Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Red cabbage ”rödkål” and Swedish Christmas Traditions


A  Swedish Christmas is a long-drawn-out affair, starting with Advent at the beginning of December and not ending until Hilarymass on the 13th of January, when people “dance out the Christmas” and throw out the Christmas tree.  To me Christmas has been the highlight of the year, because it’s tome of fixing and making, decorating and baking. Every day has its particulate tasks, so that everything will be ready by Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve is the biggest day of the whole festival in Sweden.  That’s when the whole country watched Christmas Cartoons on TV, then eat a huge “julbord” Christmas smörgåsbord and then Santa Claus arrives with a sack full of Christmas presents. 

In Sweden Christmas comes knocking at the door on the first Sunday in December, and some year on the last Sunday in November (like this year). This is the first Sunday of Advent, when the countdown to Christmas Eve begins.  The advent candles are brought out.  They have a very special design and hold four candles, one of which is lit on the first Sunday, two on the second and so on, right down to Christmas Ever. 

Picture from Dannesholk.se 

The first day of December also marks the beginning of the advent Calendar, which was also a German invention . At the beginning of the 20th century, a young boy called Gerhard Lang kept pestering his mother to tell him how many days were left until Christmas Eve. Eventually she hit on the idea of baking 24th buns, numbered from 1-24.  Later on, Gerhard, now a businessman, recalled his mother ingenious way of shutting him up. Using two sheets of paper, he constructed a calendar which has 24 little flaps with figures hidden behind them.  That was in the 1920s.  As a kid I always had an advent calendar of all kinds but the most enjoyable for them was the Swedish Television Advent Calendar, a special series which featured a new episode every day, based on whatever was hidden behind the “flap fo the day.”  Even today, Swedish kids will not miss their Advent Calendar on television for anything. 

Picture of Barbros adventskalender 

From First Advent to Lucia which I told you about on Monday.  There is more coming on Swedish Christmas and every post until the 24th I will post a food from the “julbord” Christmas smörgåsbord.  Also there are two more giveaways coming before the 24th stay tuned. 

Red cabbage ”rödkål”

Yields: serves 6-8 

3 ½ lbs red cabbage
2 tbsp butter
½ cup corn syrup
3 apples
3 tbsp red vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ cup red wine 

Cut the cabbage into very fine strips.  Melt the butter in a pot, add the cabbage to the pot and sauté and stir.  Add the corn syrup and stir. 

Peel, core and cut up the apples into small cubes.  Add the apples and vinegar to the pot. 

Add salt, pepper, and red wine. 

Cover and simmer the cabbage for about 1 hour. 


“Julbord” Christmas smörgåsbord Recipes: 

Cured Salmon “Gravlax” and Mustard Sauce “Hovmästarsås”
Swedish Meatballs “Köttbullar”
Saffron Buns “Lussekatter”
Pickled Red Beets

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21 Responses to “Red cabbage ”rödkål” and Swedish Christmas Traditions”

  1. 1

    Bailie Marie — December 15, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    I am printing this out right away. My fiancee is Swedish and this year me and him are doing our own little Swedish Christmas dinner before we go to my families traditional American one!! I know he will be so excited to have things like he is used to his mom cooking, and since this is only his second Christmas in America I could really use the help of some recipes!!

    • Delishhh replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:48 pm

      Bailie Marie – Oh that is awesome. So what did you make? I would love to hear all about it. And if there is anything special you are looking for just let me know. Did you enjoy reading the Swedish Christmas Series? Happy New Year!

  2. 2

    Tweets that mention Red cabbage ”rödkål” and Swedish Christmas Traditions — Delishhh -- Topsy.com — December 15, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Delishhh, Delishhh. Delishhh said: Red cabbage ”rödkål” and Swedish Christmas Traditions http://goo.gl/fb/JBk69 […]

  3. 3

    Privet and Holly — December 15, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    Although some would say
    that red cabbage is an
    acquired taste, it is one that
    means HOLIDAY in our family.
    This recipe with the apples
    and touch of butter sounds
    really yummy. LOVE that
    photo of the advent candles
    in the darling container. My
    daughter would go nuts for
    the mushrooms, as they are
    her “thing!”
    Happy Wednesday,
    xx Suzanne

    • Delishhh replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

      Suzanne – oh i love putting my advent candles together. The best part if finding going outside and getting some moss and then putting in my mushrooms 🙂 The funny thing is that i only have a few left. When my dog was a puppy he loved them too and ate them 🙂 So what else is a must on your Christmas table menu. I am always so curious. Happy New Year!

  4. 4

    Maddie — December 15, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

    I’m loving this window into the Swedish holidays! Unfortunately, I don’t know how long my family would last over there—we keep our tree well into January, and embarrassingly, sometimes that has crept into February too! (That advent calendar is kicking my advent calendar’s butt, too. So cute!)

    • Delishhh replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

      Maddie – I am so glad that you enjoyed my series. I was just glad to have it all written down now, so i can direct people here instead of all the questions all the time 🙂 Unfortunatly i didn’t have an advent calendar 🙂 I say as long as your tree is not making a mess keep it as long as you can 🙂

  5. 5

    rebecca — December 15, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

    I must buy cabbage tomorrow to try this recipe. I’m sure it’s similar to the red cabbage served at our german restaurant, which i love. Thanks for sharing your recipe and also the history of the advent calendar; that was new to me.

    • Delishhh replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

      Rebecca, so nice to see you here. So how did the red cabbage turn out. Was it like your German restaurant? For the the cabbage always tastes better the next day. Hope you had a great holiday. Did you enjoy all the Swedish Christmas traditions series?

  6. 6

    Barbara @moderncomfortfood — December 16, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

    What a wonderful post, Ewa, and thank you for opening our eyes to the Swedish approach to the holiday season. And I love your recipe, which is new to me. The bright colors, healthy ingredients, and combination of sweet/sour/wine flavors must be out of this world!

    • Delishhh replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

      Barbara, so nice to see you here. I hope you had a great holiday. I made enough cabbage to keep me busy for the rest of December. I love it. It is sweet/sour so it fits with so many things. I even had it for dinner today with ribs 🙂 I hope you enjoyed reading all the Swedish Christmas Traditions. I was so happy to finally write it down. Happy New Year!

  7. 7

    Piper — December 17, 2010 @ 6:02 am

    I always love reading about traditions in other countries. Such a great peek into the Swedish holidays – what fun! Looking forward to some more yummy recipes.

    • Delishhh replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

      Piper – Oh i am so glad that you enjoyed my series of Swedish Christmas Celebrations. I always get questions and now i am so glad i have gotten this down on paper. How was your holiday? I was just at your store, which i love, and found the greatest stuff. I am getting the EAT table linen and napkins LOVE THEM. Happy New Year!

  8. 8

    Carrie — December 20, 2010 @ 10:26 am

    One of my friends has a strong Swedish background and she’s been trying to retain her roots for her whole life. She’s celebrated St. Lucia every year and now she’s in Swedish classes at the UW. I should point her to your blog, not sure why I hadn’t earlier!

    • Delishhh replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

      Carrie – oh yeah please do, if she ever needs to practise her Swedish tell her to contact me 🙂 How was your holidays?

  9. 9

    Swedish Christmas Glögg (Sweet Christmas Wine) — Delishhh — December 23, 2010 @ 9:37 am

    […] Red cabbage ”rödkål” and Swedish Christmas Traditions […]

  10. 10

    Roasted Beet Salad — Delishhh — February 15, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

    […] Red Beets Swedish Meatballs Red Cabbage Cured […]

  11. 11

    moji — December 12, 2013 @ 4:09 am

    can i substitute corn syrup for something similiar ? regular syrup perhaps ?

    • Delishhh replied: — December 28th, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

      Moji – Yes you can substitute the corn syrup with honey if you want or even some brown sugar. I often use honey instead.

  12. 12

    Melinda — December 13, 2013 @ 7:41 am

    @moji you can substitute another sweetener for the corn syrup, however I wouldn’t use maple syrup as it would change the entire flavor of the dish. Perhaps agave or even regular sugar or brown sugar…adjusting the amount of liquid as necessary. God Jul!

  13. 13

    “Oh, Jennifer . . . just what I’ve always wanted . . .” – Christmas | Real Proper — September 29, 2014 @ 10:22 am

    […] Clarissa says her cabbage dish is Swedish, calling it “kål mit rödkål,” [and indeed, it does look like rödkål is a Christmas tradition in Scandinavia.] […]

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