There are many different traditions surrounding Swedish Christmas food. Here is a selection of some of the most common dishes and snacks served.
Julbord is a Swedish Christmas buffet. It is a Christmas version of the smorgasbord served at Swedish holidays. Christmas parties for organisations are often held at restaurants serving Christmas smorgasbord. The main event for the Christmas smorgasbord is the dinner on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas ham is the main piece of the Christmas smörgåsbord. It has roots from the Viking ages when the pig Sæhrímnir was slaughtered and eaten every night in Valhalla. On the next day the pig was alive again. Christmas ham was traditionally eaten at this time of year because it followed the annual slaughter .
The preparation of a Swedish Christmas hams starts with boiling it. The next step is to paint it with eggs, mustard and breadcrumbs, before it is baked in the oven .
Fläskkorv (pork sausage) is commonly eaten with coarse mustard.
Sop (dopp i grytan) is another traditional meal. It consists of vörtbröd dipped in ham broth. It was a common meal on the days that meat was not served and worked well with dry bread  .
Vörtbröd is a dark bread baked with wort or beer. Other ingredients are bitter orange peel, anise, fennel seeds, and raisins.
Luftefisk (lutfisk) originates from the early middle ages. It was an alternative to meat when Sweden was catholic and observed meat free holidays. It is typically eaten with white sauce, potatoes and green peas. The green peas with lutefisk have a long history .
Rice pudding (risgrynsgröt) has been a Christmas dish since the 1800s . It is served with cinnamon, sugar and milk.
Many put an almond in the porridge at Christmas. The person who finds it gets married the next year. Another tradition is that the finder should tell a rhyme.
To keep the nisse of your home happy, Swedes sometimes put a bowl of rice pudding outside at Christmas.
Jellied veal (kalvsylta) is another old dish. It is made from boiled veal and pork meat that is pored into molds and left to set. It is often matched with beetroot .
Liver pâté (leverpastej) is a baked meat spread with old roots. It is based on pork liver with a taste of allspice .
Other popular dishes are meatballs (köttbullar), pickled herring (sill), prinskorv (literary prince sausage, a small sausage), apple sauce (äppelmos) for the Christmas ham, raw spiced salmon (gravlax), simmered red cabbage (rödkål), brussel sprouts (brysselkål), Janssons frestelse, and potatoes.
Julmust and glögg
The soft drink julmust was introduced in 1910 . It is now a staple in Sweden around Christmas. It was developed as an alcohol free alternative to beer and has a similar taste. It tastes a bit like a sweet, dark beer.
At the start of advent Swedes begin to drink glögg, a sweet mulled wine with or without alcohol. The spices used in the making are typically ginger, bitter orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. It is usually sold with the spices already added. Glögg should be heated slowly without boiling. Serve it in a small cup with raisins and peeled almonds. It goes well with a gingerbread cookie. (Lately it is popular to eat the cookie with blue cheese.)
Lussekatt is a wheat bun with saffron. It is formed as a rolled up S with two raisins, one in the center of each roll. On the west coast of Sweden the lussekatt was often made without saffron. The lussekatt is associated with St. Lucy’s Day. (More on that next week!)
Gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor) are of course another theme for Christmas. Swedish gingerbread cookies are very thin, around 3 mm. This recipe was found in my great grandmother Ellen’s notebook. It was probably written down in the 1920s. The notes were a bit incomplete, the way that personal notes tend to be, so the amounts of the spices are from modern recipes. With all that fat you know it is good.
Fruits that are in season in the winter are still commonly used as snacks around Christmas. Among them dried dates and figs, oranges, hasselnuts, and walnuts.
Read more about Swedish traditions here:
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- Westergren, Björn, Bonniers Stora Kokbok, Bokgruppen i Malmö AB and BonnierFakta Bokförlag 1983 Bonnier Alba 1996.
- https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risgrynsgr%C3%B6t, retrieved 5 December 2019
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julmust, retrieved 5 December 2019
- https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kn%C3%A4ck, retrieved 5 December 2019