culinary world. The kammerjunker’s closest relative in the bakery world is the rusk. Originally shaped like small rolls, baked, sliced, and baked again, much like a rusk, its place in the hierarchy of baked goods might have inspired its name. As explained by linguist Lars Trap Jensen, the kammerjunker, much like its namesake title, was considered unremarkable – small and modest, gaining significance only through its association with koldskål.
Kammerjunkere Evolution: From Court to Cuisine
The first documented mention of this baked item as a “kammerjunker” dates back to an article in Politiken from August 13, 1903. Yet, its exact origins and the person who coined this name remain a mystery. It’s likely that the name arose as a playful use of the noble title, a form of slang.
In parallel, koldskål’s journey is equally fascinating. Initially, it was a cold drink, a blend of beer spiced with sugar, lemon, and cinnamon, thickened with bread or rye rusks. An alternative version mixed pureed fresh fruit with water, wine, and similar spices. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the kærnemælk (buttermilk) version of koldskål we know today emerged. Historical cooking expert Else Marie Boyhus notes that as buttermilk became more accepted as food, this version of koldskål gained popularity.
The kammerjunkere, as we know it today, evolved alongside the buttermilk koldskål. It’s believed that its use was exclusively tied to koldskål, making these two inseparable in Danish culinary tradition.
A Delightful Duo: Kammerjunkere and Koldskål
The kammerjunkere and koldskål combination has become a beloved aspect of Danish summers. Brands like Arla and KelsenBisca report selling millions of liters of koldskål and tons of kammerjunkere annually, attesting to their popularity. The kammerjunker’s simple yet satisfying texture and taste perfectly complement the smooth, tangy koldskål, creating a refreshing summer treat.
This pairing is more than just a food item; it’s a cultural experience deeply ingrained in Danish tradition. Whether enjoyed in a canteen or at a family gathering, kammerjunkere and koldskål bring a sense of nostalgia and joy, reminding Danes of warm summer days, laughter, and the simple pleasures of life.
Image credit: Brücke-Osteuropa