In the height of summer, when blossoms are fragrant and lakes shimmer in the sun, Swedes everywhere check their diaries and decide when they will meet up for Julbord (Christmas Table)! I truly love this Scandinavian feast and embrace it! Rather than a frenzied few days of turkey, stuffing and leftovers, Swedes arrange a family weekend early in December before shops, traffic et al is manic. Given the numbers involved, these days most book hotels (yes, in July) for this traditional celebration – it is big business and venues get booked solid.
Always up for a challenge and given my enjoyment of cooking, we decided to bring the Christmas Table back home where it had all began. Bosse fondly recalls his grandmother having the pig delivered, butchering it on the kitchen table and using every speck of it. I didn’t quitecarry this off however we did buy half a Linderöd Pig (on Slow Food Ark of Taste) and butchered it together on the patio table – our kitchen is too petite! In minus 3 degrees, to sounds of its wild cousins squabbling in the forest, we beavered away for a couple of hours and were delighted with our endeavours! We cured the ham for a honey roast, a key part of our festive menu.
Many of our vegetables were from our wee croft – Bosse had harvested Åkero apples, herbs, onions and carrots. We also had a successful harvest of Highland Burgunday Red, Shetland Black and Arran Victory potatoes. Scottish heritage potatoes have always had a good reputation in Scandinavia and Andrew Skea of The Potato House http://potatohouse.co.uk has a fine selection of heritage seeds he sells in Scotland and also supplies Sweden! Many of the crops we have are on Slow Food Ark of Taste – not always easy to source but a pleasure to grow. Follow the seasons, appreciate the varieties – you will not be out of pocket and you will be kinder to our planet.
Other non-negotiable dishes for Julbord are: a selection of cured herring, meatballs with lingonberry, Janssons Temptation, red and brown cabbage and boiled eggs with caviare. We also had delicious hot smoked bear, cold smoked Christmas sausage, smoked seafood and salad. We are fortunate to have a farm shop smokery nearby. For dessert it has to be pepparkakor, Ris à la Malta, apple cake, saffron buns and godis(sweeties). A nod to Scotland, by popular request, is an immense trifle perched on the sideboard.
With everything prepared we await our 23 relatives to arrive, some by minibus, some staying overnight. Shedding shoes – for this is Sweden – hugging, they head for the glögg, another lovely custom. Many hours later after songs, schnapps and happy tales from past and present, folk drift home, happy to have met up with cousins and aunts that can live up to 300miles away. Nothing beats big tables with extended families eating local food – I think Slow Food’s Carlo Petrini would approve!
My Swedish family, who have so warmly adopted me, are looking forward to next time, as are we – and don’t forget the birds at this time of year as they need fed too!