Bob from the Nature Travels team gives some suggestions to bring a bit of Sweden to your Christmas this year…
Every year around this time, at least in the years when we’re not planning to be in Sweden for Christmas, Sofia and I make our annual pilgrimage to IKEA to raid the Swedish food section and stock up on some of our favourites for the festive season.
Just as there’s an awful lot more to Swedish design and culture than IKEA furniture, so there’s also an awful lot more to Swedish cuisine and culinary traditions than you will find in the IKEA food section.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking to bring a little bit of Swedish Christmas into your home, it’s well worth trying out some of the delights on offer next time you visit.
Some years ago, IKEA moved from stocking the “real thing” (the brands you would find in a Swedish supermarket) to own-brand versions of most of the foods and drinks. In a few cases, these are definitely not as good as the originals, but others aren’t bad at all.
So here are our suggestions for some Swedish Christmas food and drink to put in your blue and yellow shopping bag next time you’re there:
Swedish Christmas Food #1: Pepperkakor
There’s nothing more Swedish (except possibly the old cassette copy of ABBA Gold that you almost certainly still have in a box in your attic somewhere) than “Pepparkakor” or “pepper cookies”, which IKEA calls “ginger thins”.
Beautiful, light, crunchy, fragrant little things, ideal to have for your morning “fika” (now there’s another bit of Swedish culture to learn about – see our blog article about Swedish fika).
If you’re feeling domestic, you can also buy your own pepper cookie dough at IKEA to roll out, cut into your own shapes and bake in the oven.
We rate the IKEA ones pretty highly – they’re a good approximation of what you’d find in any Swedish home at this time of year!
Sweden Christmas Food #2: Sill
It certainly doesn’t need to be Christmas for Swedes to be eating “sill”, or pickled herring, but just as at Easter, Midsummer, or when there’s any other excuse, “sill” is utterly wonderful.
The IKEA versions are not as good as the herring from the “classic” brand ABBA (no relation to the band), but they’re not bad, and better than some of the own-brand products you might find in Swedish supermarkets.
There’s quite a variety of flavours to choose from, so experiment and find your favourite. Mine are “Senap” (mustard) and the original “Inlagd” (plain). IKEA also stocks a Dill flavour.
Go to Sweden and you’ll find a lot more to choose from, including Skärgårdssill (archipelago herring), with cod roe caviar, and “Tomatsill” (tomato herring), which I have to say I’m not too keen on. But the IKEA range will be enough to get you started.
Eat them with “Knäckbröd” (“crispbread”, which luckily you’ll also find in IKEA!) and hard-boiled eggs or, if it’s the right time of year, new potatoes and a creme-fraiche and dill sauce.
Swedish Christmas Food #3: Dammsugare
“Dammsugare” means, literally, “dustsucker”, and is a reference to the resemblance these delicious marzipan treats have to those 1950s cylindrical vacuum cleaners.
As with pickled herring, it doesn’t necessarily need to be Christmas to tuck into a pack of “dammsugare”, but it’s a great excuse.
Just don’t make the mistake of buying just one packet – you’ll have finished them before you leave the car pack. I recommend buying in bulk! You can always hide them from yourself by secreting them at the back of the freezer. And when it’s time to defrost them, if you’re really impatient, they’re actually still quite nice half-frozen!
Swedish Christmas Food #4: Julmust
“Julmust” or “Christmas must” (“must” means “unfermented juice”, but there’s no juice in Julmust), is a fizzy soft drink a little like Vimto or Dandelion and Burdock, and is the kind of thing you won’t want to drink too much of, but a bottle or two feels quite Christmassy.
There’s also “Påskmust” (“Easter must”) which starts to appear in the shops in the run-up to Easter. But this is pure marketing – Påskmust is a relatively recent “tradition” and is identical to “Julmust”!
Swedish Christmas Food #5: Glögg
The wonderfully onomatopoeic “glögg” seems like a very good word to describe a Christmas drink.
Glögg is similar to any mulled wine-style drink and comes in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.
The correct Swedish way to enjoy glögg is to serve it hot in a small glass, with a plate of almonds and raisins by the side which you can add to taste.
God Jul och Gott Nytt År! (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!)
from the Nature Travels Team