Food of Iceland: Saltfiskur - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Food of Iceland: Saltfiskur

Food of Iceland: Saltfiskur

Published September 27, 2019

Brought to you by
Sam O'Donnell
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Over a millennium ago, Vikings traded not with gold coins or fur pelts, but with salted cod, or saltfiskur. And it’s no wonder; the stuff is delicious. Cod, like any other animal product, doesn’t last long without preservation, and, with the dawn of the refrigerator still a thousand years off, the Vikings had to use salt.

The modern process of making saltfiskur involves covering a tray with salt, placing the cod on the tray, then covering the cod with salt. If it looks like there’s too much salt on the cod, that means it needs a little more. After that, the cod must be refrigerated for a day, and then rinsed in cold water. Then it is wrapped in muslin and refrigerated for a week. At this point, it will keep for several weeks.

It is then baked or pan-fried in butter. The result is a dish with a slightly crispy outer layer and a smooth, satiny texture on the inside. As for the flavour, it is salty, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s also chock full of protein.

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