Olde Nordic dishes: Lutfisk / Columns / The Foreigner

Olde Nordic dishes: Lutfisk. Norway has her Christmas season food specialities too, with some more jelly-like than others. A popular Christmas Eve dinner is lutefisk or ‘lyefish’ which is made of stockfish – formerly dried cod.  The dried cod is soaked in a lye solution for several days to rehydrate it, with the lye then removed by rinsing the fish in cold water and subsequently boiling, baking, or poaching it until white and flaky.

lutefisk, christmas, norway, food



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Olde Nordic dishes: Lutfisk

Published on Monday, 28th December, 2015 at 21:40 under the columns category, by Sarah Bostock and Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 30th December 2015 at 14:01.

Norway has her Christmas season food specialities too, with some more jelly-like than others.

Lutefisk
Lutefisk
Photo: © 2009 Jarle Vines/Wikimedia Commons


A popular Christmas Eve dinner is lutefisk or ‘lyefish’ which is made of stockfish – formerly dried cod. 

The dried cod is soaked in a lye solution for several days to rehydrate it, with the lye then removed by rinsing the fish in cold water and subsequently boiling, baking, or poaching it until white and flaky.

The strong alkaline in the lye gives the fish a soft and almost jelly-like consistency.

Lutefisk is popular in Nordic countries (not Denmark), and Scandinavian parts of the US. It is called lutefisk in Norway, lutfisk in Sweden, and lipeakala in Finland.

The origins of the stockfish cannot be specified to a year, but there are literary references to provide evidence of its existence.

The first mention of the dried cod is in 1555 in the literature of Sweden-born Olaus Magnus (1490-1557).

Magnus, a Swedish-Italian priest, ethnologist, cartographer, and Archbishop in the Roman-Catholic Church, wrote about it in his monumental work called Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (A History of the Nordic People).

It was translated into Italian in 1565, German in 1567, English in 1658, and Dutch in 1665.

While abridgments of the work also appeared in Antwerp in 1558 and 1562, Paris in 1561, Amsterdam in 1586, Frankfurt in 1618, and Leiden in 1652, it was not published in Swedish until Michaelisgillet released this between 1909 and 1925.

According to the Norwegian Seafood Council, many people believe that lutefisk occurred after a fire in a dried fish storage facility in Nordland County’s Lofoten Archipelago.

The dried fish, damaged by the fire, could neither be sent to Italy nor thrown away as it was a valuable foodstuff.

Somebody watered down the ash-covered fish, put it on to boil, and discovered lutefisk.

Another theory is that somebody in a hurry used lye to speed up the watering down of the dry fish – thus discovering lutefisk.

Norwegian experts also say that lutefisk was a popular during Roman Catholic festivals, and can be traced back to before 1530.

“Eating fish for Christmas Eve Dinner was obligatory in Roman Catholic times. They ate fresh cod in Southern Norway (Sørlandet) and rotten trout (rakørret) in Telemark,” Astri Riddervold, told research website forskning.no.

People in western Norway’s Bergen area ate sugar salted cod filet that was put in a press some days before it was due to be eaten. This is because obtaining fresh fish was difficult back then.

Ms Riddervold, educated as a Chemist, holds a tertiary degree in Ethnology, and has written several articles and books on Norwegian food traditions.

Lutefisk is served in restaurants and homes nowadays, traditionally accompanied by potatoes, mushy peas, bacon, and with beer and aqua vitae (akevitt) to drink.

(Additional sources: Wikipedia, the Norwegian Seafood Council, and forskning.no)




Published on Monday, 28th December, 2015 at 21:40 under the columns category, by Sarah Bostock and Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 30th December 2015 at 14:01.

This post has the following tags: lutefisk, christmas, norway, food.





  
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