Norwegian Christmas/winter treats

Every country has its traditions when it comes to what people usually serve for Christmas dinners. But nowadays there’s also a lot of traditions of products that appear on shops’ shelves sometime in November and vanish in January. Or at least that’s the case in Norway. You obviously find similar ones all year long, but during the winter season they might have this extra something that makes them more special. Even if sometimes it’s only the box they are sold in.
After moving to Norway, it was a pleasant surprise to discover those of the Norse. I will mention them in random order, but will have to start with Julebrus, since it’s like a cult for some good friends here. It is a Reddish/Brownish soda, with a tad of ginger/vanilla flavor, but the chemical taste of soda altogether. Very tasty, but I wouldn’t exaggerate with it.
Then you have these Seven Sorts which refers to the seven traditional Norwegian Christmas cakes and cookies. I will make a list of those I have heard of (seems that there are more than 7 anyway), without commenting on their taste since I haven’t personally tried them all of Pepperkake (gingerbread sometimes flavored with black pepper), Fattigmann (Poor Man), Ingefærnøtter (Ginger nuts), Tykklefser (read here about Lefse), Krumkaker (Curved Cake), etc. As I said, most products can be found all year long, but just adding the word Jule in front of their name and packing them in a Christmas-spirit bag or box adds something extra. For example Christmas marzipan is often shaped as a pig or just dressed in chocolate and is sold as Julemarsipan, Mixed nuts become Julenøtter, while the usual mix of chocolates become all of a sudden Jule miks. Risgrøt – Norwegian rice porridge – becomes very important this time of the year. Especially when served with Gløgg, a wine that Norwegians used to drink at Christmas time and now it turned into a syrup that you can eventually mix with wine or spirit. It is made with cloves and cinnamon, and served warm with a helping of almonds and raisins. You can even be invited to a Grøt&Gløgg party where a combination of the last two mentioned items is served.
Since beer drinking is at high rank in this land, the breweries can’t miss their chance to enhance the products this time of the year. Hence the shelves will provide you with a wide selection of Christmas beer (JuleØl), usually darker and stronger than the regular one of the same brand.

As for ‘normal’ food, I learned is that there are two main Christmas courses, depending from which side of Norway you come from – Pinnekjøtt for West/North and Ribbe (svineribbe) for th rest. None of them is vegetarian friendly – Pinnekjøtt is made of lamb and it involves a special meat preparation process (read here), while ribbe (ribs) is coming from the mighty pig and it involves some roasting to end up with a crunchy yummee skin (found some info here). As side dishes for the two of them, there’s a lot of sweet and/or sour redcabbage (rødkål) involved. If none of these two appeal to you, there’s probably other goodies to pick from while at a Christmas dinner in Norway: Julepølse (Pork sausage made with powdered ginger, cloves, mustard seeds and nutmeg which can be served steamed or roasted) or medisterkaker – (large meatballs made by mixing pork meat and pork fat).
After (or together) with all this fat, your stomach might really use few sips of Akevitt (Akvavit or whatever spelling you might find for it). You can use any of the excuses to ingest some of that 40% of alcohol spirit – makes the food taste better, slide better down the esophagus, you forget how much you ate, etc.
If you’re really after something not cooked nor distilled, you can grab one of the yumme clementines that Norwegians tend to stack a lot for this time of the year. And that is a really good habit, especially since you can find all sorts of these sweet and sour sources of vitamins.
Maybe it’s worth mentioning in the end, even if not a traditional Christmas food as in many places it might be an all year round food, the lutefisk. I haven’t tried it yet and do not intend to do so in the near future. But just so you know you might get it served and not to look surprised when you see THAT brought on your plate.
God Jul!


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