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:
So when is ‘kloob’ eaten?
Substitute sweet yeast dough for the potato dumpling part, and you'd have Lithuanian bacon buns!
I found a page with Carl Larsson paintings (prints) at http://scandinaviantreasures.com. I was looking for one print in particular but did not find it there. It might have been by another Scandinavian artist. It was of a bunch of children (with two adult women) at a table outside, having a summer picnic. The (large) family dog had joined the group and had his paws up on the table.
By the way: I am presently enjoying some lingonberry preserves (Halfi brand) from the shop I mentioned earlier.
“I was looking for one print in particular but did not find it there.”
- I don’t know anything about your acquaintance (and by the way I’m no expert myself) to the subject, so I’ll just start off at a basic level;
Was it anything in this style:
If so, the painting you had in mind might be part of the “Skagen” tradition.
If not, it might have been something by Zorn:
- or even Albert Engström:
“Substitute sweet yeast dough for the potato dumpling part, and you’d have Lithuanian bacon buns!”
Tomorrow, I’ll explore Lithuanian cooking (now, I’ll try and get drunk) - and yes, I’m serious.
Every corner of the World provides an abundance of wonderful dishes - Lainiai!
I hear you, this is a time to be missing those gone before.
Hubby and daughty have both been missing his mom. Who was of Swedish extraction, although her parents emigrated from Finland.
This has led to endless arguments since hubby thinks he’s Finnish, which he isn’t.
Nevertheless I’m very glad I saw this thread. We are very disorganized this year and I don’t think we would have remembered the herring unless I’d seen this.
rm, let’s hope for a prosperous new year. For that I’ll be making texas cowgirl caviar, a black eyed pea bean salad that is just great, and supposedly eating black eye peas on New Year’s day brings prosperity in the new year.
“Lithuanian bacon buns!”
We bring the truck to your house!
Frukost under stora bjorken
Thanks for posting the link.
I most definitely can see the beauty in it.
However, I like this painting so much more:
Look at what Carl Larsson has brought into the picture; his own family neatly “ordered” more or less at the artist’s strict command - yet involved in different independent, free activities. Behold the sheer beauty of a typical Nordic midsummer “crayfish lake” (and do study the relation between the birch trees and the colors at play around them) and above all, dare to accept his invitation to the table; drink some snaps and learn how to eat crayfish - or was it the other way around..
Only Strindberg knows.
There are a couple fine books of his paintings available at the American Swedish Institute:
I just finished making loads of cookies, including Pepparkakor, and tomorrow we shall make our own Potates Korv in a sausage maker. It is delicious!
My older sister will be bringing the Sill and Bullar, and younger sister will bring the Limpa and I will be making Rice Pudding for our Christmas Eve feast.
My Mom's parents came from Varmland (her Mom was originally from the far north) in 1908, and my Dad's parents came from Varmland in the early 1880's.
(And nobody makes Korv as good as we do! :)
Oh........and our eldest daughter will bring the Glogg!
Gravad lax and Zeunert's julmust (preferably last years), and my jul is made :)
And nobody makes Korv as good as we do! :)Rawr! If me and my family weren't still Swedes and had this big pond (the Atlantic) blocking our way, we'd challenge you to a julkorv duel! My father is a julkorv grand master, having been trained by his mother - a very traditional farmer's wife who made use of everything the farm produced to make magic things happen in the kitchen.
Unfortunately I don't have more time to brag about my family's julbord now. It's -26 celsius (-15 fahrenheit) outside, but I still have to drive the 100 kilometers (62 miles) to my fathers place. brrr
I'm up to the challenge, anguish! Bring it on!
btw, this recipe came across the pond more than a hundred years ago, and I would LOVE to know what you put in your julkorv, and if julkorv is the only sausage you make with potatoes in it.
As the grandchild of long ago immigrants, this is the only korv I know, so I was surprised to find out that there are bunches of other kinds of korv back in the homeland.
Do you use onions? Allspice? A mixture of pork and beef, heavy on the pork?
Inquiring Swedish minds want to know. ;*)
I still love bond ost, that caraway cheese, and our local import store has it all year.
As far as I know it's pretty much 50% pork, 25% beef and 25% potatoes. I think we've added more beef since my grandma's time though. As they didn't have beef cattle - only a couple of cows for milk, cream and cheese - beef was kind of a luxury. And yeah, that's the only type of korv we make with potatoes as an ingredient. Other than the meat and potatoes we use the stock we get after making our julskinka (christmas ham). Milk and cream also goes into the mix, though I'm not sure how much. For seasoning I only know that they use ginger and allspice, but I'm sure there's more than that. No onions anywhere.
Sorry if that wasn't too informative - I can design a processor from scratch, but cooking is rocket science to me :(
“When we were kids, we ate the korv (Christmas sausage) to get to the pepparkakor (ginger cookies). Adults ate caviar, leverpastej (liver paste) and pickled herring and laughed at the kids who were gagging at the sight of gross food.
I still love bond ost, that caraway cheese, and our local import store has it all year.”
- Sincere thanks for telling me this story.
Greetings from Sweden to you and all of your family!
Just like any other country, Sweden features many different interpretations of common foods like sausages, hams and casseroles.
When in Värmland you will encounter;
Ingmar Nordströms music:
- The national dish of Värmland: Värmlandskorv;
Grind the pork lard, potatoes and onions. Mix all ingredients together and add spices. Shape the mixture into a patty and test it (in a pan) to know if the seasoning is good.
Stop the batter very loosely in casings with an assistant, I personally feel it goes best with a good old meat grinder, as you don’t get as much air in the sausages that you get with a food processor.