Traditional Norwegian Pork Belly. Photo: Mari Svenningsen

Norwegian Christmas Specialities

Norway’s vast array of traditional dishes and local specialities really comes into its own at Christmas time. Here are a few of the highlights.

Ribbe: Roasted pork belly, usually served with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, Christmas sausages, meat balls and gravy. A clear favourite, eaten by six out of ten households, mainly in Central and Eastern Norway.
 

Pinnekjøtt, the Norwegians' second most popular choice on Christmas Eve. Photo: Mari Svenningsen
 Pinnekjøtt: Salted and dried, sometimes smoked, lamb ribs. These were traditionally steamed over birch branches – hence the name. Served with sausages, boiled potatoes and mashed swede. Norwegians' second most popular choice on Christmas Eve, particularly among people on the West Coast.
 
Lutefisk: Stockfish that has been lying in water and lye (a way to preserve fish in the old days), then cooked in the oven. Typical accompaniments are potatoes, bacon, mushy peas and mustard. Although the wobbly fish is traditionally the centre of Christmastime feasts, the season is getting longer as lutefisk enjoys greater popularity.
 
Kalkun: Turkey is also eaten by some for Christmas in Norway, as in so many other countries. With or without stuffing. Usually served with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, apples, grapes or prunes, or even Waldorfsalad; and Port wine sauce.

Torsk: There is also a long tradition for eating fresh cod on Christmas Eve, particularly along the coast in Southern Norway. The fish is simply boiled in salted water, and served with boiled potatoes, root vegetables and red wine sauce.
 
Juleskinke: Not necessarily eaten on Christmas Eve itself, but a Christmas ham is likely to feature at one stage or another on the table during the Christmas season. Can be eaten cold, or roasted in the oven. 

Svinestek: Some Norwegians also like to eat pork steak in the festive season. Usually served with red cabbage, boiled potatoes and gravy. Additional vegetables can include broccoli and carrots.

On the side
Julepølse: The Christmas sausage is a pork sausage, sometimes made with cloves, mustard seeds, ginger and/or nutmeg, often served as an accompaniment with ribbe.
 
Medisterkaker: Fried minced pork meat and flour patties. Another popular accompaniment for ribbe. The leftovers are often eaten the following day(s).
 
Kålrotstappe: Mashed swede, sually served with pinnekjøtt.

Something sweet

Try the Norwegian riskrem for dessert. Photo: Mari Svenningsen
 Småkaker: Tradition dictates that seven different kinds of Christmas buiscuits should feature on the table at Christmas, and that all should be home-baked, although today’s busy families often make do with the ready-made variety. The pepperkake (gingerbreadman) is arguably the most popular of them.

Multekrem: Dessert made of cloudberries and whipped cream.
 
Kransekake: A popular almond ring cake that shows up for all big occasions in Norway - including Christmas. The cake consists of 18 wreaths of decreasing size stacked on top of each other to form a conical pyramid. It is usually decorated with miniature Norwegian flags.
 
Riskrem: Rice porridge mixed with whipped cream and served with red sauce (berries).
 
Julemarsipan: Marzipan is a popular Christmas treat in Norway. Chocolate-coated marzipan is a favourite, but you can also buy coloured marzipan to make your own marzipan shapes at home.
 
Christmas drinks

Gløgg is the Norwegians' answer to mulled wine. Photo: Mari Svenningsen
 Aquavit: Norway's national drink. It is a potato-based spirit flavoured with herbs such as caraway seeds, anise, dill, fennel and coriander. The preferred accompaniment to Christmas food. 

Gløgg: The Norwegians' take on mulled wine, but made with a syrupy mixture as opposed to a herbal blend, with dried almonds and raisins added for taste.
 
Juleøl: Many Norwegian breweries issue special beers for Christmas. Slightly thicker than your average lager, Christmas beers often contain spices and feature a festive label.
 
Julebrus: Soda-like drink, red or gold in colour, popular with Norwegian children this time of year.

Source: Visit Norway/Opplysningskontoret for kjøtt


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