Julemad means Danish Christmas food.
In Denmark you can add the word jule to everything and it becomes an instant Christmas creation. We hunt down juletræer – Christmas trees. Santa is the Christmas man – Julemanden. Much energy and effort go into creating julehygge – those cozy Christmassy moments with family and friends. You can buy julekaffe, Christmas coffee. Julethe, Christmas tea. Julekugler, Christmas balls. Julegaver, Christmas gifts.
But what to eat? That is called julemad. Hang on – wait! Don’t get mad! Mad means food in Danish. And it isn’t pronounced how you are probably thinking it might. It’s more like… “mehl.” But you don’t really pronounce the L. You kind of swallow it. What? I know. It’s complicated. Danish is like that. Don’t worry. Just enjoy. There is so much to enjoy about Danish Christmas. And the julemad, Danish Christmas food, they serve with it this time of year is delicious.
Being a small country, Danes are protective of their traditions. And for good reason. They are delightful. And tasty. Seriously. If you don’t think so, then you are eating at the wrong place. Or have the wrong chef. Or the wrong recipe. Ask people who know. People who love it. Love the traditions. Christmastime alone gives evidence of the very strong food culture here in Denmark.
What if you aren’t Danish? But you live in Denmark. What then? If you’re like me, you sample and try and taste and sip. Then some of us blog about it, sharing it with others. Luckily, there are lots of great writers, story tellers and photographers living around Copenhagen. I rounded up a group of remarkable foreign bloggers and I asked them all to share their favorite Danish julefood. Dansk julemad. Please enjoy the following anecdotes, recipes and images and be sure to check out their blogs as well! Without further ado, let me introduce you.
Caroline Hadamitzky | Love, Live, Travel
Caroline is a Canadian travel writer living in Copenhagen and starts our tour of Danish julefoods with a stop at Tivoli Gardens. All kinds of fun and charm at Christmas, Caroline shares her favorite tastes to try this time of year at Tivoli.
TASTES OF CHRISTMAS AT TIVOLI GARDENS
My favourite taste of the Danish festive season isn’t just about the food itself, but the experience. For me, the place to sample all of the delicious local goodies during the holidays is Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. Just before Christmas, Tivoli transforms into a winter wonderland, with a Nordic-style Christmas Market complete with every kind of festive treat. The smell of brændte mandler (hot caramelized almonds) wafts through the air, you can nibble on æbleskiver (fried dough balls with jam and cream), and you can warm up with a hot gløgg (mulled wine). You can even keep the souvenir mug! My favourite treat though is Tivoli’s version on the classic flæskesteg, a traditional sandwich made with thick slices of juicy pork, including the crunchy, salty crackling. Their modern take nestles the pork inside a rosemary focaccia roll and tops it with homemade relish and a tangy, creamy mustard dressing, along with the traditional red cabbage. To me, it has the taste of the holidays.
Melanie Haynes | Dejlige Days
Melanie has lived in Denmark for over eight years, making the transition from England with an interlude in Berlin. She knows well the ups and downs of relocating. Need help with your own move to the happiest place on earth? Melanie can help. Today, she is comforting us and helping us settle into Christmas with a little Danish doughnut. Homemade! When done right – these littles puffs are delightful.
Delightful Danish doughnuts | ÆBLeskivers
This time of year in Copenhagen you can’t go anywhere without spotting that Danish yuletide staple of æbleskiver, delicious little apple filled (sort of) doughnuts. But did you know they are pretty easy to make at home once you get your hands on a cast iron æbleskiver pan?
I use this Trine Hahnemann recipe and I am told that it is a little fancier than other recipes but it is very easy to make the batter. As it uses yeast there is a little waiting time before you can fire up the pan and get started. But once you do they are super quick and easy to make. A knitting needle is the best way to turn them to ensure they are perfect rounds.
Once they are made, dust with icing sugar and serve warm with a little dollop of jam and a glass of gløgg, the Danish version of mulled wine. Perfect! Glædelig Jul!
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 3½ cups lukewarm milk
- 3 cups plain wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons ground cardamom
- 2 whole vanilla pods
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 stick of butter for frying
1. In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk. In another mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and cardamom.
2. Slit the vanilla pods lengthways, scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife and add them to the dry ingredients along with the sugar.
3. Whisk the egg yolks into the milk mixture, using an electric mixer if possible. Add the dry ingredients and beat to make a dough.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold them into the dough.
5. Leave the batter to stand for 40 minutes.
6. Heat the æbleskiver pan over medium heat. Put a little butter in each indentation, and when it has melted pour in some of the batter. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden underneath, then turn the doughnuts over so they form a ball.
7. Continue frying for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining batter.
8. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve the æbleskiver in a serving dish. Serve icing sugar and raspberry jam on the side.
Rochelle Coote | Danish Exchange
Hailing from South Africa, Rochelle has embraced the idea that Christmas in this hemisphere can be cozy and delicious despite the cold. Rochelle is a brilliant photographer and you can check out her portrait work here. She loves cooking and shares the iconic Danish risengrød. In Denmark, porridge as a meal is elevated to cult-like status. Learn how to make yours along with a quirky cooking technique passed on from the Danes.
RISengrød | warm rice porridge with cinnamon, sugar and butter
According to Danish folklore elves live in the lofts of every house and in the run up to Christmas, unless you give them risengrød, a cinnamon rice pudding, they will get up to mischief in and around the house. To keep them sweet you need to make them rice pudding on the 30th of November before the countdown to Christmas starts. Leave it out at night, include an elves beer, nisseøl, and they might just leave you a gift such as an advent calendar or the like.
- 120 g or 100 ml of arborio rice, paella rice or grød rice
- 200 ml boiling water
- a pinch of sea salt
- 600 to 700 ml milk [ I use 700ml as I prefer mine milky and velvety]
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- a knob of butter per serving
- brown sugar and grounded cinnamon to taste
Place your boiling water in a thick based saucepan and add your rice and pinch of salt.
Stir whilst boiling for approximately 2 minutes or until the water has reduced by half. This helps that the milk doesn’t burn to the pan.
Add your cinnamon stick and milk and bring to the boil all the while stirring with a flat bottomed wooden spoon.
When boiling turn down to a simmer and place the lid on and leave it to simmer for about 35 to 40 minutes. Stir every so often to avoid burning.
Remove your cinnamon stick, serve and adorn with a knob of butter, grounded cinnamon and preferably brown sugar to taste.
Makes approximately 4 pudding servings or 2 main course servings.
I was recently told by some lovely Danish ladies that I could bring my milk to the boil and then wrap my pot with lid in newspaper and put it underneath my duvet. Leave it there for a minimum of an hour and a half and have ready made rice pudding. This way apparently you don’t have to watch the pot or stir. And it carries on cooking under the duvet!
Naina Puthran | Spice in the City
Naina is from Mumbai, India and brings a colorful and fresh approach to cooking, which she loves. Check out her blog for easy and gorgeous recipes that she wants every busy family to be able to make. I love that she is teaching her daughter traditional Indian AND traditional Danish recipes. HOW you make and serve your rice pudding at Christmas in Denmark divides opinion – you either have risengrød to start your meal OR you serve Risalamande for dessert. Try Naina’s recipe for the sweetened creamy dessert!
Christmas dessert | Risalamande | Rice pudding with warm cherry sauce
I’ve lived in Copenhagen for 9 years now and I must say the magic of Christmas in this wonderful city never gets old! The gorgeous Scandinavian decorations, never garish, always tasteful and the hyggelig candlelight are enough for me to slow down and ease into Yuletide.
- 1 cup short-grained white rice (risengrød or arborio work best)
- ½ cup water
- 1 liter milk
- 1 whole vanilla pod
- 150 grams peeled almonds
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 500 ml heavy cream
- Cherry sauce to serve
- In a saucepan add the rice and the water. Boil it for about 2 minutes.
- Add the milk to the pan and let it come to a boil while stirring.
- Add the vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod. Also add the empty vanilla pod to the pudding as it adds a lot of flavor.
- Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook the pudding on low heat.
- The rice has a tendency to stick to the sauce pan, so remember to stir regularly.
- Let it simmer for about 35 minutes.
- Remove the vanilla beans. Let the porridge cool completely in the fridge before you proceed to make the Risalamande.
- You can also make this porridge the previous day.
- Coarsely chop the peeled almonds. If you like, you can toast the chopped almonds or add them directly to the porridge.
- Mix the almonds and the sugar with the cooled porridge.
- In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks.
- Gently mix the whipped cream with the rice porridge.
- The Risalamande is ready. Refrigerate till you are ready to serve.
- Serve with warm Cherry Sauce.
- Note: If you want to play the traditional Danish almond game (mandelgave), add a whole peeled almond to the Risalamande; whoever gets the whole almond wins a small prize.
Laura Berg | The Copenhagen Tales
Before I even moved to Denmark, I followed Laura’s Blog – The Copenhagen Tales. A German living here, I loved her clean, concise posts and gorgeous pictures. Here, Laura takes us to the Danish Julefrokost – or Christmas lunch – which includes a litany of dishes and courses. But she’s shared her favorite – curried herring – which believes doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Make your own karrysild this year. Go on! It’s good!
Classic julefrokost dish | karrysild | curried herring
When it comes to Danish Christmas food, herring is somewhat inevitable. No classic Danish julefrokost (Christmas lunch) would be complete without different types of sild (herring) – pickled, fried, or in a creamy sauce. Among Danes and expats alike, opinions are divided: some despise herring, while others, me included, absolutely love it and look forward to the couple of times a year we get to enjoy it. My personal favorite is karrysild, pickled herring in a creamy curry sauce, served on a slice of rye bread and often topped with an egg. Here’s my Danish grandma-in-law’s family recipe for traditional karrysild:
- 1 glass pickled herring (3 fillets)
- 150g good mayonnaise
- 200g Crème fraiche
- 1 red onion, cubed
- 2 small red apples, cubed
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tbsp chives, chopped
- 1 tbsp dill, chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Drain the herring and cut into bite-size chunks. Blend mayonnaise, crème fraiche, curry powder and spices. Add apples, onions, and chives and mix well. Add the herring and mix to coat. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Serve on a slice of rye bread.
Alex Berger | Virtual Wayfarer
Because we are talking Christmas lunches, we have to discuss what Danes drink along with the karrysild and other Danish dishes. And more often than not, that is Snaps. Or Akvavit? But which is which? Are they different? Alex, a fellow American and traveler who loves sharing ways to integrate and connect with the Danes, is a great sport and explains here for us. The one caveat being – that he doesn’t really LOVE either! Thanks for educating us Alex. As he explained, “it wouldn’t be a Danish julefrokost without it!”
SNaps or akvavit | what to toast with at Danish Christmas lunch
The difference between akvavit and snaps is a confusing one, further confounded by the changing definitions from country to country and the fact that many use the two terms interchangeably. But, for Denmark akvavit (aquavit elsewhere) is a distinct, strong, alcohol most similar in profile to Vodka, but predominantly flavored with caraway, dill seeds and coriander. Danish snaps (schnapps elsewhere), on the other hand, is made by taking akvavit and then aging it and further flavoring it with ingredients like walnut, horse radish, lemon or chili.
As a result, while akvavit tends to come from a short list of Nordic distilleries, you have a wide variety of snaps types, strengths and flavor profiles with many Danes making their own. Akvavit has a minimum required alcohol % over 37, though most are closer to 45%. Snaps varies but usually falls in the 30-45% range. One thing’s for certain, snaps is a fundamental part of the Danish julefrokost tradition and a must try. Skål!
Erin Gustafson | Oregon Girl Around the World
Make Mine mulled wine | Gløgg | Add spices, raisins and almonds
You didn’t think I was going to let you get away without sharing my favorite did you? I love the Danish Christmas Dinner, but that is only one night a year. It isn’t Danish Christmas season to me unless there is a glass or two of gløgg. Warm and spicy – it’s julehygge in a mug to me. And I like gløgg outside in the cold, wandering around a julemarked or warming up after traipsing through the fields to find your perfect fir juletræ. This recipe comes from Trine Hahnemann – a Danish Christmas ambassador herself. Her version is not so sweet, which I prefer.
GLØGG EXTRACT INGREDIENTS:
- 200ml blackcurrant juice
- 300ml water
- 75ml lemon juice
- 20 cloves
- 10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 200g sugar
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Cover. Bring to a boil, stirring to help sugar dissolve. Simmer for 30 minutes, drain through a sieve. Discard spices, store in sterilized bottles. Seal at once. Stored in a dark, cool place, this keeps for months.
But where’s the wine? Ha. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
TO MAKE YOUR GLØGG:
Take 1 – 750ml bottle red wine and add 250ml Gløgg extract. Combine and heat for 10 minutes. Add 150g blanched almonds coarsely chopped and 150g raisins. Serve with teaspoons to enjoy the nuts. (I personally skip the raisins, you may find them soggy and plump sitting at the bottom of my glass!)
I hope you might be inspired to make or try some of these lovely Danish Christmas treats this year. I will raise a mug to you! Skål! Cheers. And Glædelig Jul! Merry Christmas. With love from Copenhagen, Erin
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