Lutefisk – Nordic traditional Yule dish

There are still more Christmas food to explore from the Nordic countries. These are traditions from thousands of years back and an important part of celebrating the winter solstice. Today I will serve you Lutefisk. It’s made from stockfish (air-dried whitefish) and lye. In Sweden, this food is called lutfisk, omitting the medial ‘e’. In Finland the same dish is known as lipeäkala. The direct translation is lye fish, owing to the fact it is made with caustic soda or potash lye.

Lutefisk is usually served with a variety of side dishes, including, but not limited to, bacon, green pea stew, potatoes, meatballs, gravy, mashed rutabaga, white sauce, syrup, geitost (goat cheese), or “old” cheese (gammelost). Especially in the US (a lot of Nordic people in the Upper Midwest you know!), it is usually eaten with lefse. Even if the common denominator is lutefisk, side dish varies greatly from family to family and region to region and is a theme of recurring controversy when different “traditions” of lutefisk-eaters meet and eat together. Let me serve you the way I like it (with aquavit and beer of course) and then give the recipes:

How to make it:
Saw the fish in suitably sized pieces or leave it whole. Put in water. Leave in water in a cool place for 5-6 days if cut in pieces, 8 days if the fish is whole. Change the water every day.
For the luting use a plastic or stainless steel or enamelled tub (the enamel must be unchipped). Wooden vessels, china or stoneware may also be used.
Place the fish in the tub with the skin side up. Dissolve caustic soda in the water, pour over the fish until covered complete by lut water. Leave the fish in a cold place for 3-4 days.
When the fish is completely luted, it will be well swollen and you should be able to put a finger through it. Rinse the fish and leave in cold water 4-6 days. Change water every day.
If the fish stays in water for too long after the luting it may be soft and difficult to boil. When you boil it, it might also get even softer. My American wife has found a way to avoid that as she ‘bakes’ the fish in the oven. Before it goes in, it looks like this:

You may also click her to find The UNofficial Lutefisk Website:-)
So now you’ve had some of our traditional Yule and Christmas dishes (scroll down if you haven’t had it all!). There are more though as I haven’t served our Christmas Day smorgasbord yet. So stay tuned and if you’re still hungry, there will be more traditions and food in a few days!