Skip to comments.Dissecting the delights of the Swedish Christmas smorgasbord
Posted on 12/22/2010 6:49:16 PM PST by WesternCulture
Some few generations ago, men in America as well as Europe themselves actually slaughtered live pigs, ducks, hens and calves for Christmas by their own hand. Or, at least, their local butcher did so for them.
Today, even the inhabitants of India, once an extremely poor nation, buy their meat pre-packed and wrapped up in plastic at local supermarkets.
Sweden is no exception to the rule, but at least we Scandinavians get in touch with our inner Viking eating habits once a year.
The article from www.thelocal.se:
"Does anybody actually eat pig's feet? Why do Swedes think of porridge as a delicious holiday treat? Contributor Clara Guibourg reveals the essential components of a seasonal Swedish smorgasbord.
Are you thinking of taking on the challenge of preparing your very first Swedish Christmas dinner - the traditional buffet-style "julbord" - but don't quite know where to get started?
Or perhaps you're just feeling increasingly baffled at the office?, as your colleagues have started to bandy about distressingly bizarre phrases such as "Jansson's frestelse" which in no way convey that they denote a foodstuff of any sort.
Either way, after reading the following guide to the must-have dishes and drinks for the Swedish festive season, you'll hopefully feel as though you're beginning to find your feet.
The mechanics of a julbord are actually fairly straight-forward - you're going to be making your way to the buffet table at least three times, or more, depending on how roomy your trousers are. Fish dishes are the focus of your first foray, cold cuts which include the "julskinka" centrepiece feature in your second, and the warm dishes of the third round are sure to require a loosening of your belt a notch or three.
Inlagd sill (pickled herring) Generally speaking, pickled herring tends to find its way onto Swedish buffet tables no matter the season or holiday being celebrated, and thus Christmas is no exception.
The pickled herring is one of the first dishes you'll be digging into, and will most likely come flavoured in a number of different inventive ways, from mustard and dill for traditionalists, to lingonberries and oranges for the more adventurous among us.
Julskinka (Christmas ham) The Christmas ham. The evening's main event, which is so popular it even comes in a tofu version for vegetarians who can't bear to miss out.
"Julskinka" is also the only dish on the julbord to have spawned a second dish of its own: "dopp i grytan", which loosely and somewhat unexpectedly translates to "dip in the pot". This is usually eaten directly after the ham, and is bread dipped in the stock that the ham was cooked in.
Grisfötter (Pig's trotters) This is exactly what it sounds like. I'm sure that there are several families in Sweden who love nothing better than digging into this delicacy every Christmas, but your author is not among them them. Pig's feet? Yuck.
Sylta (Brawn) This dish translates to either brawn or head cheese, depending on which side of the Atlantic you call home. Either translation sounds pretty grim, but what it refers to is a meat dish prepared by mixing boiled meat with its broth and leaving it to harden. Not nearly as bad as it sounds, and usually eaten together with beetroot salad.
Köttbullar (Meatballs) Swedish meatballs may come mass-produced from market leader Mamma Scan at the supermarket the rest of the year, but no self-respecting Swedish family is going to be serving anything other than home-made, home-rolled "köttbullar" come Christmas dinner.
Janssons frestelse (Jansson's temptation) Despite the mysterious-sounding name, this dish is nothing more exotic than a potato gratin, with some onion and anchovies thrown into the mix.
Risgrynsgröt (Rice pudding) Serving porridge as a Christmas treat might seem distressingly meagre, but don't let the name fool you! The fact is that this rice pudding is delicious, and a steady favourite on Swedish Christmas tables.
If you really want to go all out on Swedish holiday tradition, pop an almond in the porridge pot - the more superstitious among us claim that whoever gets it in their bowl will be married before the end of next year.
Julmust (Root beer) This soft drink's unique taste stems from its flavouring with malt, hops, and several other spices, which give it a taste reminiscent of root beer. Be warned, however, it's not for everyone!
"Julmust" is usually only available at Christmas and it is perhaps this exclusivity which makes it so popular. For one month of the year, Sweden's Coca-Cola consumption drops by 50 percent as people throughout the country stock up on the seasonal alternative.
The question of why julmust has such firm supporters during the holidays, only to be forgotten the rest of the year is best avoided as dinner conversation. Furthermore, "påskmust", served at Easter, has an uncanny resemblance in taste, texture and colour.
Snaps (Schnapps) Don't be coy. You already know what this is. A steady intake of shots of vodka or akvavit is the social lubricant that's going to keep a five-hour dinner with the in-laws a pleasant affair. Tradition also demands that these shots be accompanied by increasingly raucous choruses of snapsvisor, or drinking songs.
Don't feel quite ready to start cooking up a storm? Don't worry, there are plenty of options. Believe it or not, IKEA's got a julbord with all the essentials. If you dare to brave the crowds, the double whammy of Swedish furniture giant and Swedish Christmas food can be yours for just 149 kronor ($22)."
BTW, the WashDCMetropolitan area is remarkably devoid of anything like a smorgasbord, so IKEA is as close as it comes.
My spelling may not be precise, but what about lutefisk?
IIRC, lutefisk is a Norwegian comestible.
I lived in Green bay, WI many decades ago. The term “smorgasbord”, with & without umlauts, described the menu of almost any buffet-style restaurant or dining room in the local area.
It was the last time I ordered and enjoyed frog legs (delicious, as I recall).
My grandparents came from Bohuslän in western Sweden. They both were born in the 1880s, so they practiced Swedish customs that may be considered old-fashioned by now. Every Christmas Eve, Grandma Henrickson made a dinner that included inlagd sill (pickled herring), köttbullar (meatballs), boiled potatis (potatoes), lingon (lingonberries), knäckebröd (rye crisp), ost (cheese), limpa (bread), and risgröt (rice pudding). And the adults drank glögg. But the main course of the meal was always lutfisk, that lyed, gelatinous whitefish you either love or hate! And I loved it!
Lutfisk: The piece of cod that passes all understanding.
See my post 6. We had it every Christmas Eve, but, as I say, my grandparents grew up in Sweden in the late 1800s, so that may be an older Swedish custom that is no longer practiced there as much.
My grandparents were all from Norway. Lutefisk was my grandmother’s favorite. Gravloks (buried salmon) was also on the menu. And every Christmas I would wrap up a jar of pickled pig’s feet, and another of pig’s knuckles for my grandpa.
I liked the fruit soup, the bread with the fruit in it and frosting (Julekake?), and the various pastries and cookies.
Of course, they have lutefisk.
Then again, I've never had a Swedish Christmas. I'm Jewish so we had a normal dinner at my grandparents, the one time we were freezing in a Malmo winter. We just had meatballs made with beef and chicken, instead of pork and veal schnitzel searved with lingonberries, pickles, and potatoes.
(Sniffle. I miss my mormor and morfar.)
Here’s the wikipedia page for Christmas Eve and various traditions. I love reading about how others celebrate,
especially the Poles.. they all just say *home, family and tradition” to me.
“Locally the IKEA Julbord was $9.95 per person.”
- Sounds like a true bargain.
IKEA is actually the largest exporter of Swedish food products of all companies in Sweden. Just perhaps, they’ll one day quit selling furniture and bring Absolut, sausages like those of the days of Pippi Longstocking and lingonberry jam to the World!
Hopefully, no one wants to turn pagan, but this is how Vikings and other brutes celebrates “Christmas”:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPjeQbiOrbs (The Swedish royal family making sausages in a 1985 clip)
I had some lingonberries for lunch along with Swedish pork meatballs.
We had no word for it beyond "fish", the Danish pigfarmers (a quite large part of the local population) made sure that everybody used ONLY ENGLISH.
I finally found out what it was one day at the Safeway when I noticed a bag of frozen lutefisk marked that it was packed in Minneapolis. It was the same stuff the school cafeterias always used.
LOL thanks.. I starting reading and forgot to linky.
I’m Swedish and have worked as a cook in Sweden.
Although I’m proud of our culinary traditions, I’d never claim we could compete with a nation like Italy in this domain.
But, to any person out there who wishes to get the full use out of a can of lingonberry, this might be interesting enough:
With the right breed of potatoes (preferably a “soft”, yet tasty one) and a little of onion and pork mixed together with a traditional Swedish blend of flavors like allspice, clove and white pepper you could bring about marvels.
Lycka till/Good luck!
Thanks for posting these images.
Have you ever vieved a real painting by Carl Larsson?
If not so and if you visit Gothenburg or Stockholm, make sure to do so.
By the way, a typical Nordic Christmas according to Ingemar Bergman: