Danish chef and cookbook author Trine Hahnemann shares her family’s menu for the most festive meal of the season.
I go a little crazy at Christmas; I know my family would agree. But you see, in Denmark, where we live, and in the other Nordic countries of Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, Christmas is celebrated for the entire month of December. It’s a very special time of year, with lots of baking, house decorating, Advent Sunday afternoon brunches, tea and cocktail parties (the best ones held outside in the snow), and countless other festive, food-and-drink-centric gatherings with family and friends. I love every minute of it.
The high point is always Christmas Eve, when we eat an elaborate feast late in the day. This event is full of family traditions, and the menu changes from house to house, region to region. For us, there are a few constants, including hot gløgg (gleug; spiced wine punch), cool cured salmon, roast pork with crispy crackling, spiced red cabbage, caramel potatoes, and creamy homemade gravy.
After dinner, we light our Christmas tree with real candles and dance around it, holding hands and singing. Then, a spirited dance through the house, followed by gifts and relaxing by the tree, enjoying dessert (cream-topped applesauce trifles are a favorite), chocolates, cookies, Cognac, coffee, and one another’s company.
It’s a magical evening, made even more idyllic when it snows, turning the world white and silent while we snuggle inside, enjoying the hygge (hoo-guh; coziness), good food and drink, and our loved ones. I hope these recipes—a window of sorts into our Christmas—inspire you to bring a little hygge into your own home this year.