Tradition: A Swedish Cranberry Dessert

Thanksgiving on the Farm

As my family and I sat down at the table to celebrate Thanksgiving, I felt a warmth wash over me as I gazed around the room. Here we were, sitting around the table as a family on the farm that my Swedish ancestors homesteaded in 1884,

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our chairs sat on the wood floors that my great-great-grandparents walked on over 100 years ago,

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“Come Lord Jesus” is a prayer that we would soon be reciting together – a prayer that was said by my ancestors, and the delicious homemade food we were about to eat came from recipes that have stood the test of time.

Traditions

Tradition: “the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction”.

Traditions are more than things that are passed down through the generations. Oh yes! They are much more than that. Traditions have a way of dredging up memories, of allowing you to live in the past – if only for a fleeting moment, and of surrounding you with warmth, happiness, and contentedness.

My son and I were both diagnosed with celiac disease (part of our Swedish genetics we’re not so fond of), so for the past three years we were unable to eat stuffing, green bean casserole, and cranberry salad due to the gluten in the dishes. Because of this, Thanksgiving didn’t feel complete. Over the past few years, my family has learned to make all things gluten free, so this Thanksgiving, my son and I would get to indulge in the foods we had been missing. Finally! A complete Thanksgiving meal.

A Cranberry Treat

The cranberry salad was the dish I was looking forward to eating the most.  This salad is more of a dessert, so I’m not sure why we call it a salad. Although, I have a feeling this article explains it well: Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Dessert Salads. Or, maybe we simply call it a salad so it sounds a little more appropriate to serve as a side dish with the main meal (as we serve pumpkin and apple pie for dessert). Sneaky, I know. Hey! We only do this once a year.

Layers of crumbled graham crackers, jellied cranberries, and sweetened whipped cream make this sweet, but tart dish a treat. My mother recently told me that my great-grandma Falk served this dish at Thanksgiving, and the family has continued to make it every year. After hearing this, I Googled the ingredients that are in my great-grandma’s cranberry salad, and read that this particular dish is a Swedish dessert.

Research is one of my favorite hobbies, so I contacted a few relatives who live in Sweden to ask about this cranberry dish. One was able to confirm that our favorite cranberry salad is in fact an old Swedish dessert called “giftas” (pronounced ‘yiftas’). So, maybe the recipe was actually brought over to the United States by my great-great-great grandparents when they emigrated from Sweden. Either way, giftas is a special dessert – a Thanksgiving tradition that evokes warm memories, satisfied smiles, and allows us to step back in time for just a moment.

I leave you with my great-grandmother’s giftas recipe (or is it my great-great-great-grandmother’s?):

Giftas Recipe

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Crumble 10 oz. of graham crackers (about two packages of regular graham crackers).  My kids and I made homemade gluten-free graham crackers. If you would like the recipe for the gluten-free crackers, you can find it here. We crumbled the entire recipe, and had about 1/2 c. of graham cracker crumbles left over. Our chickens enjoyed a little Thanksgiving treat.

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Growing up, my family used to crush the graham crackers using a rolling pin, but now a food processor finishes the job in less than a minute. Tecnhnology – a blessing or not?

Whip a quart of heavy whipping cream on high until soft peaks form. Sweeten the cream by adding a 1/4 c. of powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract (or in our case – 3-4 teaspoons as we can’t get enough vanilla flavoring).

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Mash three – 14 oz. cans of jellied cranberries.

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Using a clear serving bowl, layer the graham cracker, cranberries,

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and whipping cream,

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paying particular attention to making sure the layers show on the outside of the bowl.

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Finish the gifta with a layer of whipping cream and add sprinkles of graham cracker crumbs on the top.

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Ingredients

  • 10 oz. of graham cracker crumbles (about two packages)
  • 1 qt. heaving whipping cream
  • 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 – 14 oz. cans of jellied cranberries

 

Do you have favorite traditions or foods that make your holidays special? I would love for you to share them. Skål! – Cheers!

 

28 Replies to “Tradition: A Swedish Cranberry Dessert”

  1. This looks really really tasty! Almost like a trifle – but I definitely wouldn’t describe it as a salad!! Does it go well with the main meal? Or are you ever tempted to add it to the desert table?

    p.s. It is really awesome that you have re-learned how to make your old favourites but without any gluten. Yay for a full thanksgiving belly with your family.

    1. Exactly, not a salad at all. 🙂 We love it with the main meal. A little sweetness with all of the salty food. Plus, cranberries with turkey can’t be beat. We’ve never been tempted to add it to the dessert table – the cranberry dish has always been served with the main meal.

    2. And, yes! The gf graham crackers taste just like the gluten-filled crackers, so I was so pleased. Fun to eat an old family favorite! Josy, thanks for always reading, commenting, and being one of my biggest supporters. xx

      1. You’re very welcome! I love it when I see your blog appear in my reader. 🙂

        1. Awesome! I feel the same about yours.🙂

  2. Are those pullaparts in the center of the table?

    1. Carol, it was actually gluten-free corn bread. 🙂

  3. OK I am a little behind here but I intended to comment about your last post on your mom, my sister! What a sweet, sweet tribute to her and well deserved! She is a wonderful person and an amazing family historian! Thanks to you also for continuing to pass on the family history not just in your heart and in our family but also in the written word!

    My other comment is that I am surprised and delighted to know that this “salad” has history! I always thought it was made by my aunt Martha but maybe she just made it the first time I had it! I can’t have Thanksgiving without this salad! Now it means even more!

    1. Aunt Sheila, your post make me so happy. Thanks so much for all of your wonderful comments. I agree about the salad. I was excited to learn that it also had Swedish roots. It’s so much fun to keep discovering new things about our past.

  4. Yum! Why am I not making this right now? Oh, I’m in a hotel and I can’t!!! But I so want to. It looks so simple and delightful.Those might be my two favorite adjectives to describe anything ever: simple and delightful. Thus, this is my new favorite food–even if I can’t eat it for a few days until I get home!
    Tradition, too, has its own special place. Maybe every tradition needn’t endure, but the ones bringing delight, the simple, pure, and thoughtful ones–may they always stick around.

    1. Angela, this dessert is so very simple, and yes, I’m sure that part of the reason it sticks around is due to it’s simplicity. I love that the ingredients are always lurking in the cupboard too. No extra trips to the grocery store. I’d love to hear an update after you try the cranberry dessert. We can’t get enough!

  5. Annika Östlund says: Reply

    Now I have to “bring it back to Sweden” and try that recipe. It looks delicious!

    1. I can’t wait to hear how you like it, Annika! My mother requested that I bring it to her house this weekend, so we will be having it twice in two weeks. 😊

  6. I’m going to have to try that dish. It looks delicious.

    1. If you end up trying the cranberry dessert, I’d love to know what you think of it, Allie! This dessert is one of our favorites (and it’s SO easy). Thanks for the comment!

  7. Omigoodness and tack så mycket! My background is sooooo similar to yours! We would also recite the ‘Come Lord Jesus’ prayer before every meal (and not just at my Gramma’s house). AND meals would invariably include a ‘salad’ that was waaaaay more like a dessert. But who’s complaining? At least you’re not eating lutefisk!

    1. At least it’s not lutefisk! I’ve tried multiple times, but just. can’t. do. it. Yes, I’m thinking we could have a long, probably never-ending, conversation about our backgrounds. I’m guessing the coffee flowed like water (who am I kidding – there was no water, only coffee), very little alcohol (if any) was serve, and swear words were kept at a minimum at your get-togethers? Am I still on the right page here? 😉

      1. Yes, at least it’s not lutefisk (!) Gnarly stuff, that. About that wine: once someone brought a bottle to my Aunt Marilyn’s Christmas dinner. She served it in those teensy liqueur glasses, probably since that’s they only way she’d seen wine served (at Communion, natch). There were, like, 12 of us. And we all got a sip! Oh, did your Gramma drink ‘silver tea’?

        1. Ha! I can picture the Communion glasses now.🤣 Also, I’ve never heard of ‘silver tea’. I’m going to have to Google that one. 🙂

          1. It’s hot water, with or without lemon. Heady stuff!

          2. Ha! Okay, I don’t think my grandparents did the silver tea thing. But, now I know what it is in case I come across it in the future. 🙂

  8. This looks so good! And your pics are incredible. You have a great eye!

    1. Thanks so much, Lisa! We just had this ‘salad’ again for the second time in a week. 🙂

  9. Oh – you’re RIGHT! – it’s a little over a decade since I moved away from MN, and (as a non-native to the state) I had forgotten about that (to me) odd tradition of calling things like this “salad” at Thanksgiving! Thank you for the reminder, as well as the yummy-looking recipe, which I shall now pin for future reference – my own Swedish grandmother would be proud of me having found this at last! 🙂

    1. Ha! I’m so glad you have the recipe now. 🙂 Those Swedes are pretty serious about their traditions (and recipes). In fact, I just finished a dinner of Swedish meatballs, Swedish sausage, rice pudding, and “gifta” with krem for dessert (an early Christmas dinner with my parents before they head south for the winter). And, if you ever visit MN again, the sweet salads will still be waiting for you. I’m pretty sure they will never leave. 🙂

  10. Erin, this looks delicious! This popped up in my email, and I read through but got sidetracked and didn’t get around to commenting! I love reading about your family’s traditions. I will definitely be trying this recipe with my family! Possibly for Christmas!

    1. This dish would be perfect for Christmas, McKenna – and, it’s so delicious and easy. 🙂 We celebrated an early Christmas this weekend with my parents because they’re heading down to volunteer in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in AZ from for a few months. We are hoping to go for a long road trip to visit and hopefully see some gila monsters, horny toads, and armadillos. 🙂 Anyway, the cranberry dessert seemed perfect with all of our other traditional Swedish foods my parents serve every Christmas. You’ll have to let me know how you like it if you end up making it! Thanks so much for coming back to comment, McKenna. 🙂

      1. Wow! That sounds INCREDIBLE! I would LOVE to do that! We have I’m sure you will find a lot of all three critters down there when you go to visit! That will be an awesome road trip! 🙂 I will definitely let you know what everyone thinks when I make it! 🙂

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