Tis the season for lussekatter, Glögg, Sankta Lucia and Julmarknader and soon Tomten kommer!
My first visit to Sweden was the Christmas of 1998 with my wonderful, now, wife and “Chief Editor”. It was magical, so different from the commercial Christmases I knew from the USA. It was then, I believe I fell in love with Scandinavia and mostly Sweden. There were many Christmases in Sweden after that and each had its own special charm and memory. My last Christmas in Sweden is always my favorite, but one stands out the most (thus far) in my mind. It was mid-December 2010 and Eva had traveled in ahead of me. When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, visibility was down to near zero due to a major blizzard. Once out of my plane, I bolted to catch my connecting flight to Copenhagen. We were one of the last flights to leave Paris that day as all flights were suspended due to unusually heavy snowfall for the balance of the weekend. Copenhagen was a bit better, but only for a few hours then the snow came and came. The planes were grounded, trains were halted, and roads were treacherous that Christmas, so all we could do is cuddle up by the fireplace at Eva’s sister’s and eat, drink and make merry. But I once again I digress!
Today Holiday post will be a make-over of our 2016 Christmas Time in Scandinavia – Tomten Kommer! posting. We’ve updated it, added lots of new images from this year and will finish with Eva’s Mom’s favorite lussekatter (Lucia Cat) recipe. Don’t worry, no animals are used for the recipe. So, we hope you come on in and enjoy our Christmas (Jul) season.
Advent – Countdown to Christmas
Christmas in Scandinavia is magical and a very social time of the year. It all begins on the first Sunday of Advent and the lighting of the first candle of the season.
The lighting of the weekly candle is most often celebrated with the consumption of a warm mug of Glögg (Swedish mulled wine) along with ginger snaps and if you’re lucky, potted Stilton cheese. This repeats for four Sundays as we countdown to Christmas. This year, the last Advent candle will be lit on Swedish Christmas Eve (December 24th).
Feast of Saint Lucia
December 13th, Wednesday a week ago, we officially entered the Christmas season here in Sweden by celebrating the Feast of Saint Lucia or Santa Lucia day. To understand the significance of this day, let’s think back to the early days of Christianity in Scandinavia. In mid-December the days were the shortest of the year (about 7 hours here in Southern Sweden).
Dark, hungry and so scary. We’ve gone to the catacombs to be safe as creatures and demons roam the forest this night. Who’s that coming! Is that food in her basket? Oh, we so need food and comfort. It’s a fine lady wearing a white robe. Wow, is that a wreath upon her head with lite candles on top? How smart she is, it’s providing her light leaving her hands free to carry that big basket full of food. It’s Lucia, my isn’t she a saint.
Thus, a glorious celebration and feast of Santa Lucia began, welcoming in the coming longer days and the Christmas (Jul) season. St. Lucy was a fiery old gal back then and must have been quite a sight to see in those dark days of mid-December as the Winter solstice approached. But now, with the aid of modern technology, you can view it below in the “Swedish Lucia for Dummies” video. It’s quite entertaining so do take a moment to learn a bit about Sweden.
The “Lucia for Dummies” video was shared by the Swedish Institute.
Should you wish to learn more about Lucia, you can jump over to the Swedish Institute Lucia page. Don’t forget to come back, as we’re headed to some Christmas markets and then to do some cooking. To properly honor old Lucy, one must consume Lussekatter (Lucia Cat) buns and drink a mug of Glögg. Here, in Scandinavia the Lussekatter is consumed throughout the Christmas season and they are available everywhere. But, none are as tasty as Mormor’s Lussekatter. We’ll be diving into this a few paragraphs below or if you prefer to get with it and make some Lussekatter, just Jump to Recipe.
Julmarknad or Scandinavian Christmas Markets
Christmas in Scandinavia is the time of Scandinavian Christmas Markets or Julmarknads and one of our favorites is in Köpenhamn (Copenhagen). Copenhagen is wonderful to visit anytime, but we always try and visit it at Christmas. This time of the year in the Nyhavn district, you’ll find what may be my favorite Julmarknad so far. The wooden cottages line the canal, selling all sorts of handmade wonders, yummy food and drink. There are so many things to see as one strolls down Nyhavn. The restaurants all have their sidewalk cafes going, with blankets, furs and open fire to keep one warm.
Is that the smell of one of the food stalls cooking up fresh crepes or those little round donuts frying in the oil. My God, the smell of the Danish roast pork is amazing, with its crisp crackling skin on top. Oh, the smell of chestnuts roasting and yes on an open fire. I’m going for a mug of rum Glögg and a ginger snap or two. My, how about another!
There’s Eva at the tanner’s hut, she’s admiring the lovely pelts of Gotland sheep, blue fox, and Reindeer. If you’ve ever stepped out of bed on a frosty night and let your feet land on a Gotland sheep skin, you’ll know the value of a fine pelt.
Then comes that look from Eva. You know the one, when they flash that smile and blink their eyes. It works, she gets up each morning and the first thing her feet touch, is a silver colored sheep skin.
FYI: The Scandinavian fur industry is closely monitored and consider sustainable.
Grab a fried spiral apple and it’s time to head home, but not without saying my goodbyes to the Jul “Nisser”. It’s so Hygge!
We also have local Julmarknads here in our area. They’re much more casual, but loads of fun. I would imagine one could visit a handful each weekend beginning late November up ’til Christmas. We visited several Christmas markets this year and for each morning we visited, the sky was dark and wet with no sign of snow. But snow or no snow, off we went. As you walk up to the markets, the smell that always hits me first is the smell of an outdoor fire burning, welcoming you in for a look around.
Oh, look at that amazing church down the road. In that window over there, it’s a handmade Tomten (Santa). Ah, look yonder, a table of plaster figurines. Wow, look at those birdhouses made from a carved-out birch log. Do I smell a Lussekatter (Lucia Cat) bun?
Waffles, now I smell waffles. Got to get a waffle with Lingon berry jam. Is that Tomten in his house-drawn sleigh taking all the kids for a ride? What’s that? Now I hear it, the sweet sound of young children singing Christmas songs. Yummy, look, homemade Lussekatter and canned wild Lingon berry jam.
Lussekatter or Lucia Cats
Finally, we get to the Lucia Buns. Earlier, we touched on the when/how they are consumed, but what of the history? Why is it called Lussekatter? If you go to Google Translate it comes up as “Lice Cat” which could have some significance. However, I’ve been told by the Lost in a Pot head translator, that it’s actually “Lucia Cat”. So now we have a sweet bun with saffron that’s named after a cat. Hum, sounds odd. I did some research and with the aid of others (thanks Mikael), we’ve come up with this short paragraph of what we’ve learned. No promises on accuracy though.
It’s said that the Lucia cat was a descendant of 17th Century Germany. The bun was colored yellow with saffron to make it bright and sunny looking and shaped like a cat to scare the devil away. It must work, as I’ve never seen a devil around Lussekatter buns. Now, there’s other beliefs as well. Some believe that back when Swedes “went a viking”, they had this goddess of fertility and all things sexy named Freyja. Freya (as she’s known now) had a cat and its said the buns were shaped to honor the Goddess. But, if that’s the case, why not Freya buns. Use your imagination as to what shape they might have taken.
Through the last couple of centuries, the buns have been made in different shapes and it wasn’t until around 1900 that they settled into the “S” shaped cat-eyed bun. Even today, they are made in many shapes. No matter how you shape them, their taste is unique and one I hope you taste.
Cooks Tip: For a normal Swedish style sweet bun, just omit the saffron.
Chloe says, “it is time to open gifts”!
This Lussekatter bun recipe has been tasted and tested by Chloe and is approved for human consumption. Chloe has given this recipe her first ever 🐾🐾1/2 paw rating , she’s not fond of the saffron, but liked the raisins..
December 27th will mark our first year here at Lost in a Pot. Thank you so much for taking time to read, comment and support us.
From Chloe, Eva and myself have a God Jul och Gott Nytt År!
See you in January 2018.
Lussekatter or Swedish Saffron Buns
Mormor's classic recipe for Lussekatter (Lucia Cats). A Scandinavian Christmas saffron sweet-bun, always eaten on or before Lucia day celebrations!
- 15 g Yeast dry, or 50 g of fresh Swedish yeast.
- 6.17 oz (3/4 cup+1 tsp or 175 g) butter or margarine, Milda in Sweden.
- 1 heaping tsp (or 1.43 tsp or 1 g) Saffron threads or 1 g (1/2 tsp) saffron powder. (See note 1.)
- .85 cup (2 dl or 190 g) granulated sugar.
- 16 fl oz (5 dl or 6.7 oz. or 515 g) whole milk.
- 1/2 tsp (1/2 tsk) table salt
- 6-1/4 cups (1 1/2 l) All Purpose flour, about 2 pounds or 900 g by weight.
For brushing and garnishing
- 1 large Egg, mixed for brushing.
- +/- 70 Soaked raisins.
- Swedish pearl sugar. (optional) (See note 2.)
Pour warm water over raisins and soak for a minimum of half an hour.
Melt butter and then crumble saffron threads into the melted butter. Let it set for 30 minutes to intensify the saffron flavor.
Warm your milk to scalding (see note 3). There should be small bubbles on top. Cool milk to between 35ºC and 40ºC (95ºF to 105ºF), warm to touch.
Once milk is cool to touch, mix in your melted butter/saffron mix, sugar, salt (if using) and yeast into your mixing bowl. Stir and let set for 10-15 minutes.
Next, mix in 3 cups (about half) of the flour until combined. Now, slowly add the balance of the flour mix until the dough is just coming clean from your mixing bowl. The dough should be a bit wet and sticky.
Place your dough in a lightly oiled bowl large enough to allow for the rising of the dough. Cover and let set at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
While the dough is having its first rise, preheat the oven to 390˚F (200˚C).
After the dough has risen, lightly rolled on to a floured surface. Knead the dough a couple of time. Don't over knead as this will add too much flour and make for a dense Lussekatter.
Divide the dough into thirty equal pieces (see note 4). Next, roll the pieces in a snake like shape to a diameter of about 1/2" (13mm). Form each piece like in a "S" shape and place on a parchment paper lined or lightly oiled cookie sheet. Cover and rise for another 30-45 minutes.
Once the "S' shaped buns have risen, it's time to make them look like a cat. Light brush the buns with you egg wash, followed by placing a raisin in the center of each end. Lastly, if using, sprinkle the Swedish pearl sugar over the top.
Bake on the middle rack of the heated oven for 8-10 minutes. When they are done, place on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes before serving.
Please note that the quantities can be changed by entering the amount you wish in the quantity indicator. However, the metric will not change.
- One gram equals two teaspoons of threads is therefore equivalent to one teaspoon crumbled or half a teaspoon powdered. One heaping tsp saffron or 1.43 tsp.
- Swedish pearl sugar should be readily available in the baking isle of must good markets. This is an optional addition as some don't and some do use.
- Scalding is the process of heating milk to 82 °C (180 °F), then cooled. For detailed instruction follow this YouTube link.
- For making equally divided dough, I use my kitchen scale. Weight the entire piece of dough. Divide that weight by your quantity, then weigh out the pieces. As an example, if your dough weighs 567 grams (1.25 lbs) and you need four pieces, you'll need each piece of dough to weigh 141 grams or 5 ounces each.