From Iceland — Þorri


Published February 8, 2008


We now find ourselves in midst of the old pagan month of Þorri (Thorri), according to the Old- Norse calendar, considered to be the coldest, harshest month of the year. Þorri is celebrated every year with a Þorrablót; a word that refers to an ancient pagan worship ritual, often accompanied by a sacrifice to the gods. Today’s Þorrablót mostly consists of binge drinking and the consumption of traditional Icelandic food known as Þorramatur. The type of food reflects storage methods before the age of the refrigerator. In Iceland, salt was a luxury, so locals resorted to pickling, smoking, drying and rotting the food which was to be consumed during periods when fresh food was scarce. Needless to say, these methods are questionable at best. Here is a short introduction to some of the more popular Þorri dishes.

Svið: Seared sheep’s head. All parts of the face are edible, but the jaw muscles are considered fine meat. Some people prefer the eyeballs, ears and tongue.

Sviðasulta: The meat of the sheep’s head, compressed in gelatine – an excellent alternative if you’d rather not look your food in the eye.

Hrútspungar: Ram’s testicles, soaked in mysa (whey), a sour dairy by-product from skyr. The taste is sour and the texture is somewhat crumbly.

Slátur: Blood sausage, not entirely unlike the Scottish haggis. Sheep’s blood is stirred to a thick pudding with wheat and oats for added consistency, wrapped in a sheep’s stomach and then boiled. Often soaked in mysa.

Lifrapylsa: Liver sausage. Ground liver, prepared in much the same way as above. Often soaked in mysa.

Lundabaggar: Various internal sheep organs, compressed in a net and boiled, and eventually soaked in mysa. This dish is very fatty.

Magáll: Smoked and compressed sheep’s stomach, with a typical but intense smoked-meat taste.

Hákarl: Putrefied shark. Rich ammoniac flavour from the ureic acid in the shark flesh. Soft, consistent texture.

Brennivín: Icelandic schnapps, also known as Black Death for its powerful cumin taste. Guaranteed to get you f´cked up.
In addition, people will celebrate Þorri with hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and harðfiskur (dried fish) consumed with traditional breads, such as laufabrauð (thin, deep-fried flat bread) or flatkökur (flat bread).

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