I don’t think that’s a thing people say, but ya know what? I like it so I’m going with it.
It’s December 5th which means it’s pakjesavond (present evening) and if you were a good little one throughout out the year, maybe Sinterklaas replaced that carrot in your shoe with some treats! Tonight is the big gift-giving evening of the Dutch holiday season!
This could very well be our last holiday season in the Netherlands since Shane’s next position is still up in the air, and I’ve used this time to fully embrace the spirit of Sinterklaas. And by embrace, I mean eat myself sick on Sinterklaas-specific holiday treats.
So, in honor of the evening I thought I would do a quick round-up of those holiday goodies you will only find during Sint-season!
Pepernoten! Pepernoten! Pepernoten! Pepernoten!
THE thing. Without pepernoten there is no Sinterklaas!
I’ve literally seen them sold in a 5 kg (10 lbs) bag…
There are two types: pepernoten & kruidnoten.
Both are small cookies, but pepernoten is the more traditional version with an anise flavor. Kruidnoten are a more like a spiced cookie. Since I’m not a fan of anise, I tend to prefer the kruidnoten – as does my mother who made a special request for “those delicious little cookies” the last time Shane came home. Lucky for her, the grocery stores have started to push the seasons, and pepernoten have been available since October!
The flavor possibilities are endless. There are entire seasonal shops which sell only pepernoten, kruidnoten, and flavored kruidnoten aka: the cookie covered in some form of flavored chocolate.
Carmel sea salt, coffee, raspberry, dark chocolate, lemon… not that I’ve tried any.
Another important gift of the season, and another one that comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors – although the most popular flavors are milk, dark, and white chocolate.
Tradition dictates that you’ll receive the letter which corresponds to the first letter of your first name. But, if you’re name starts with an unpopular letter (sorry Quincy or Zelda) then you’ll be hard pressed to find them. If this is the case, the standard “S” – for Sinterklaas – is appropriate.
Particularly in the form of a pig.
Yes, that pig is made of marzipan. Yes, it will get chopped up and sold as smaller pieces.
If a chunk-o-pig ain’t your thang, no worries. Small pigs are also available.
The marzipan pig (made of milk, sugar, and almonds with a consistency of soft fondant) is a New Year’s German tradition to wish good luck (Glücksschwein!), and also a holiday gift tradition in Scandinavia. Given the relative location of the Netherlands, it’s not surprising it carried over.
Loosely translated to an ‘almond log’, it’s a buttery, almond-paste filled little piece of holiday heaven with origins in the Netherlands.
A word to the wise: share it. I mean, or don’t, but be prepared to go into a sugar-almond-million-calories induced coma afterwords. #worthit
Speculaas is a shortbread cookie with a spiced flavor similar to that of pumpkin pie spice in America. Actually, if you’re in America and lucky enough to live by a Trader Joe’s then you might know these cookies – called Speculoos, which is the Belgian spelling. You can usually find some sort of speculaas cookie year round, but this time of year the cookie itself changes to a more festive pattern.
Speculaas – smeckulaas. BOOOORRRINGGG.
Ditch that plain cookie, and go for the filled one!
My crème de la crème. Re-named to ‘crack-ulaas’ for its sheer power of deliciousness.
Take two, large planks of soft speculaas spiced cake and add some almond paste (same as in the banketstaaf) in the middle and BOOM.
FILLED SPECULAAS. You’re welcome.
I’m genuinely sorry for anyone who isn’t able to try it. So, if you happen to run into some, buy it!
And with that, I’ll leave you with my favorite song of the season:
Sinterklaas (wie kent hem niet) by Het Goede Doel
I recommend the entire video, but if you’re in a hurry start at ~1:30.
Gah, the 80’s were great!