Something Swedish

A Swedish Thanksgiving


Figures that the first time I host my own Thanksgiving dinner, I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate it! My first year away from my family traditions and celebrations, I wanted to start my own – so I brought Thanksgiving to Sweden, to share it with my Swedish family.

Turkey nails for the occasion

On The Menu:

Turkey & Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, String Bean Casserole, Cauliflower Casserole, Fruit & Walnut Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Pumpkin Cookies, Cannoli Cups, Mulled Apple Cider

Eight over-sized American dishes I’ve never cooked before for seven new Swedish family members who have never tasted my cooking? No Pressure! It’s not as if I only started cooking a year ago and have hardly stepped foot in a kitchen before then or something… No Problem! Thankfully my husband helped me through it all, my mother-in-law made sure the turkey was cooked and made the gravy, and my sister-in-law brought the apple pie and vanilla sauce.

Chopping nuts and veggies at 9 am, handling a knife this early is just not safe!

My Swedish Thanksgiving breakfast.

Initially I thought celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving in Sweden would be hard to do, as Turkeys aren’t really sold here, but about a month ago I was shocked to see a small part of the freezer in Hemköp filled with small-medium sized turkeys! And about a week later, it was empty. I guess there are other American expats out there! Thankfully my in-laws were able to buy one in time. The store “defrosted” it for us for three days – but it was still half frozen!

We placed the turkey in the cold laundry room with the window open overnight, while it was brining in a pot of water, salt, sugar, and spices. After it didn’t fit in the refrigerator we didn’t know were to put it! I’ll never forget my husband running around with a huge turkey pot, “New Plan! New Plan!”

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the canned cranberry sauce. I asked my cousin to mail a can, but neither of us thought that it was worth the $13 shipping. I spotted fresh cranberries two weeks ago, thought it was normal, and didn’t rush to buy any. When they were gone, my husband said he has never seen them being sold fresh before. Luckily we found frozen cranberries and I made my own. It was easier than I thought: cranberries, water, orange juice, white & brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt & pepper. Tasty tasty.

I was tempted to buy an extra pumpkin after Halloween, because canned pumpkin isn’t sold here in Sweden and I thought I would have to make my own if we were to have a traditional pumpkin dessert. Then, I heard rumors of it being stocked in the international section of MAXI. I made Pumpkin cookies instead of pumpkin pie; they were gobbled up quickly, being compared to different sorts of Christmas cookies. I also made a batch of cannoli cups, which were a hit.

My cousin sent me a care package with some Thanksgiving essentials like a turkey baster and French’s fried onions – without which, a classic dish would have been missing (Yes, I added bacon):

She also sent festive turkey napkins and paper plates. The decorations pulled it all together.

As soon as we arrived I realized I forgot the marshmallows at home. THE MARSHMALLOWS! A Thanksgiving tragedy, I thought – our poor sweet potatoes!  Seeing as I already cut out half of the sugar and mixed in white potatoes to make this dish more “Swedish” the lack of marshmallows was probably a good thing.

When we started talking  about celebrating Thanksgiving one of the first questions was, “Are we going to stuff the turkey??” Having seen Thanksgiving celebrated on T.V and movies, I guess this part of the meal was a staple for my Swedish family’s knowledge of the holiday. At first I said “Sure!” which lead to a bit of disappointment when I decided not to do it, as it can be potentially dangerous, too salty, and too much work for a first timer.

I was probably just as nervous about the fruit & walnuts stuffing as I was about the turkey. It came out very good, and now I know what to do to make it better next year! (Smaller, torn pieces of bread)

Next year I need to make more cauliflower casserole and green bean casserole:

Of course we had  to Swedify Thanksgiving a bit and have some boiled potatoes and meatballs –

Once all the side dishes were done, and the kitchen was clean (Thanks to my incredibly helpful & supportive husband, who also did all the peeling and mashing) we had time to sit back for an hour before we started prepping the bird.

Being in Sweden means having no roasting rack or pan, but we made do with what we had!

Hubby had the honor of  washing, handling, and carving the bird, while I prepped the flavoring.

While it was cooking everyone was in the kitchen saying “luktar så gott!” – “Smells so good!”

I tried the method of cooking it upside-down for half of the time, which seemed to make the breast less dry and more tasty. The gravy from the juices was delicious!

Tasted, smelled, and felt like home.

Thanksgiving in Sweden was officially a success! Everyone took seconds, and had a favorite dish. The next day we all enjoyed a full plate of left overs. I took home enough sweet potatoes and stuffing to last a few days. Looking forward to next year with notes of improvement from this very first Thanksgiving! Happy Gobble Gobble Day!


Turkey: Kalkon

Give thanks: Ge tack

Family: Familj

Tradition: Tradition


21 thoughts on “A Swedish Thanksgiving

  1. What a beautiful bird. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wow. Thanksgiving is the holiday I miss the most. You did a fantastic job. I would really like to see Thanksgiving catch on here. There are many things to be thankful for here . . . and the pictures on this blog post are one of them. Great job!

  3. Great job Meg love and miss you much

  4. Wow, that’s quite an undertaking! It looks like it turned out great, though. 😀

  5. Awesome, Meg. Josh and I just went out for dinner and had iffy Italian for Thanksgiving. Maybe if I could get as much help from him as you had from Esby it would be a different story!

  6. Meg: I never cease to be amazed by your mature approach to cooking and daring attempts at this culinary challenge in your new land, some of which a seasoned woman would be intimidated to try!! And Esby, plaudits to you for supporting Meg so well and happily . . . lol to both of you, from Aunty Ree

  7. Things like canned pumpkin (you can find evaporated milk at most Willys–they call it unsweetend or original) and cranberry sauce can be found here at the American store in Malmö. We had a big (12 people)Thanksgiving dinner ourselves on Saturday and had canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie along with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts that came from my own garden. Ingelsta kalkon has great fresh turkeys that are raised here in Skåne.

    • I’m pretty certain that our Turkey was a Ingelsta. I sure wish we had an American store in this little town! I’m going to start stocking up when I find American food stocked anywhere. 12 people is a big feast! Hope it went well!

  8. Hats off to you, Meg! You did an amazing job on Thanksgiving dinner. Your turkey looks absolutely perfect and delicious. Between your photos and description, I could almost taste it. I am so proud of you : )
    Love you and miss you — but I am so thankful (there’s that word) that you are happy in your new home, and surrounded by a loving family. Give everyone a big hug from me.

  9. Well done!! (no pun intended). Food looked delicious,wish I could have sampled some. Glad your 1st Thanksgiving went well. Love ya,say hi to everyone and I’ll skype you soon.

  10. I can so relate, Meg. I also cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner this year and I had the added pressure that one of my guests was Canadian and has had roasted Turkey to compare too. Yikes!! But it all turned out AMAZING. Smart that you had someone send you a baster. I luckily found a stainless steel -way-more-than-I-needed-to-pay-for baster at Clas Ohlson. lol.
    Btw, I have a GREAT recipe for pumpkin pie made with butternut squash, if you want to try that next year. I looked everywhere here in Västerås for pumpkin pie filling and after going to 4 different stores, i Googled alternatives and found the recipe! It tastes exactly the same and the benefit is that Butternut Squash can be found in most stores here in Sweden.
    Thanks again for sharing your stories!

    • Haha, my Husband kept saying, “It’s fine, they don’t know what any of this stuff is supposed to taste like!” so I can see how that could be added pressure! We searched for a baster, but didn’t think to look for anything metal, wow. Guess you have to make more Turkeys to make that baster worth while! Oh, thats a great idea! Butternut Squash is easy to find. I would like to see that recipe! Thanks!

  11. Pingback: Another New Year « Something Swedish

  12. Thank you so much for your interesting and wonderful blog. You have no idea how much help you have been with my sociology paper. I’ve always been interested in traveling to Sweden and your blog has helped me to decide to try it some day. You have a lot of courage to begin a new life so far from home. Hope things are still going very well for you and your family. Your friend from Tennessee, Kim.

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