Fish has been a vital source of food on the long Scandinavian coastline since man first inhabited the north after the last Ice Age. In the months to come, we’ll dive into some of the many preserved fish recipes in Scandinavia.
Fish were plentiful in the past and migratory fish were easy to catch, even without boats. The need to preserve this seasonal abundance to survive long months of cold and unfishable waters, with primitive means, is the basis of the enormous heritage if all manner of preserved fish in Scandinavia.
Related: More Seafood from Norway
Drying fish in the cold, dry winter air has been a necessity for as long as man has lived in the north. Fishing waters in the lakes and rivers freeze solid for a large part of the winter, or storms make fishing at sea impossible, so the preservation of fish caught in the summer has long been a means of survival.
It’s the mastery of skills such as smoking, drying and vinegar pickling that kept us alive – the Viking would not have been able to launch multiple and ambitious adventures abroad without their reliable supply of salted, smoked and dried fish.
Related: The Scandinavian Herring Adventure
Early preservation methods
Early preservation methods were simple, and before salt was available at an affordable price, drying and smoking were the only methods used. As trade improved, salt became another means of preserving, either on its own, or combined with drying, smoking and fermentation.
Lactic acid fermentation and lime curing are relatively new methods but are still at least thousand years old. Over time and through human ingenuity, the skills of salting, smoking and pickling have developed and survived the advent of modern refrigeration.
Related: Than You for Smoking, Mr. Hansen
Scandinavian preserved fish
Preserved fish is still an important part of the economy of fishing communities all over the north, transformed from an age of necessity into something refined and delectable in its own right.
Scandinavian Preserved Fish, written by Tor Kjolberg
Featured image (on top) Drying fish in Lofoten, Norway