I’ve eaten Christmas dinner in Sweden four times now, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized how traditional it really is. A week before Christmas we had lunch at a restaurant, which happened to be serving a “Julbord.” Christmas in Sweden is all about the Julbord – think “Smörgåsbord” but with all the classic Christmas foods. The restaurant Julbord was serving the exact same Christmas foods as I’ve eaten in Sweden the last few years; it’s not just a family tradition.
Come noon on December 24th (Swede’s celebrate on the eve, or afton) our Julbord looks something like this every year:
Except this year we somehow forgot the boiled eggs – a Swedish tragedy. So, whats on this Christmas Table? Let’s see!
Julskinka: Naturally, The Christmas Ham – only eaten after smothered in mustard.
Dopp i gryta: “Dip in the pot” – Using the rich flavored Christmas Ham broth, it is very traditional to dip dark bread and to eat the soaked bread along with Christmas dinner.
Janssons Frestelse: “Janssons Temptation” – a delicious dish with very thinly cut potato ‘sticks’ is cooked in the oven with a secret ingredient that makes many non-swedes squirm…
Anchovies. and anchovy juice. Sounds gross, I know, but it’s awesome and full of flavor!
Kålpudding: Cabbage pudding. Thinly chopped cabbage, fried with syrup, baked with a thick layer of seasoned ground beef in the middle.
Some Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse preparation.
Fläskkorv: large pork sausage
Prinskorv: “Prince sausage” mini hotdog-like sausages
Köttbullar: The homemade meatballs, of course.
Brunkål: Brown Cabbage, served as a side dish. Cabbage is boiled and fried and seasoned with vinegar, salt and syrup.
Cheese, bread, butter, and salad.
My Christmas feast. Bottom center is the Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse.
Alongside we drank Julmust, beer, and snaps.
Julmust is a very popular cola beverage that is Christmas themed and has a distinctly different “holiday” flavor.
After dinner and before the presents we eat Struva and glögg - a Swedish mulled spiced wine served warm with raisins and almonds.
Later that evening we enjoyed Swedish cheesecake, icecream, jam, and cream with coffee, tea, and liquor.
If we had any young kids in the family our Christmas eve festivities would be very different, having to schedule around the must-watch 3:00pm Christmas cartoon, “Kalle Anka,” or as we know him – Donald Duck. Every year half of Sweden faithfully sits around the television and watches “Kalle Anke och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”
Which would probably be followed by a mysterious Santa knocking on the door and giving out presents.
Christmas eve is also filled with tons of chocolate treats and candy, both as dessert and presents.
On Christmas Day, as if we aren’t full enough, we have our next food tradition – Lutfisk served with boiled potatoes.
Lutefisk is a white fish that is air dried to later be re-hydrated with water and lye. The fish soaks in the lye water for weeks before it is ready to be cooked. The fish has a strange consistency the first time you eat it, but it is easily forgotten because it is served with a ton of white sauce, salt, and pepper. There are very small bones in the fish, so be careful!
One last thing – it is very popular to make gingerbread houses in Sweden, as well as to eat ginger bread cookies throughout the month.