The Smörgåsbord is a 300-year-old tradition in Sweden. It’s a meal served buffet-style with multiple dishes of different foods on the table. It’s normally a celebratory meal where guests help themselves from a range of dishes.
The actual word Smörgåsbord is made up of the words smörgås (open faced sandwich) and bord (table), and in Swedish is pronounced like “smurgossboard”. The word has passed into common usage in English to mean a wide ranging and wonderful selection of almost anything, as in the phrase “a smorgasbord of delights”.
A typical Swedish Smörgåsbord consists of both hot and cold dishes, always with bread, butter, and cheese. It is customary to start with cold fish dishes , then a second course of other cold dishes, then a third course of hot dishes and finally desert.
The standard Christmas dinner in Sweden is a special type of Smörgåsbord, a Julbord (“Christmas Table”). As with the Smörgåsbord, a Julbord is usually eaten in three courses. The dishes would include local and family specialties.
The first course on the Julbord would typically be a variety of fish, particularly pickled herring and gravlax (cured salmon). It is customary to eat certain types of foods together. The first course is usually accompanied by strong spirits like snaps, bränvin or akvavit. Other traditional dishes are smoked eel, rollmops, herring salad, baked herring, smoked salmon and crab canapés, usually accompanied by sauces and dips.
The second course is usually a selection of cold meats, the most important one of all being the Christmas ham (Julskinka) served with mustard. Other traditional cuts may include homemade sausages, leverpastej (liver paté) and several types of brawn. The cold meats are usually served with sliced cheese, pickled cucumbers and different types of bread.
The third course will be hot dishes. Traditionally, the third course would begin with soaking bread in the stock of the Christmas ham. The hot dishes may include Swedish meatballs (köttbullar, small fried hot dog sausages (prinskorv), roasted pork ribs (revbenspjäll), potato casserole and matchstick potatoes layered with cream, onion and anhovies (Janssons Frestelse – literally translated “Jansson’s Temptation”).
In addition to the order in which the meal is eaten, each course always requires a clean plate.
From beginning to end – the Smörgåsbord is a total work of art which is lovingly created and then even more lovingly consumed!
Want to try Swedish cuisine for yourself? Experiences such as our Discover Bushcraft for Families or Winter Wonderland on a Forest Farm feature organic, home-cooked meals prepared from local ingredients.
The Nature Travels Team