Top 7 Nordic Christmas delicacies you must tryNú Ninja Helga Mjöll
With the holidays just around the corner we wanted to share with you some of the Nordics most loved and favourite Christmas food and drinks for you to try at home if you are in the mood for some hygge.
Originating in Denmark, æbleskiver is a traditional winter and Christmas dessert snack served hot in the shape of a sphere. Although the literal translation of the dish means “apple slices” the present day recipe usually doesn’t even include apples. Rather, æbleskiver has a similar makeup to that of a pancake, the main ingredients are wheat flour, buttermilk, cream, eggs, and sugar. The dish is normally served with jam and powdered sugar with glögg (see below) or Scandinavian coffee on the side. You can often find æbleskiver at Christmas markets, charity markets, birthday parties, local gatherings, and more.
Historically, the origin of the dish is unknown, however there is speculation that when Vikings would return from battle they wanted a meal similar to pancakes but did not have the proper pans. Instead they were said to use their helmets, which is the reason behind their spherical shapes.
Lussebuller, are Swedish spiced yeast-leavened sweet bun that is flavoured with saffron and are therefore also known as saffron buns. Traditionally eaten during the whole advent but especially on Saint Lucy’s day on the 13th of December.
Each bun is shaped into an S-shape, which is supposed to resemble a curled up cat, and then two raisins are added on each side. Nobody knows for sure the origins of the shape and the connection with Saint Lucy, but it seems likely that they were originally called djävulskatter (the devil’s cats). Later they became known as Lucifer’s cats and were said to ward off the devil. It all makes more sense after you read our article about Saint Lucy and the devilish Lusse 🙂 Click here for that article
- Fermented skate
In the old days, Icelanders were not supposed to eat a lot before Christmas. They were not necessarily supposed to fast, but rather eat lighter meals like fish instead of meat. But it was not very easy to get fresh fish during the cold and dark months of winter, so fermentation was one of the methods to preserve food.
The fermented skate is eaten on the 23rd of December, on St. Thorlákurs day. The older generation is likely to enjoy this dish more than the youngsters. Particularly accompanied by Icelandic liqueur.
Skate is a cartilaginous fish. Which means that there is a high concentration of both urea and a substance called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) in their flesh. Upon fermentation, the urea is converted to ammonia (NH3) and trimethylamine oxide to trimethylamine (TMA) and it is precisely these substances (NH3 and TMA) that primarily cause this dish to smell and taste rotten.
We didn’t find a recipe that is not in Icelandic (…hmm I wonder why) to share with you, but the preparation method is basically to slice up the fish, place it in a container and leave it to stand there for a few weeks. Then you boil it slightly and…. Voila!
- Rutabaga casserole
Rutabaga, also called Swedish turnip, is a root vegetable in the same plant family as cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, radish, turnip, and cauliflower. Like all cruciferous vegetables, rutabaga is loaded with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. It’s great for your health.
It might not be available often in your country, but it is enjoyed in many delicious dishes in Scandinavia. For example, this Finnish Christmas casserole. So, if you ever find some in your veggie shop. Be sure to try it out!
This dish is called Lanttulaatikko in Finnish and is made of boiled and mashed rutabagas, sweetened and enriched with various spices. It is similar to mashed potatoes, but much richer in taste.
Recipe: Rutabaga casserole
Up to 70% of Norwegians eat pinnekjøtt at some point over the festive season. The name translates into English as “stick meat” and it’s quite simply dried and salted sheep ribs that are to a varying degree smoked.
When the meat is ready, but before cooking, the racks are separated into individual ribs by cutting a sharp knife between the bones. The ribs must then be soaked in water in order to rinse out the salt and reconstitute the meat.
The Norwegians have various methods to cook their pinnekjøtt. Some boil it, some roast it or even cook it over coals.
This dish originates from west Norway but now it plays a big role in festivities all over the country, usually paired with puréed rutabaga, sausages and potatoes, served with beer and akvavit.
A traditional Christmas Nordic drink, glögg is a spiced (normally alcoholic) mulled wine/spirit. Originating in 16th century Sweden, glögg was mainly consumed by postmen and messengers who traveled on horseback or skis in the winter.
With a multitude of ways to mix the drink, the main ingredients include warmed juice, syrup and hard spirits (like brandy or cognac) or sweet red wine. The drink is made by boiling water and adding spices to it or just by warming up the wine, alcohol and sugar and letting the spices seep in overnight. Traditional spices found in glögg can include cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Many people also enjoy citrus peels in their drinks including oranges and lemons.
Laufabrauð (Leaf bread in english) is a thin flour based bread which consists of round, very thin flat cakes with a diameter of about 15 to 20 cm, decorated with leaf-like, geometric patterns that are either cut by hand or created using a heavy brass roller (the tool is called laufabrauðsjárn / leaf bread iron) and then when the pattern is complete, the leaf bread doe is deep fried briefly in hot fat or oil.
You can of course buy Laufabrauð ready made in every bakery in Iceland around this time of the year but leaf bread making at home is usually a family undertaking and often an essential part of the Christmas preparations, where several generations gather and take part in the decorating.
It’s traditionally served as an accompaniment to Christmas meals or simply as a snack. It originates from the northern part of the country but has spread all over and today it is an essential Christmas tradition in Iceland. It’s not clear how far back this tradition goes but the first written mention dates from the mid 18th century.