29 March 2011

29 March - Fort Christina and New Sweden; Appelkaka

Weather: The worst blast comes from the borrowing days.

The 'borrowing days' are the last three days of March, for they are said to be borrowed from April, and are exceptionally stormy days.
Today in 1638, Peter Minuit purchased land in the area now known as Wilmington, Delaware, and set about building a fort.  He was experienced in this, having purchased Manhatten Island in 1626, when he was the Director General of New Netherland.  Now he was leading a company of fifty Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch men to establish a settlement where the New Sweden Company hoped to trade for beaver pelts with the local Lenape.

Two ships, the Kalmar Nyckel (Key of Kalmar), a large man-of-war, and the Fogel Grip (Griffin or Bird Griffin), a sloop, left Sweden in December 1637, and making good time, arrived in the Delaware River the following March.  The company first stopped in a place they named Paradis Udden (Paradise Point), located somewhere between Murderkill and Mispillion Creek near Lewes, but Minuit had another place in mind for the settlement farther upstream.

Named Christina in honor of Sweden's young queen, the fort was a small square enclosure surrounding two log buildings, one of which housed the garrison and the other holding the stores of provisions and bartering goods.  The town of Christinaham was laid out behind the fort, and Minuit acquired more land, until New Sweden covered much of current Delaware and parts of southeastern Pennsylvania and southwestern New Jersey.  The garrison had 24 men.  Now all that was needed were settlers.

Emigration to the New World not being high on Swedish lists, the government resorted to taking up such married soldiers as had deserted or committed other offenses and transporting them and their families to the new colony, promising to bring them back home in two years.  This group arrived on the 17th of April in 1640. 

The Dutch of New Netherland along the Hudson River also claimed the land on which Fort Christina was built, and for the next 18 years there was an amicable friction between the two colonies.  In 1651, Peter Stuyvesant built Fort Casimir  (present Newcastle, Delaware) about seven miles south of Fort Christina.  Three years later, the Swedes captured Fort Casimir, but in the following year, 1655, the Dutch took over New Sweden in a bloodless conquest, and renamed the Swedish outpost "Fort Altena".  This was held by the Dutch until 1664, when the whole of New Netherland was surrendered to the British.

The fort and the original town have long since been built over, but you can visit the Old Swedes Church (built by descendants of the Swedish colonists in 1698) and the Hedrickson House (1690).  Tours are arranged and managed by the Old Swedes Foundation, which also holds many special events throughout the year, including "Ghosts in the Graveyard" in October.

The Rocks, a natural wharf where the ships landed, can be seen at Fort Christina State Park.  The fort was built nearby.  A fully operational re-creation of the ship Kalmar Nykel is home-ported next door and has both dock-side tours and grand events like "Pirate Sailings", but check for availability - the Tall Ship of Delaware also sails as a good-will ambassador to many festivals along the east coast.

Is it Christina or Christiana?  My history books called it Christiana.  Read how and why both names are used, here.
Now, what could be more suitable to celebrate New Sweden than a melding of old Sweden and North America in a Swedish American Smorgasbord?  You can always add a few more American dishes to your buffet, such as a plate of sliced cold roast turkey and a dish of cranberry sauce.


Preheat oven to 400° F. 
Butter a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan.
Might as well cut up 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) into little bits.  You will be using them to dot the bread crumb layers.

In a bowl, mix together 2-1/2 cups of plain fine dry bread crumbs, 1-1/4 cups of light brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

In another bowl, mix together 2 cans (1 pound, 4 ounces each) of sliced apples and 2 cans (1 pound each) of applesauce [Or use your own canned apples and applesauce].  Stir in 4-1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice (about 1-1/2 lemons if using fresh).

Start with a good layer of crumbs on the bottom of the baking pan.  Dot with butter and cover with a layer of the apple mixture.  Another layer of crumbs, dot with butter, another layer of apples.  Continue and end with a top layer of crumbs (dotted with butter).

Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes.  Serve either warm or cold. (Mmmm... warm, with ice cream).