Having Christmas dinner like an Estonian

Source: Aron Urb, Visit Estonia

Having Christmas dinner like an Estonian

If you find yourself in Estonia during the winter holidays, enjoying a local Christmas dinner is a must. Find out why the Christmas feast is such a meaningful event, which Estonian dishes to look for, and where you can have a feast of your own. 

Winter sustenance 

Winter delights

Apples grow abundantly in Estonia, but some types of talveõun (winter apple) are harvested late in the year and last through the winter. 

Photo by: Jarek Jõepera

The Estonian way of life is based on the changing of the seasons and the bounty of nature. Berries are picked and collected in the summer months, while fruits, vegetables, grains, potatoes, and mushrooms are harvested in the autumn. These goods, along with farmed and wild game meats, are pickled, salted, smoked, and otherwise preserved to fill the pantries through the winter. With the advent of commercial markets, it is no longer essential to preserve goods at home. However, the practice of growing and harvesting one's own food remains popular in the countryside and is increasingly making its way back into modern-day kitchens.

Classic Christmas dishes and traditions 

Potatoes, pickles, preserves

Vegetables, fruits, grains, and potatoes harvested earlier in the year and preserved provide most of the food for the Christmas feast. 

Photo by: Toomas Tuul

Winter dishes in Estonia tend to be hearty and filling in order to provide energy and warmth in the cold weather. The food served at a Christmas dinner is no exception, and staples include verivorst (blood sausage), sült (jellied head cheese), hapukapsas (sauerkraut), oven-roasted potatoes, and pork. Special Christmas bread is baked along with gingerbread, often an activity for the whole family. Apples and mandarin oranges are also enjoyed as Christmas treats.

Christmas Dinner Traditions

The Christmas meal itself, eaten on Christmas Eve or the night of Christmas, is an important family event originating from pagan times. There were to be seven, nine or twelve servings of food to bring good luck and plenty for next year's harvest. Food was to remain on the table all night long, and it was forbidden to peek under the table, for this was a sacred place where spirits dwelled and any food dropped was left there.

Christmas Dish Recipes


Potatoes and groats or 'Mulgipuder' are found on every Christmas table in Estonia

Photo by Hedrica Hargats

If you're feeling up to making your own Estonian Christmas dishes, we've got a few recipes you can try out for yourself so you can cook the Estonian way.

Recipe for Oven-baked pork with sauerkraut

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pork (leg or loin with fat or belly or rind)
  • 500 g sauerkraut with carrot
  • salt, pepper, mustard, garlic

Directions

  1. Cut the cut of pork with grid-shaped incisions.
  2. Rub/Season the meat with salt, pepper, and mustard. Let this sit for 1 hour at room temperature
  3. Preheat the oven to the maximum temperature
  4. Place in the bottom of an oven pot (preferably iron) cabbage and some garlic. You can add rosemary and/or thyme if you want. Add water enough to cover the cabbage.
  5. Place the pork on top with the side with rind facing up
  6. Cover with a lid and place in the oven
  7. Lower the heat to 175 C
  8. Bake the pork for 1 hour

Recipe for Verivorst (Blood Sausage)

Ingredients

  • 675 g pork
  • 1.25 kg barley groats, washed
  • 200 g onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Marjoram, oregano, caraway to taste
  • 1/2 L pork blood
  • 12-15 Sausage Casings

Directions

  1. Boil the barley in salted water for about 45 minutes
  2. Drain and place into a large bowl
  3. Add the marjoram and salt to the barley, mix well, and set aside
  4. Cut the salt and fresh pork into knuckle-sized chunks
  5. Put the pork into a heated saucepan with a little water and start heating it
  6. Increase the heat to brown the pork
  7. When the pork begins sizzling, add the chopped onions and cook for 30 minutes until brown
  8. Add the cooked pork and onion to the barley
  9. Stir well and season to taste
  10. Allow the mixture to cool
  11. Pour the blood into the mixture, stir gingerly to avoid foaming
  12. Prepare the sausage casings by rinsing them twice and soaking them in water
  13. Fit a funnel into one end of the casing and begin stuffing the sausage mixture into it.
  14. Do not overstuff the casings. It's best to fill it in just less than three-quarters full and ensure there is some space on both ends
  15. Tie both ends of the casing together with twine
  16. Poach the sausages in hot water for about 15 minutes
  17. If any sausage floats, prick any air pockets with a knife and let it continue to poach
  18. Lay the poached sausages on a tray to dry
  19. Place them in a greased baking tray and bake for about 1 hour at 350 F until the sausages become crispy and cooked through

Where to go out for Christmas Dinner 

Wealthy merchant's feast 

Olde Hansa serves a multi-course Christmas meal mid-November through mid-January including bear, wild boar, and elk sausages. 

Photo by: Toomas Tuul

In case you don't feel like cooking a seven-course meal, you can also go out for a traditional Christmas dinner.

The following restaurants offer holiday fare to give you a taste of Christmas in Estonia.

Restaurant suggestions:

Tallinn

Northern Estonia

Western Estonia

Last updated : 30.11.2021

In category: History & culture, Food & Drink & Nightlife

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