Ham. I never understood families which had turkey for their Christmas dinner when I was young. Especially in America, where one month previous was another big holiday whose feast centered around the bird. This is because, when I was growing up, Christmas was a pork-heavy meal. A large ham, potatis korv (potato sausage), prins korvar (a smaller sausage akin to Vienna sausages… though NEVER canned), these were the foods of Yuletide. Add to them mashed potatoes, mashed turnip or rutabaga, köttbullar (meatballs), cucumbers in strong vinegar, boiled red cabbage, dark brown bread, Swedish farmer cheese, and you have an idea of the flavors which make winter real for me.
Before the conversion to Christianity a thousand years ago, and even before the invasion of the Indo-European peoples to the peninsula, the boar was a sacred animal. It was a symbol for both Freyja and Freyr, twin deities of the Vanir closely tied to the land. Even after the Indo-Europeans came, and the tribe of the Aesir came to the forefront, some of the Vanir were still held in high esteem. The cult of Freyr remained strong in the area which would come to be Sweden, and Freyr was seen as the ancestor of the kings. So it’s no big surprise that this animal would remain prized to the people. Boars are still hunted in Sweden, especially now that their numbers are on the rise. Two of my cousins still in Sweden do hunt boar; perhaps one year I will make it back over there and be able to sample one*.
So for me, the flavor of winter is very heavily skewed to pork. Not only because of the spread presented on December 24th, but also all the leftovers! Days upon days of open faced sandwiches with ham or leverpastej (pate), simply reheating a little bit of everything which was made, or something like pytt i panna. This is a simple hash I’ve been eating since I was a kid and I never seen to get tired of it. It’s very hearty and filling and the perfect meal for a cold, dark winter evening. Especially seeing the yolk spill yellow-orange over this pile of food meant just for you. If you find yourself with a lot of ham in the winter, try this. It doesn’t take a lot of work to put together and you’ll be happily full for a long while after.
I am giving a serving per-person here since it’s so easy to adjust.
Pytt I Panna
4 oz. of ham per person, already cooked
1 medium onion per 2 people
1 medium potato per person (If you’re on a low carb or primal eating plan, try cauliflower in place of the potato)
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 egg per person
butter for frying egg(s)
Beets for garnish, ideally lacto-fermented
1-2 frying pans. You might want a second for frying the eggs, if you want them to only have the flavor of butter.
1. Cut the ham, onion, and potato into small cubes.
2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan.
3. Fry the potatoes first. TIP: Get the oil VERY hot to avoid the potatoes sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook until lightly brown and set aside in a dish.
4. Fry the onions until transparent. Set aside in another dish
5. Heat up ham. Since it’s already cooked through, it only needs this heating.
6. Add in onions and potatoes and cook together for a minute or two. Transfer to bowls.
7. Fry up eggs for each serving. I recommend leaving the yolk runny; it tastes wonderful. Place the fried egg on top of the hash. Garnish with beets and serve.
1. Do not cook the ingredients together. They don’t all cook at the same time and the flavors will become muddled if you cook them together.
2. The beets add a nice kick to the meal. Lacto-fermented beets also add probiotics to the meal and make it easier to digest. You can either make these yourself or, if you’re lucky, buy some. If you’re in the northeast U.S., the brand Real Pickles makes a nice array of probiotic vegetables and condiments, including beets.
*Just as an fyi, I absolutely abhor sport hunting but am in favor of hunting to eat.