Smoked, cured and fermented fish
With more than 100,000km of coast (including the mainland, fjords and islands), Norway is a nation of fish-lovers, and the world’s biggest producer of salmon. Historically, preservation was key to survival and catches of salmon, cod, trout and herring were cured, smoked and preserved. Today, filets of salmon cured in the hot or cold smoke of burning native woods, such as juniper, beech and alder, are a treat. So too is lox (the belly of a salmon cured in a sugar-salt rub or brine) and gravalax (salmon cured in dill, lemon and alcohol, that was traditionally buried in the ground).
Norwegians are equally proud of their stokfish (dried cod) heritage. Filets of prized skrie (the year-old Norwegian Atlantic cod known as ‘white gold’) are dried in the open air on vast wooden racks before being brought inside to mature for up to year. The dried and salted variety is known as klippfish. In Ålesund, Norway’s salt-cod capital, locals delight in serving it in different ways – look out for lutefisk (a strong-flavoured jelly-like dish of stockfish soaked in lye). The prize for the nation’s most pungent delicacy goes to rakfisk (trout that has been salted and fermented for up to a year). Notoriously smelly and tangy in flavour, it’s eaten raw and typically served with slices of lefse (flatbread), red onions, sour cream and potatoes, and a shot of aquavit.
Jamón Iberico is the stuff foodie dreams are made of. It’s considered by many to be the best charcuterie in the world, with a texture that melts in the mouth and a rich, savoury, complex flavour.
Nothing this tasty could ever come easy, of course. In order to earn its denomination of origin status, jamón Iberico must be made from the hind legs of pigs that are at least half Iberico-bred (though purebred is most desirable). Jamón Ibérico de bellota is considered the finest type, and the pigs that produce this variety roam freely among the dehesas (oak forests), grazing on acorns during the final montanera (acorn season). It’s the acorn oils that create the meat’s distinctive texture and flavour.
The meat is then cured for at least three years before it’s ready to be eaten. It’s best enjoyed on its own – thinly sliced and served at room temperature – to allow the flavours to truly shine.