real food from scratch

Scandinavian Christmas Dishes

Submitted by Anneli Karniala

One thing is for sure. When there are only about 6 hours or less of daylight during December, depending on location, Scandinavians know how to light up the darkness. It is with beautifully set tables, candlelight along with lamplights, and delicious, satisfying food.  

There are many food traditions in Scandinavia around Christmastime, depending upon country, and whether referring to a company luncheon, a December dinner for guests, Little Christmas Eve dinner (Dec.23), Christmas Eve dinner (the 24th), Christmas Day luncheon (the 25th, actually another dinner!), or 2nd Christmas Day dinner (the 26th). 

As you can see, there's a lot of eating.  And drinking. Of wine, beer, vodka, glögg, eggnog, Akvavit, snaps, aperitifs, etc.  Not much is low-cal!

On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, for example, there would be several courses.  Typically, the first course would include fish (smoked, or pickled, or salt-and-sugar cured), sausage, head cheese (not a cheese).  Then the main course would perhaps have one or two of the following: roast duck, roast pork, beef roast, turkey, ham along with various condiments and sauces. The accompanying dishes could be any of the following: braised red cabbage, creamed kale, caremelized potatoes, potato casserole, rutabaga casserole, beet salad, green beans, peas. Various breads or rolls are also served.

The dessert could be a rice dessert with almonds, stewed dried fruits with whipped cream, ice cream.  And all is followed by coffee/tea and an array of home-baked cakes, cookies, and maybe even homemade marcipan candies.  Afterwards, it's either a nap in a recliner or better yet, a good brisk walk outside in the fresh air!

Here are 2 recipes that are often prepared at Christmas in Denmark.

LEVERPOSTEJ (Danish Liver Paté)

   Preheat oven to 360F.

600 grams pork liver

170 grams onions

90 grams mushrooms

240 grams bacon

250 grams butter (melted)

200 milliliters heavy cream

75 grams white rice flour

2 eggs

30 grams anchovy paste

1/2 teaspoon beef boullion paste

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon paprika

2-3 extra strips of uncooked bacon for the top

1) In a blender, chop the bacon, mushrooms, and onions until very fine.

2) Melt butter, cool, add the cream. Set aside.

3) Add liver to the blender and run it until well blended and fine. Then add the butter and cream mixture.

4) Add the beef bouillon paste, anchovy paste, and rice flour.

5) Pour into a baking dish, like a loaf pan, and lay a few uncooked bacon slices on top. 

6) Bake at 360F oven for approximately 1 hour, in a water bath.


Serving:  Warm, the Leverpostej is typically spread on either thin, dark rye bread slices or on Italian bread.  And can be topped with a slice of pickled beet, and topped with crispy onion bits.  When served cold (for any meal or snack), it is spread on the breads just named, perhaps a slice of beef aspic on top and then covered with a pickled beet slice and crispy onion bits.

GRAVLAX   (salt-and-sugar-cured salmon)

serves 10-12

*Note:  needs to be weighted and refrigerated for 12-18 hours after preparation.

3 red onions, peeled and quartered

1 cup kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups coarsely-chopped fresh dill (both stems and leaves) plus 1 cup minced fresh dill

1 teaspoon pepper

1 (3-4 pound) whole side of salmon, skinned, excess fat and brown flesh removed, and pinbones removed.  (Do not get a piece larger than the 3-4 pounds)

1) Process onions in food processor until becomes liquid, about 4 minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer to get 2 cups liquid. Then stir in salt and sugar, keep stirring until dissolved.  Stir in coarsely-chopped dill and the pepper.

2) Place salmon diagonally in a 2-gallon zipper-lock bag and add the onion mix.  Seal the bag, remove excess air, and lay skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet.  Place a second rimmed baking sheet on top, and set about 7 pounds of weight on top (for example heavy cans or bricks).  Refrigerate the weighted fish until very firm, about 12-18 hours.

3) Remove salmon from the bag, pat dry with paper towels, removing all the dill stems.  Before serving sprinkle minced dill over the top and sides of the salmon and slice very thin on the bias.  

    Serving:  Serve sliced on the bias on buttered thin dark rye bread and mustard, or a favorite condiment.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Dates and Balsamic Vinegar


10 minutes prep time plus about 30 mins cook time. Try this basic recipe then innovate with added honey, for example.


Brussels Sprouts


Garlic cloves

Balsamic vinegar

Olive Oil


Reduce a cup of balsamic vinegar over medium low heat to about half a cup. Vinegar should begin to be syrupy. Refrigerate if you are cooking ahead.

By all means start by turning on the oven to 350 and start the balsamic reduction.

At the same time trim and cut in half the sprouts, toss in a bowl with half a cup of olive oil.

Smash a few cloves of garlic into splinters, sauté, add to sprouts

Cut a handful of dates into slivers. Or figs. Or dried plums...


You won’t need to coat the baking tray, roast brussels and garlic for about 30 mins at 350, or for crispy, start at 400 for 10 minutes, and then cook 30 mins at 350.

Combine cooked sprouts, garlic, dates and as much of the balsamic as you like, serve hot or cold.