Holidays bring tradition.
No matter what we celebrate, food is very often a central part of our festive traditions. It brings friends and family together, and certain dishes come to signify a specific day. They are introduced early on in life, the flavors and smells of a holiday meal as much of an indicator of the celebration as the day itself. Our childhood memories turn into our own traditions, and soon we carry on the mantra of “it’s not [insert holiday] without [insert food].”
Food is what binds a holiday together.
In Sweden to celebrate Christmas it’s the julbord. Directly translated: the Christmas table. You wouldn’t dare eating on Christmas Eve without some of the essential foods and ingredients of a julbord.
A true julbord is a beautiful thing, a long table decorated with classic Christmas linens, covered in food, and peppered with white candles. Think of a traditional smörgåsbord but on Christmas steroids.
There is often a slight variation on the theme depending on whose house you are in, but there are a handful of dishes that you simply won’t go without: julskinka (the Christmas ham), pickled herring, meatballs, Janssons frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation, a potato gratin with anchovies) and rice porridge. Add a good Christmas beer and Aquavit to the list, followed by standard Christmas desserts like mandelmusslor and you have the classic julbord.
Here is a selection of favorite recipes so you can make your own julbord, and maybe even a new holiday tradition. Just be sure to serve on Christmas Eve.
A Traditional Swedish Julbord
Julskinka – A recipe for the julbord‘s centerpiece, developed by Marcus Jernmark of New York’s famed restaurant, Aquavit.
Janssons Frestelse – The classic Swedish Christmas potato dish.
Meatballs – Traditional Swedish meatballs must be served, and although you could just go and by some at IKEA, you have no excuse not to make them yourself.
Pickled Mustard Herring – in Sweden, you will find that pickled herring is a celebrated dish at many holidays. This recipe was created with Midsummer in mind, but it’s just as good in the dark of December.
Rödkål – Cooked with vinegar, this red cabbage dish is brightly colored with a hint of apples.
Risgrynsgröt – A sweet rice porridge dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Be sure to add an almond when you’re about to serve; as tradition goes, whoever gets the almond in their bowl will be married in the next year… or just have good luck.
Mandelmusslor – These almond tartlets are buttery and served with jam and whipping cream.
Check out our entire Swedish Christmas series, with plenty of recipes to celebrate the season.