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CHRISTMAS

RECIPES: How to make four different kinds of Swedish Christmas ham

Christmas ham (julskinka) is the centrepiece of a Swedish Christmas buffet (julbord). Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipes for boiled ham, a traditional glaze, dopp i grytan and roast ham with The Local.

RECIPES: How to make four different kinds of Swedish Christmas ham
Swedish Christmas ham. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Christmas ham is always served cold in Sweden. Swedes normally boil their julskinka and then finish it off in the oven with a mustard and breadcrumb crust/glaze.

Once the glaze is cooked, the ham is moved to somewhere cold, usually outside, to cool as quickly as possible. The idea is that this will trap the juices in to ensure that the ham remains moist and tasty.

Sometimes the liquid used to cook the ham is reduced to make dopp i grytan, literally “dip in the pot”. The resulting sauce is quite salty and something of an acquired taste, but it is regarded with considerable affection by some Swedes who enjoying dipping bread in it.

Although Swedes normally serve julskinka cold, if, like me, you decide to serve it warm I wouldn’t hold it against you, although many Swedes might! 

1. Boiled ham

Swedes normally boil ham to keep it nice and moist. This can be done a day or two in advance if desired. Indeed these days you can buy a ham that has already been boiled and then they simply glaze it at home on Christmas Eve.

Ingredients

1-4 kg (2-9 lb) joint of ham with rind on

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

1-2 bay leaves

10 black peppercorns

Method

1. Weigh your ham and calculate how long you will need to simmer it for, allowing 35 minutes per kg (15 minutes per lb).

2. Place the ham in a large, heavy-based saucepan, cover with cold water and bring slowly to the boil.

3. Pour off the water, which will have a white froth on it from the salt, and discard it. Cover the ham with fresh water and add the sliced onion and carrot, a bay leaf and black peppercorns. Bring to the boil once again.

4. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer the ham for 35 minutes per kg (15 minutes per lb). When the ham is done, a skewer inserted into the centre of the meat will come out easily.

5. If you want to make some dopp i grytan, drain off the water through a sieve into a jug. If not, discard the liquid.

6. Leave the ham to cool for at least 20 minutes, but preferably overnight, before you add the glaze/crust (see below).

2. A traditional glaze

Swedes normally finish their ham with a mustard crust. At its simplest, mustard and egg yolks are mixed together and brushed over the cooked ham which is then sprinkled with breadcrumbs and baked in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes. I prefer to add some syrup as I think it improves the flavour, but that can be omitted if desired, in which case the cornflour (cornstarch) should also be omitted.

Ingredients

The ingredients below should be sufficient for ham of up to 2 kg (4 lb). If you are cooking a larger joint you will need to double the ingredients in order to have enough glaze.

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp English mustard, or other strong mustard

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp golden syrup (corn syrup)

1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)

2-3 tbsp fine dried breadcrumbs, preferably including some rye

1 tbsp cloves, optional

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 240C (480F, gas 9, fan 220C).

2. When the ham is cold enough to handle, remove the rind and most of the fat underneath, but leave a thin layer. Score a diamond pattern in the layer of fat left.

3. Mix the mustards, egg yolk, syrup and cornflour (cornstarch) and spread over the ham.

4. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the glaze and roast for 10-15 minutes until a nice golden colour.

5. Remove the ham to somewhere cold, such as outside or a cold garage, so that the ham cools as quickly as possible trapping in all the moisture so that you end up with a lovely juicy ham.

6. When cold, garnish the ham by studding it with whole cloves if desired.

3. Dopp i grytan

If you are going to make dopp i grytan it is necessary to cook the ham at least a day in advance to allow the broth time to cool.

Tips

• If you haven’t got enough broth from boiling the ham, use a ham stock cube to top it up to 1½ litres (6 cups).

• Use a saucepan with marks on the inside so that you can see how much you have boiled off.

Serving

Dopp i grytan is something of an acquired taste which is probably only worth making if you are expecting Swedish guests who you know like it (most don’t!). If so, I suggest you ask them how they like it serving as there are many variations, although the basic recipe is the same. The most common ways are:

• Soaking some pieces of tunnbrod (thin crispbread) in dopp i grytan

• Dipping some slices of rye bread, preferably vörtlimpa (rye bread made with beer) or jullimpa (a special Christmas bread), into dopp i grytan

• Letting some slices of ham soak in dopp i grytan

• Cooking some slices of julkorv (a special Christmas sausage) in dopp i grytan

• Leaving slices of ham and slices of julkorv to soak in dopp i grytan so that guests can help themselves

Ingredients

1½ litres (6 cups) broth reserved from boiling ham

1 bay leaf

6 white peppercorns

1 onion, finely sliced

1-3 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley, optional

8 pieces thin crispbread, optional

60 g (¼ cup) butter for serving, optional

mustard, optional

Method

1. Boil the ham according to the recipe above. Drain off the liquid and cool, preferably overnight in a fridge.

2. Scoop off the layer of fat on top of the liquid and then pour the liquid into a saucepan, topping up to 1½ litres (6 cups) with ham stock made with a ham bouillon cube if necessary. Add the bay leaf, white peppercorns and sliced onion. Simmer gently for about an hour without a lid on, until you have less than a litre (4 cups) left.

3. Taste the dopp i grytan and add some soy sauce if necessary to improve the colour or flavour.

4. Strain the spices and onions and cool the broth. Store in a refrigerator or freezer until required.

5. Reheat the dopp i grytan and season to taste again. Add some chopped parsley if desired.

6. Serve on a warmer on the Christmas table or let it stand over a low heat on the stove. If serving with tunnbröd, soak rounds of tunnbröd in the broth for a couple of minutes, lift them out into individual dishes and top with a knob of butter. 

4. Roast ham

Although Swedes don’t often roast a Christmas ham, it is a very good way of cooking it. The main disadvantage is that you may not end up with enough broth left to make a good dopp i grytan.

The ham is roasted at a low temperature with lots of water to ensure that it remains nice and moist.  Allow about 1 hour per kg (30 minutes per lb), but be sure to use a meat thermometer and not go just by a cooking time to avoid overcooking the ham.

Although the glaze below is not a traditional yellow colour, it is packed with flavour and hard to beat. However, if you prefer you can easily substitute the traditional glaze above.

Ingredients

1-4 kg (2-9 lb) joint of ham*

1 egg yolk

25 g (1 oz) breadcrumbs

75 g (3 oz) wholegrain mustard

50 g (2 oz) dark brown sugar

freshly ground black pepper

*For joints over 2 kg you will need to double the quantities for the glaze.

Method

1. Place the ham in a large bowl, cover with cold water and leave to soak for a few hours, preferably overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 130C (250F, gas ½, fan 120C).

3. Pour off the water and discard it. Insert a meat thermometer into the ham and put it into a large roasting tray, adding enough water to fill the tray to within 1 cm (½”) of the top. Slowly roast in the oven until the meat reaches 70C.

4. Remove the ham and increase the oven temperature to 200C (400F, gas 6, fan 180C).

5. Mix the breadcrumbs, mustard, sugar and some black pepper together to make the glaze (or use the traditional glaze above).

6. Remove the rind from the ham and score a diamond pattern in the top layer of fat. Brush the glaze over the ham (you may not need all of the glaze). Roast for another 10-15 minutes until the ham is golden brown.

7. If you don’t want any warm ham, remove it to somewhere cold, such as outside or a cold garage, so that the ham cools as quickly as possible trapping in all the moisture.

Tips

  • Choose a salt-cured unsmoked (green) ham.
     
  • The ham is usually thinly sliced and served with a selection of mustards.
     
  • In the traditional glaze recipe below, smooth mustards have been used, but wholegrain mustards can be used instead if you prefer.
     
  • Smoked hams are not normally used, but if you like smoked ham go for it! Camilla Plum, a respected Danish cookery writer and broadcaster, actually recommends using a smoked joint in her recipe for a Swedish Christmas ham.

Recipes courtesy of John Duxbury, Editor and Founder of Swedish Food.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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