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Swedish Holiday Recipes Please!

  • k

I've just learned that I'll be hosting a potential in-law from Sweden this Christmas and I would like to incorporate a Swedish dish in the celebration. I would like to incorporate the dish into Christmas dinner. I'll be making a standing rib roast and a fairly American menu but I don't mind adding something incongruous. Still something served before the meal would be ideal because I also serve a couple of Korean dishes then and we can make it a sort of multicultural nosh session.

Any ideas would be helpful. I'm a skilled resourceful cook and a mediocre disinterested baker!

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  1. Your question brought back some memories of delicious Christmas meals at the home of a friend with Swedish heritage.

    I can think of two dishes that would go beautifully with a standing rib roast and wouldn't be the least bit incongruous: Gravlax (sugar-salt-dill-cured salmon) and Jansson's Temptation (a potato and anchovy gratin).

    There are lots of recipes for Jansson's Temptation available on the internet, but they all caution against using anything other than Swedish anchovies. Apparently, Swedish anchovies have a distinctive sweet-salty flavor. One web site mentioned the large Swedish store Ikea as a source for Swedish anchovies.

    Finally, if it wouldn't be going overboard with the Swedish theme, you could serve glogg (hot spiced wine) with dessert.

    29 Replies
    1. re: Indy 67

      I'd stay away from a Jansson's. A lot of Swedes don't really like it and it is served in many houses out of a sense of obligation, rather than for love of the dish. Your potential in-law may be happy to get away from it.

      I think that just serving glogg and pepparkakor (gingerbread) would be totally appropriate, but some other things traditionally served on a julbord (Christmas table) are:

      Pickled herring (served with boiled potatoes and hard boiled eggs)
      Gravlax (I use the Emeril recipe from foodtv.com--incongruous, I know, but quite authentic--and let it cure for at least 2 days before serving)
      Cold Sliced Ham or Turkey
      Swedish meatballs

      Here's an article describing a typical Julbord (not every family serves every dish): http://www.parentnetsweden.com/Infopa...

      1. re: Megiac

        I third the glogg recommendation. Growing up we always spent Christmas with neighbors of Swedish descent who had a glass or two before dinner. I didn't understand why the grown-ups were in such mellow, pleasant spirits all evening until I was finally old enough to try the glogg myself...

        1. re: Megiac

          I absolutely disagree with the dissent for Jansson's. Everyone I have ever fed it to (that includes Swedes - FROM Sweden) LOVE IT. We serve it for Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving - took it to a Thanksgiving potluck last year and the people were literally SCRAPING the pan to get at the remnants!! I posted this recipe under the "Anchovy Virgin" post on this board a few weeks ago. You can get it there. It is delicious and would go very well with your roast. You should definitely try it for yourself. Very decadent!
          Other recs are great as well. I will post my dad's Glogg recipe if you would like it.
          I got so frazzled about the person saying not to try the Jansson's that I forgot to mention the rice pudding that is a mainstay (and tradition) for many Scandehoovians at Christmas. We always have it before the meal and the person who gets the almond in their pudding gets the marzipan pig. Serve with butter, sugar and cinnamon (milk if you like or preserves).

          1. re: WildSwede

            I have tried it and really didn't like it. My Swedish husband and Swedish father-in-law (who are from Sweden and not Swedish-American) are also not fans, but it could be that my mother-in-law does not make a good version (although she is generally a very good cook).

            We're heading to Sweden for Christmas this year, so I'll have to make a fresh pass at the Jansson's, but my memories of it are not fond.

            1. re: Megiac

              concurr fully with WildSwede on this one. At the Swedish-Swedish functions I've attended there was never any Jansen's left over. That said, as one who sort of married into it [Swedish food], I confess that the description didn't excite me. But over years of eatting all manner of Jansen's at various Swedish School functions, I have concluded that some Jansen's have LOTS of anchovy and some have just a bit. The versions with LOTS can be very strong tasting. All of this seems to be a family by family preference. I would guess that the mother and grandmother of your father in law made a version that was light on the anchovies while your mother in law came from one of those households that tosses in a whole can, juice and all.

              My own version is not very heavy on the anchovies. At buffets it generally vanishes.

              1. re: jenn

                I tend to chop up the 'chovies with my kitchen shears so they dissolve better into the janssons - but don't use too many of them, either. I also use all the juice from the tins as that is main flavoring for the dish.

                1. re: WildSwede

                  I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday. I wound up making the Jansen's but encountered a funny situation. I told our guest that we would be making it and she seemed to think it was a nice gesture but made an awful face when I said that I would be putting in anchovies!! I said that we didn't have to include them so we made it without!

                  Without anchovies it is simply a scalloped potato dish, so it was unexciting but went over well enough. It's funny to remember that there are picky eaters from all around the globe!!

                  1. re: Kater

                    I'm making Janssen's Temptation for a party I'm going to on Wednesday and just told everyone that I'm making potatoes with a secret ingredient. I really don't think they're going to figure out that it's anchovies (I did get the Abba ones which really are made from splat).

                    One of the women is Finnish so I told her not to tell anyone! She makes it all the time for her family with all different kinds of fish or even ground veal.

                    It is truly a wonderful flavor and it's worth chasing down the Abba anchovies.

                    1. re: Carole

                      I NEVER tell anyone what is in it when I serve it and it disappears very quickly (and everyone loves it)! I posted my Glogg recipe a few days ago under a separate post if anyone is interested. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

                      1. re: WildSwede

                        To report: My sister-in-law made the Jansson's this year. I liked it better than my mother-in-laws version (less anchoives), but still didn't love it. I polled the whole family, and nobody is a big fan of it, but they may just be outliers.

                      2. re: Carole

                        Just got back from the party (for 25 or so) where I brought Janssen's Temptation. I made a 9x13 casserole dish of it using 6 large Idaho potatoes, 3 large spanish onions (which I sauted first in some butter), a 1 1/2 cup of heavy cream, pepper, a little salt, and one can of Abba anchovies.

                        It virtually flew out. Everyone finished theirs and either got seconds or tried to. No one guessed the "secret" ingredient but one person did say it might be some kind of fish. So it was a big success. The group was made up of women from ages 40 to 92 and of various backgrounds.

                        So now I have to tell my husband that there is good news and bad news about dinner tonight (he was hoping for some leftovers) .... the good news is that they loved it ... and the bad news is that they loved it and it's all gone.

                        1. re: Carole

                          That's great! We always make a smaller "family one" so we have some for ourselves (of my mom bakes, cools and freezez it and then pulls it out whenever she is craving it). With the whipping cream (I usually do 1/2 wc and 1/2 half-n-half) I just pour it until you can see it on the top of the potatoes. It really soaks in nicely and the extra makes a little bit of sauce. YUMMY! I had it for Christmas and think I will need to make some soon since you are making me crave it!!

                            1. re: Carole

                              Yeah. We usually make it in one of those Pyrex casseroles with the lid and take the lid off and put tin foil on top and then put the lid back on. Works really well! Jeez, I just noticed my spelling and grammar up above - what was I thinking??!!

                  2. re: jenn

                    Or it could be that people are using the wrong product. According to an English language Swedish cookbook, the Swedish term ansjovis, generally translated as 'Swedish anchovies,' does not refer to a fish but rather a method of preserving herring. The herring used is actually a sprat (and is a close relative of the true anchovy). Thery are caught primarily off the coast of Bohuslan and processed at canning factories there, with each factory having their own secret recipes. A basic preparation involves rubbing the fish with a mixture of sugar and salt and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cardamom and sandalwood.

                    The Ikea product, which I have had in the past and is I believe labeled ansjovis does list sprats as the fish used.

                    No question there are good and bad, nay horrible, versions of Jansson's.

                2. re: WildSwede

                  Thank you! Will you please post the Glogg recipe?

                  Jansson's temptation would go nicely with the rest of the meal and I'm thinking that I'll do gravlax as well because that will be a good item to put out before dinner (I don't plan to serve lunch that day).

                  I'm not as sure about the rice pudding - I read about that in an article I found online but where does one get a marzipan pig? Am I supposed to make it? If it looks more like a basset hound than a pig will this offend the potential in-law?

                  1. re: Kater


                    I found some more authentic looking pigs on a German site, but they're all out of stock. It is almost eerie that I would happen upon this discussion, because the other day, I was thinking about a TV show from the 80s. Courtney Thorne-Smith was one of the stars and she played a college student of Danish descent. She wanted to share the Danish tradition of serving marzipan pig with her employers, who owned an in-home daycare. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was on that show, too. It seemed like such a random memory to pop out of the blue like that.

                3. re: Megiac

                  When you talk of a sense of obligation, are you thinking of lutefisk, as opposed to Jannsson's Temptation? The anchovy (Swedish sprats, actually) is supposed to melt into the dish, leaving only a slightly mysterious flavor, nothing particularly fishy. The dish is basically scalloped potatoes made with real cream.


                  1. re: paulj

                    Nope, I am definitely thinking of the Jansson's. My in-laws actually do not serve lutefisk at Christmas.

                    1. re: Megiac

                      When we lived in Minneapolis, the reputation of lutefisk was so bad that when the US Navy christened a new submarine the SSN Minneapolis-St. Paul the residents said that if the US Navy truly wanted to strike fear into the hearts of enemies, it would have named the new sub the SSN Lutefisk.

                      1. re: Indy 67

                        uuuh, i personally am terrified of lutefisk! i definitely would say *don't* make lutefisk! or *smell* it. . . or. . .

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          what's wrong with fish jello served with white sauce?

                          1. re: paulj

                            I had Lutefisk twice in November - once in my brother's home town of Hayward, WI and here at home at my Sons of Norway lodge in Van Nuys, CA! YUM! ;-)

                        2. re: Indy 67

                          Here's a great quote from Jeffrey Steingarten's article in the December issue of Vogue:

                          "Norwegians were very great heroes during the war: which totally makes up for the existence of lutefisk."

                          I realize we're talking about two difference countries but this quote made me laugh when I read the article (and know i'm planning to try my hand at my own gravlax)

                      2. re: paulj

                        An interesting question is whether the choice of fish in this Temptation really makes a difference in taste, and whether people like it or not. It's been a long time since I made it, and don't recall exactly what I used. I do recall making a special trip to Ballard (Seattle's historic norski neighborhood) at the time.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Unless you tell people, they really do not know that it is anchovy in there (unless you leave the pieces big or whole - I tend to stick my kitchen shears into the tin and chop away, also use the juice). I think it was only used for salting purposes when salt was a commodity.

                      1. re: paulj

                        you can also get them at IKEA!

                    2. Make sure you offer lingonberries! You can get lingonberrie preserves at IKEA.

                      We used to always make Swedish Potato Sausage from scratch. Like this... http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1938,...

                      Or Sylta! http://www.ehow.com/how_2092386_make-...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: scuzzo

                        Cloudberry jam warmed and poured over vanilla ice cream - YUM!

                      2. The Swedish side of my family seemed to embrace the baked goods more than the savory. I think of coffee rings (not as sweet as Danish) and spritz cookies, as well as Swedish meatballs (of course), hardtack/Wasa brod (my grandfather's favorite base for leftover turkey), and pickled herring. And really thin ginger snaps -- pepparkaka.

                        Since you're entertaining at Christmastime, you might look into St Lucia traditions -- that's Dec 13.

                        1. gravlax is a good suggestion & simpler than many people think to make. a great & elegant party dish in general. you could check out some of beatrice ojakangas' books from the library for soups etc. she is best known for her baking--though you're not interested in that, but she has some other great food recipes too.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: soupkitten

                            I agree about the gravlax - here's a link to the recipe I use.


                            1. re: MMRuth

                              BTW - I never did post the sauce recipe, so if you want it, let me know.

                          2. I found this blog not to long ago, there are some really good recipes here...
                            And the picture of
                            WildSwedes recommended and yummy dish Janssons temptation...

                            1. I think it is impossible to guess whether your potential in-law likes Jansson's Temptation. To me, that dish sounds delicious- in my opinion, better than gravlax, even. Whatever you choose, I am sure this person will be grateful that you took the time to consider them in meal planning.

                              1 Reply
                              1. What about the little St. Lucia buns? I have a recipe for those, made them a few years ago and I forgot about that until I saw your thread. I love traditional foods at Christmas we do sort of an International fare sometimes for Christmas Eve (mainly baked items)

                                Another fun thing would be to make your own flaovored Aquavit - with cardamon, star anise and orange or tangerine.. takes only three days.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Brilliant - I did not even think or those! Or Christmas bread - which is basically the same but made in larger sizes.

                                2. I think that gravlax on toast points (buttered) or black bread with dill mustard is a nice appetizer. We often incorporate a version of this in our Italian all-fish Christmas Eve dinner- a nod to the years we spent living in Goteborg.

                                  1. Many years ago, my grandmother and great aunts always had lutefisk, various pickled herrings, swedish meatballs, and jellied veal. My mother dropped the lutefisk, we dropped the herrings, but every year I continue to make the jellied veal.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: chowmel

                                      Jellied veal is Sylta! I love it. Herring too is essential.

                                      1. re: scuzzo

                                        My three year old niece could not get enough of the pickled herring at the Lutefisk dinner - she kept picking the largest pieces off my brother's plate and we had to get thirds, then fourths!! ;-)

                                    2. My husband's family is Swedish American and they have a smorgasbord every Christmas. Bond-Ost (Swedish cheese) on limpa (bread) is a nice appetizer. You can get both at Swedish delis. As a non-Swede I like the Swedish meatballs and rice pudding on the table, but not much else. I am just not a big fan of sausages.

                                      1. How about cardamom bread?

                                        1. Our Swedish-American traditional Christmas dinner includes:

                                          pickled herring
                                          fruit soup - made with assorted dried fruits and tapioca (not popular with my children)
                                          swedish meatballs
                                          limpa bread
                                          rice pudding served with a dollop of lingonberries

                                          I am not near Ikea which I understand sells lingonberries, but my local supermarket (Dierbergs) stocks Felix brand lingonberries in the jam section around Christmas time. Lingonberries can also be served as a condiment with your meal. They would be nice with your roast.

                                          I think it would be great to serve pickled herring with cocktails before dinner and rice pudding for dessert. My mother used to put one almond in the batch of rice pudding, and the person who had the almond in their serving got an extra little gift, such as a small box of chocolates or a little ornament. I guess the marzipan pig was lost to the mists of time in our family.

                                          1. Home cured gravadlax is part of our traditional Christmas dinner -- we have it as an hors d'oeuvre (with party rye) then rib roast, garlic potatoes, and something green.

                                            1. Sorry to arrive late at this post, but my wife of 43 years is Swedish, so here goes (for next year perhaps): Swedish meatballs (very small, perfectly round, and 1/3 of each veal, pork, and beef) probably is safest. Personally, I love Jansson's temptation, but, to turn out great, it MUST be made with those Abbas anchovis I HUMMER SAS (in lobster sauce). That's the secret. As for lutefisk, I ate it once when I was courting my future wife, but I think that Garrison Keillor's description says it best: "Mucus on a plate".

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Joebob

                                                Hee hee! I love GK!
                                                Have you ever tried their fiskeboller i hummer sas? Delicious! They also have other types but make it with some boiled carrots and potatoes, thicken the sauce, mix it all together makes for a fantastic meal!

                                                1. re: Joebob

                                                  I had a really difficult time in finding just the regular Abba anchovis (had to order online – they're no longer carried at Ikea). Do you have any idea where can you get the ones in lobster sauce in the States? They sound fantastic.

                                                  Abba also makes some fabulous herring variations (they did have these at Ikea this year).

                                                    1. re: WildSwede

                                                      I'm in the Philadelphia suburbs.

                                                      1. re: Carole

                                                        Unfortunately I am not knowledgeable in that area at all. Sorry!

                                                2. Hej,

                                                  I’ve been getting into Swedish cuisine these last few years. I’m 1/4 Swedish but was never exposed to Swedish cuisine as my mother learned to cook from her English grandmother. Last year, a third cousin from Stockholm sent me an English language Swedish cookbook about the Smorgasbord as a Christmas gift. It arrived too late for me to undertake any of the recipes and this year my preparations are running behind but I will get something together.

                                                  There are 30 dishes listed in the book as particularly appropriate for a Julbord including 5 herring preparations plus ansjovis, 3 sausages, 2 spare rib recipes, pigs feet and heads and pork in aspic, in addition to the Julskinka, and so on. I did not know that pork has traditionally been the most important meat in Swedish cuisine.

                                                  My cousin says there should always be lots of snaps (i.e., peppermint schnapps) with herring but I’m not sure if that’s a cultural thing or just my family!

                                                  I know the Julskinka is supposed to be the centerpiece and I was planning on doing one but I really don’t care for ham that much and I’m having second thoughts. I’ll have the German sausage, no problem (store bought) and I want to make the Varmland sausage and a couple of herring dishes from scratch. Wish I could get some Prinskorv but the IKEA here never carries it. And I definitely have to do the vortlimpa and dopp i grytan.

                                                  Neither Jansson’s Temptation nor meat balls are listed but I will do the former and either pickled beets or red cabbage..

                                                  What are you planning this year?

                                                  1. Bruce, I think you will surprise (not pleasantly) your Swedish quests if you give them peppermint schnapps instead of Aquavit! "Snaps" in Sweden means hard liquor, traditionally, Aquavit. Pickled herring, Bond-ost, and two kinds of sylta (ground and pressed, the latter more like a head cheese) were always on our Julbord as appetizers, and we made everything except the Bond-ost. I am working on writing a cookbook that includes the old Swedish recipes for Christmas and other times of the year.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: VirginiaGentleman

                                                      No Swedish guests - so no 'unpleasant' surprises - my whole family is as clueless about all this as I am. I guess my cousin just assumed I knew that about snaps. Thanks for the heads up.

                                                      You could always post some of your recipes here on CH!