Norwegian Christmas Traditions | Julenek & Julebord

Julenek is an old tradition in Norway of hanging a sheaf of grain ‘julenek’ for the birds during Christmas. The sheaves were to be large and of the best grain. It was important to get the julenek up at the right time and you had to pay attention to what kind of birds got into it and how they behaved. A good harvest was predicted by the visit of Sparrows, Great tit and Bullfinch. Bigger birds such as the Magpie were a bad sign.

The tradition has survived since before Christian times, and is to this day an important part of the Norwegian Christmas. There are different beliefs around the origin of the julenek. It is said to be a pagan tradition, to keep away bad spirits. Some believe it was a winter sacrifice to the Norse God Odin.

Julenek paints a romantic picture of Christmas in Norway, and has inspired many artists and painters.

In the spirit of Julebord (Norway’s pre-Christmas Season), our head chef Rich Cox offers a recipe for Holmen’s version of the traditional Norwegian Christmas Eve dish – Ribbe (seasoned pork belly). A delicious piece of Smoked Pork braised in spiced cider and then wood-roasted along with Winter apples and served with Kraut warmed in brown butter and fermented lingonberries.

God Jul everyone! Have a wonderful festive season with your loved ones.


1 kg whole piece, smoked pork

500 ml apple juice

500 ml cider

1 onion, peeled & quartered

2 g juniper berries

2 g whole black peppercorns

2 g whole cloves + extra

3 star anise

5 bay leaves + extra


1 heaped tbsp Dijon or English mustard 

1 tbsp honey

50 ml cooking liquor from the smoked pork


Sauerkraut with brown butter, roasted apples and fermented lingonberries


  1. Place the piece of smoked pork in a deep saucepan and pour over the combined apple juice and cider. Add the onion and spices.
  2. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for 2 hours until tender.
  3. Take yourself off outside for a walk to take in the stream of gently setting sunlight.
  4. Remove the smoked pork from the pot and score the fat in a crisscross pattern. Reserve the cooking liquid to the side.
  5. Make the glaze by whisking together the mustard, honey and 50ml of cooking liquid.
  6. Spoon over the pork to evenly coat the surface.
  7. Insert the extra whole cloves over the top of the pork. Placing one clove in each square of the crisscross pattern.
  8. Pour any remaining glaze over the top and place in a medium-hot wood-fired or 180˚c oven to roast.
  9. Quarter and core 4 small apples and place in a buttered roasting dish with 2 – 3 bay leaves and a small ladle full of the cooking liquor. Place in the woodfired oven alongside the pork.
  10. Occasionally baste the pork with cooking liquor to ensure the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn.
  11. When the pork has caramelised and the apples are tender and ready, heat some kraut in a pan with brown butter. Using a little of the smoked pork cooking liquor to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and you have plenty of combined kraut and pork cooking liquid to use as a sauce.
  12. Place the kraut topped with the roasted apples and fermented lingonberries on a platter.
  13. When ready, carve the pork into thick slices and then sauce with the kraut pan juices.

© Richard Cox

Head Chef – Holmen Lofoten