Danish Christmas dinner: Comfort food at its best
On Christmas Eve, there are a few staples you’ll find on the Danish Christmas dinner table in every Danish home. Most families will eat duck or goose, and many families may also add roasted pork loin. But, mind you, this is not just any pork loin: We like to keep the skin on to have a nice crispy pork rind crackling.
The meats are usually served with white potatoes, pickled red cabbage, caramelized small potatoes, and a black currant jelly. Some families also add sweet apples.
The main course is followed by risalamande (rice porridge) with cherry sauce. And, after the carols have been sung and the family has danced around the Christmas tree, a grand spread of chocolates and other delicious treats will be served while the family opens their Christmas presents.
Let’s take a look at each individual dish making up the Danish Christmas dinner. You will also find many recipes that will help you make the most of this season’s holiday meal.
… here’s your shopping list for a Danish Christmas dinner!
Duck or Goose
This is one of the easier items to get hold of. But, beware! Not all grocery stores carry duck and goose. So, it’s a good idea to check before you go. In the Northeast US, we’ve seen them at Safeway, Giant, and Wegman’s for around $5.50 – $6 per lbs; goose a bit more expensive than duck.
For the more socially and environmentally concerned families, look to Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or MOMs for an organic and humanely treated goose or duck. If you live in the countryside, you may be able to pick one up at a local farm. This is certainly the more expensive option. Last year we paid $80 for our 10 lbs goose at Whole Foods.
Pork Loin with Crackling
Getting your hands on a Danish-style flæskesteg with rind (skin and fat) is not an easy task in the US. We’ve never seen them sold in stores, so you have to do a bit more legwork. It’s also expensive; at least if compared to what we pay in Denmark. We recently bought two pork loins with rind at our nearby organic butcher and had to shell out $83 for 6lbs. If you decide that’s worth it, or your local butcher sells it cheaper, make sure you ask for a pork loin with rind. The cut is usually from the shoulder or the neck of the pig. Some butchers may be willing to score the skin for you. But, if not, use a utility knife and check out our tips on how to score it.
If you don’t have a local butcher, you can order a roast online. Just remember that many online sites have deadlines for when the last order can be placed, usually by mid-December. Nordic House sells roast pork in two sizes: 4.5 – 6 lbs for $35 or 10 – 12 lbs for $77. Scandinavian Butik sells 5-lbs roasts for $45 and Willy’s Products sells a 5.5 – 6lbs roast for $50.
Making caramelized potatoes is an art of the simple. The ingredients are few and easy to find, but getting those perfectly glistening potatoes takes a bit of practice. All you need are a few bags of small potatoes, butter, and sugar.
In Denmark many families use pre-peeled potatoes that are sold in a glass with liquid to preserve them. Needless to say, this decreases prep time, but if you ask us at Scandinavian Living, real potatoes are a better option. If you refuse to peel that many small potatoes, you can again turn to the online Scandinavian food stores to order pre-peeled potatoes in glass.
Red currant jelly
This small but highly important item may be the toughest one to find. It’s really what pulls all the flavors on the plate together. It’s almost like cranberry sauce, but not as tart. And, it’s a gel, so it’s a lot smoother.
You can make it yourself, but few people are willing to go through that tedious process. We know that we’re not. We recently came across some from the French brand Bonne Maman at Whole Foods. We have also been able to find it at World Market. However, if you can’t find it at stores, get it online through any of the Scandinavian food stores.
Pickled red cabbage
Pickled red cabbage is like pumpkin pie – once you have tasted the homemade kind you’ll never find yourself buying the pre-made stuff again. Easy to prepare, and easy to make in advance, you can enjoy pickled red cabbage throughout the month of December. Just try our homemade recipe.
However, if you are short on time, or the thought of shredding an entire head of cabbage is unbearable, there are luckily many regular grocery stores that carry pickled red cabbage. Try to look in the specialty food isle or the international isle. We have also found it at places like World Market, and of course at IKEA. If you can’t find it locally, buy it online.
Rice cream with cherry sauce
To get the traditional dessert rice cream with cherry sauce on the Danish Christmas dinner table, it’s really not necessary to order anything online. Just head to the store.
In Denmark we have special rice for this dish—or at least we thought so. What in Denmark sells as porridge rice (grødris), is really just arborio rice—also better known as risotto rice. It’s sold nearly everywhere and is easy to get your hands on.
For the sauce, all you need is a few cans of cherry, a bottle of cherry juice, vanilla beans, starch, some port or cherry wine. Then follow our recipe to pull it all together.
If you are a bit worried about using rice meant for risotto, and you don’t fancy yourself a good cook, you can of course opt to order your ‘grødris’ and pre-made cherry sauce online. Nearly all of the Scandinavian stores sell it. For the cherry sauce you’ll have to pay a premium price though.