And so I thought I would not have a bonfire this June, but what? I was here living one of the highest St John’s bonfires in the world (the record was established in 2010, at 40,45m high), the Slinningsbålet!
Slinningsbålet is the proper name of the bonfire built over an artificial island every year in Ålesund, by hand, by dozens of dwellers sometimes more than a month before it is lit. The material is pallets, crates and barrels, and when it starts getting high, people climb and stand on the structure edges and pass the “pieces” up, hand by hand. I ask myself if no one has ever died doing that!
Tha date of the bonfire lit is set to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year – this year it was yesterday, June 20th. The solstice marks the beginning of the summer, and in regions that are close to the polar areas it has every reason to be well celebrated! The bonfire is now closely connected to Sankt Hans, Norwegian for St John (I’ve told a little about Sankt Hans in this other post). It appears in many pictures from the beginning of the century, as in these by Nicolai Asturp, but it is believed to be even older.
It is also believed that if, at the solstice’s night, a lady sleeps with a flower under her pillow, she will dream about the love of her life. oh!
And there we went, cycling 10km, towards the bonfire event, set to 10pm. We arrived at about 9:20 pm and a little later the group of people responsible for assembling this year’s thirty-something meters of bonfire passed marching and singing through us. We were in a high area, at about 250m from the bonfire. The day (night) was beautiful, and this is the view we had at first (don’t miss clicking on these for complete delight)
Check how many boats came to watch in privilege! This was still early, but my untrained eyes calculated something like 2 hundreds of boats on the most crowded moments. Look at this little boat passing by!
At 9h45 the guys started climbing – yes, CLIMBING! the bonfire to light it up! Six people went up and stayed there for many minutes trying to make it catch fire (forgive my camera’s zoom, but it could be worse)
The street were we were watching from got all crowded with cars and people, and lucky inhabitants watched from their home windows. But the group responsible for the assemblage stayed long just down there by the fire, on a private party, until it got too dangerous (or maybe too hot). In the end, some even took off their clothes and jumped in the water! But it must had got hot, indeed, because then the heat got even to us, far away.
It took a while for the show to start, and we were luck to be on the side of the view that had all the fire fun. Once in a while a small piece fell apart of the whole, but there were two moments in which it got really exciting and the Norwegians even tried some sound manifestation! I made a video with a photo sequence from the beginning of the fire and recorded another one of the explosion in the end.
And of course, sugar lover that I am, I just can’t spend hours watching anything without chewing from the kitchen. Yesterday’s victims were these awesome peanut butter cookies! It is super easy and the cookies are tasty, crispy, crunchy and super light.
– 1/2 cup peanut butter
– 90g unsalted butter, room temp
– 3/4 cup white sugar
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1 egg
– 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flower
– 3/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
—— to decorate
– 200g milk chocolate
– a handful of crushed peanuts
1. Mix the butters and sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix in the egg.
2. Sift in the flour, baking soda and baking powder and mix just until they come together. Do not over mix.
3. Refrigerate for about 30 min, preheat the oven to 375F and prepare two baking sheets with baking parchment.
4. Make balls of about 1 1/4 in (the dough must be in the perfect consistency for rolling). Place them on the baking sheets spacing 2 in apart. Flatten them a little with a fork and take to the oven for about 10 min.
ATTENTION! cookies will look very undone at the end of the 10 min, but don’t be misled by them! They get drier and harden out of the oven, some minutes later.
5. To decorate you can melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in 15 seconds turns in the microwave, mixing well after each turn) and dip half of the cookies, or even pour the melted chocolate on them, be creative! To crush the peanuts, you can wrap them in a kitchen cloth and use the back of a heavy handle of a kitchen instrument, until they are in fine irregular pieces. Throw them over the unhardened chocolate.
If your peanuts are salted, you can simply wash them with water no to leave the salt grains on the chocolate layer 😉
It makes about 35 medium cookies
On our way back, it was already midnight and worth a little stop for the picture: Ålesund midnight sky, first day of summer, 62.48ºN and 48ºF