Essential Swedish Christmas Recipes
Why is it that we “need” certain foods at certain times of the year?
I have been traveling for the last couple of months, and because of it have been far far away from my kitchen and usual Northern Hemisphere winter climate. The result has been warm weather and completely different food than I would usually eat this time of year.
The funny thing is, because of it, I practically forgot that it was December. My usual reminders just aren’t there, and I realized how important food is to creating the ambience of a certain time, a certain celebration. I think we all know this feeling. Food and tradition go hand in hand.
I am well aware that I wrote a column a few weeks back about when it comes to the holidays it doesn’t matter what food you serve; the point is that you’re together with friends and family and celebrating the moment. That being said, December isn’t December for me without my favorite classic Swedish recipes.
By the time you read this, I’ll be back in my kitchen, frantically baking all of these, to get my full dose of December all in one sitting, so I decided I would share a few of them with you. Consider it your official guide to eating like a Swede this Christmas.
There’s nothing more Swedish this time of year than crisp pepparkakor, gingersnap cookies. But of course, often time is of the essence, which means that if you need a quicker version than spending the afternoon rolling and cutting out cookies, you can use the same traditional pepparkakor spices in a cake.
Where would Swedish Christmas be without glögg? Actually, where would the entire month of December be? Nowhere. In fact this recipe might be the most important of holiday Swedish recipes. This mulled wine is consumed liberally this time of year, and when it’s cold and dark out, you know why. It’s as simple as wine, rum or vodka and a few spices.
Usually these saffron buns are made for St. Lucia day, but you can of course eat them at any time in December. A yeasty, sweet bread that’s turned bright yellow with saffron, they’re perfect with coffee or glögg. The taste of saffron is so indicative of this time of year for me, that last year I even made a gluten-free cookie recipe inspired by the same flavors and shape as these traditional buns.
It’s hard to not get addicted to this Swedish toffee. They’re made in small individual paper liners, which makes them as good looking as they are tasty.
Yes yes, you can make your own pickled herring, or at least your own pickled herring sauce. No self-respecting julbord (the Swedish Christmas table) is complete without it. I am a personal fan of pickled herring in a mustard sauce.
6. Janssons Frestelse
Translated, this means “Jansson’s Temptation.” I don’t know what in this dish was so tempting for Jansson, but it’s certainly a classic. Basically it’s potatoes baked with cream and anchovies, or sprats. Trust me on this one.
This red cabbage dish was the one that as a child I couldn’t stand. Now of course, I insist upon it. The basics are red cabbage, apples, vinegar, onion and spices. The result is delightful and colorful.
Image: Erik Forsberg
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