Traditional Christmases and a Recipe for Gingerbread Popcorn


In this column, Katherine Knowles divulges recipes you can make in your tiny New York City kitchen.

Mere moments before heading home to the U.K. for the holidays, we popped in to visit our Swedish friends Ronnie and Karen. Talk turned to our various Christmas traditions, and, just as last Easter, when Ronnie explained to us with a straight face that this was the time when witches came out of the hills to fly about freely, Swedish traditions turned out to be awesome in their own unique way.

Apparently, in Sweden, Father Christmas franchises out his duties to other random Christmas elves, who will help tidy up your barn if you leave a bowl of porridge on your doorstep. But if you’re a kid, and you don’t have a barn and you’ve been bad, you’ll be interrogated, then exiled to the forest, to live on pine-needle soup until the next Christmas.

“Pine-needle soup! Ha!” they laughed. “Pine-needle soup! Hahaha!”

“Like, really? Because that seems a bit harsh.”

“It’s pretty terrifying,” Karen admitted. “One year, my brother flooded the house on Christmas Eve. It was pretty much the worst thing he could have done. And he was convinced he’d be going to live in the forest in exile. So he packed an emergency backpack, then he hid in a wardrobe, and we could hear him crying, and nothing my parents said could console him. It was like a whole thing. So yeah, in comparison, American Christmas seems a little tame.”

Gingerbread Popcorn (4 – 6 servings)
This popcorn evokes the flavors of traditional Swedish ginger cookies, but in munchable-by-the-handful form. Here’s to some holiday TV, and some friends and family to share it with as we ring out the year.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp light brown sugar

Put the oil, popcorn kernels, and 1 tsp of the salt into a pan. Cover with a double layer of foil to make a lid, and poke a few small holes in so that steam can escape. Hold the pan above the heat to gently cook the kernels — about four minutes.

Alternatively, make a bag of plain microwave popcorn, and proceed as follows:

Melt the butter and add the spices, sugar and the rest of the salt. Swirl the pan until the sugar dissolves (a couple of minutes). Toss the popcorn in the butter and spoon into paper bags to serve.