Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger snaps) topped with blue cheese, and glögg are perfect things to serve before dinner but really they are a party on their own, and easy to keep on hand. Swedish ginger snaps are sold most everywhere and have a long shelf life.
Last Christmas my dad took me to Sweden. He was born there and lived in Sweden until he was eight. Then after high school in northern California he returned to Sweden for college and attended design school in Stockholm. Growing up my family celebrated Christmas with many Swedish customs and foods. I always viewed Christmas as a celebration of candles, warmth and spending time with family. The trip with my father was magical, the time spent with my dad as well as the location itself will not be forgotten.
Because of the short days, roughly 9am-3pm of sunlight, there are candles and wood burning fires outside everywhere you turn. People would spend as much time outside during sunlight even in extremely cold temperatures, at cafes with heatlamps and chairs with blankets of fur to cozy into made it a true winter wonderland. It is not unusual to see people biking and even kayaking (cousin Nils) in very cold weather. Then after the sun goes down it’s all candles, glögg and gingersnaps.
Swedish hospitality is warm and inviting and the most simple of things become elegant and festive. I loved the gingersnap with blue cheese as an hors d’ oeuvres and I have a simple glögg recipe below. The cookies in the picture are homemade but are easily found store bought.
1 bottle of port
1 bottle of red wine
2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
5 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1 inch of ginger sliced thickly
Pour port, wine, water and sugar into a medium sized pot and turn up heat. Bunch all of your spices into some cheese cloth and tie a pouch together, drop into wine mixture. Heat glögg just until the liquid starts to steam and is nice and hot, turn off heat and keep covered. Serve in small mugs with a teaspoon of both almonds and raisins.
Note: Glögg keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week, just store covered in a glass pitcher then heat in a pot on stove whenever anyone comes over. If you would like to make this drink stronger please feel free to add some vodka or brandy, how about a cup?!