Impress your Swedish friends with your Christmas savvy this season. We tracked down the origins of some traditional specialties and discovered some exclusively local delicacies of Swedish Christmas cuisine.
1. DRIED REINDEER MEAT from Norrbotten
The Sami people eat reindeer meatballs, sausages, spare ribs and pâté at Christmas but it is the traditionally dried and smoked reindeer meat that is fast becoming a world-renowned delicacy.
2. VÄSTERBOTTEN CHEESE from Västerbotten
A happy culinary accident, this strong, aged cheese was allegedly first made by an amorous local dairymaid who repeatedly abandoned her duty of stirring the curd to entertain a lover.
3. VÄRMLAND’S SAUSAGE from Värmland
This local favourite is made of equal parts ground pork, ground beef and grated raw potatoes and flavoured with onion, salt, white pepper and allspice. Serve boiled and with a mustard sauce.
4. JULMUST from Örebro
Chemist Harry Roberts invented Julmust in 1910 and the recipe is a closely guarded secret at Roberts in Örebro. Coca Cola sales plunge around Christmas as Swedes abandon it for their beloved Julmust so Coca Cola finally caved, bought Julmust essence from Roberts and started making their own.
5. POLKAGRISAR from Gränna
These red-striped peppermint candies, forerunners of striped candy canes, originated in Gränna in the mid-1800’s. They were called polkagrisar, literally ‘polka pigs’, for the spirals that resembled a pig’s curly tail. A handful of polkagris factories in Gränna welcome visitors.
6. LUTEFISK from Bohuslän
Air-dried cod, reconstituted with water and lye, is a famed Nordic delicacy. The fishing village of Mollösund on Bohuslän’s coast bristled with drying racks and was a centre of lutefisk production. In Bohuslän lutefisk is served with roast pork and a buttery sauce.
7. GLÖGG from Stockholm
This Nordic version of mulled wine was first mixed as a health elixir by Stockholm chemists. Swedes now consume 5 million litres of glögg every Christmas. Make your own by infusing red wine with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and orange peel. For a show-stopping finale, sweeten the hot wine by flambéing sugar cubes in a sieve over the pot.
8. KVIBILLE ADELOST from Halland
Stewed green cabbage is the most common Christmas dish associated with Halland, but it never has gained international acclaim of the local artisanal cheeses from Kvibille. Try the whisky-flavoured adelost (blue cheese), a gold medal winner at the 2007 World Cheese Awards in London, on crisp ginger bread cookies.
9. SAFFRON PANCAKE from Gotland
It would not be Christmas on the island of Gotland without this oven-baked rice porridge made with eggs, cream, sugar, almonds and saffron. Serve it with whipped cream and wild dewberry jam.
10. KROPPKAKOR from Öland
Despite the repulsive name, literally ‘body cakes’, these savoury potato dumplings are the pride of the island and have been around since the 1700’s. At Christmas they are filled with smoked goose meat and eaten with butter and lingonberries.
11. KLENÄTER from Skåne
A tradition in Skåne since the 1500’s, these little diamond shaped cookies are flavoured with lemon peel and cognac, fried like doughnuts, and rolled in sugar. They are served at Christmas with little spoonfuls of jam and whipped cream.
12. CHRISTMAS BEER from Copenhagen
The Swedes and Danes alike brew up dark, bracing beer especially for Christmas. Each November horse drawn wagons, decked with bells and evergreen boughs, make their merry way from the breweries to downtown Copenhagen with the year’s first deliveries.