Cat’s Christmas Menu and Preparation Schedule

Brita as Iduna with apples, painting by Carl Larsson

Brita as Iduna with apples, painting by Carl Larsson

by Cat, Christmas 2008 (image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Because my parents were Scandinavian (Danish Mom, Norwegian Dad), we always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve.  The day before, Mom cooked and mashed potatoes for the lefse, and made her Aeblekage (Apple Cake).  Then the morning of Christmas Eve, Mom and Dad made lefse together; I was the official taster. This was always a joyous occasion, full of the spirit of Christmas.

Then we all went up to open the bar.  Mom made a fresh batch of Tom and Jerry (I was the official bowl-and-beater licker), and Dad gave a free T&J drink to each customer.  It was always a busy day, as many people came to wish us a Merry Christmas, and also many just wanted to avoid the holiday altogether, by getting drunk.

After the T&J was ready, Mom and I went home to get dinner ready.  There was red cabbage slaw, boiled potatoes, creamed peas, cranberry sauce (from a can because fresh cranberries were not available here back then), lutefisk (cooked right before serving), and lefse with lots of butter.

Once the dinner dishes were cleared away, we gathered in the living room to open presents and sing Christmas songs.  I was Santa’s helper and handed out the gifts. That was followed by Mom’s Aeblekage with fresh whipped cream for dessert.

Then on Christmas Day, I went to the Tanghe’s, who lived next door, to share in their Christmas celebrations.  Rena often made turkey, but sometimes she did a leg of lamb or a standing rib roast.  And her fudge!

– – –

In the early 1970s, when I was on my own in Portland, I tried to recapture that same holiday experience.  I invited several women friends to help me cook the lefse in the morning.  Then in the evening I served my dinner to those same friends and their boyfriends/partners. Most of my guests ate the lutefisk, but for those who did not want to try it, I made poached or baked wild salmon, with mustard sauce. Then I went to Christmas Eve service at Trinity Episcopal in my Portland neighborhood with any friends who wished to tag along. Over the years, my celebration grew to include roast prime rib for Christmas Day.

Here in Montana, I don’t have a dining room to seat many friends, but I still celebrate the holidays with the same menu, sharing with just one or two close friends. And on Christmas Eve, after dinner, I go to the late Christmas Eve candlelight service at Bethany Lutheran Church.

Like my Mom before me, I start the preparations on December 23.  Then both Christmas Eve and Day are filled with cooking chores as well.  I’m totally exhausted by December 26.

Because it is getting harder for me to remember all the tasks and when to do them, and because I want to share my tradition with my readers, I have documented this information here.


NOTE: each menu item will be linked to the appropriate recipe as they are added to this new blog.

Christmas Eve Options:

Items with “*” are the ones I serve.

 Christmas Day:

Shopping or Pantry List

For both days:

  • Butter
  • Fresh carrots
  • Fresh celery
  • Fresh radishes
  • Fresh or frozen cranberries
  • Fresh cream

For Christmas Eve menu

Make ahead:

  • Organic cranberries (fresh or frozen) for Cranberry sauce/relish
  • Organic orange (fresh) for Cranberry sauce/relish
  • Homemade rusk (or boxed zweiback)
  • Fresh beets (for lacto-fermentation/pickling; make at least a week ahead; see Pickled Beets) or canned pickled beets


Make fresh:

  • Fresh-caught or frozen wild salmon fillets (if serving)
  • Frozen lutefisk
  • Whole milk
  • Apples (a mix of Granny Smith, MacIntosh, and gala or golden delicious)
  • Head of red cabbage
  • Fresh or frozen peas
  • Fresh orange with peel
  • Winter squash
  • Russet potatoes (for lefse)
  • Boiling potatoes (red or yellow Finn)

For Christmas Day menu

Make ahead:


  • Dried juniper berries (for prime rib)
  • Dried rosemary leaves (prime rib or lamb)
  • Bay leaves (for prime rib)
  • Fresh thyme (for prime rib or lamb)
  • Apple cider vinegar (with the ‘Mother’)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red currant jam or jelly (for prime rib)

Make fresh:

  • Prime rib roast or rack of lamb
  • Ruby port wine (for prime rib)
  • Whole peppercorns (for prime rib)
  • Fresh salad greens
  • Fresh or frozen green beans
  • Fresh yams or sweet potatoes
  • Fresh turnips
  • Fresh beets
  • Fresh or canned pureed pumpkin
  • Fresh ginger root (or powdered ginger)
  • Gruyere, Swiss or Parmesan cheese

Prep Schedule

  • If using homemade Rusk, bake it on December 22 or earlier.
  • If making your own pickled beets, start Dec 15 or earlier, to give time to mellow.
  • If making your own veal or beef stock (for the Red Currant & Cranberry Sauce to go with the Prime Rib), make it on Dec 22 or earlier.

December 23

  • Thaw lutefisk and salmon (if serving)
  • Thaw prime rib (if necessary)
  • cook and prepare potatoes for Lefse (save the peels for potato peel broth)
  • Grind and season Rusk for Aebelkage
  • Prepare apples for Aebelkage
  • Make Red cabbage cole slaw
  • Prepare Cranberry-Orange sauce
  • Make Court Bouillon (if poaching salmon)
  • Make Mustard Sauce (if serving)
  • Bake Aebelkage
  • Cook beets for Ginger beets on Christmas Day

December 24 – Christmas Eve

  • Make Lefse
  • prepare Lutefisk for cooking
  • Prepare court bouillon (if serving poached salmon)
  • Prepare crudites
  • Steam red potatoes
  • Cook and cream peas
  • Bake and mash squash
  • Bake/boil Lutefisk
  • Poach or Bake Salmon  (if serving)
  • Melt butter
  • Whip cream
  • Wrap last-minute gifts

December 25 – Christmas Day

  • Bake Holiday Pumpkin Pie
  • Grind spices for roast (for prime rib)
  • Part 1 of Red Currant Sauce (for prime rib)
  • Prepare Turnips au Gratin (slice, layer and season, grate cheese, add cream)
  • Prepare Ginger beets
  • Ready the roast
  • Finish Red Currant Sauce (for prime rib)
  • Bake yams
  • Bake Turnips au Gratin
  • Roast the roast
  • Reheat beets
  • Clean and sear the green beans
  • Prepare salad

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