Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jo's Icelandic Recipes

How to prepare "rotten" shark:

Don't try this at home unless you know what the end product is supposed to taste like. Putrefied shark can become spoiled.

I read in a book that fresh shark is unsuitable for eating because there is uremic acid in the flesh. This I am inclined to believe, considering that cured shark smells like stagnant urine or ammonia. It has also been claimed that that there is cyanic acid in shark meat. Fresh shark meat is said to have caused people to vomit blood. The curing process removes the acid from the flesh and makes it easier to digest. Connoisseurs of strong cheese generally like cured shark on the first bite. Others find it to be an aquired taste...

Traditional method:
Take one large shark, gut and discard the innards, the cartilage and the head. Cut flesh into large pieces.Wash in running water to get all slime and blood off. Dig a large hole in coarse gravel, preferably down by the sea and far from the nearest inhabited house - this is to make sure the smell doesn't bother anybody. Put in the shark pieces, and press them well together. It's best to do this when the weather is fairly warm (but not hot), as it hastens the curing process. Cover with more gravel and put heavy rocks on top to press down. Leave for 6-7 weeks (in summer) to 2-3 months (in winter). During this time, fluid will drain from the shark flesh, and putrefication will set in.

When the shark is soft and smells like ammonia, remove from the gravel, wash, and hang in a drying shack. This is a shack or shed with plenty of holes to let the wind in, but enough shade to prevent the sun from shining directly on the shark. Let it hang until it is firm and fairly dry: 2-4 months. Warm, windy and dry weather will hasten the process, while cold, damp and still weather will delay it.

Slice off the brown crust, cut the whitish flesh into small pieces and serve, preferably with a shot of ice-cold brennivín.

Brennivín home-grown

Here's for the connaisseurs an approximative recipy for the wonderful Icelandic brennivín which is hardly available at all in our geographical latitudes.

The ingredients: 1 liter of neutral brandy/spirits with 35% alcohol, 40 grammes of caraway seed (do not use what the Dutch call "komijn" which looks the same as caraway but does not have a very nice taste) approx. 30 to 40 grammes of powder sugar.

Put the seeds and the sugar into the brandy bottle. Wait for 3 weeks until the sugar has dissolved completely. The sieve the content of the brandy bottle through coffee filter paper into an empty, clean, stylish-green bottle. Cut out the label here below, glue it on the bottle and shout "Skál".

Any unused caraway seed (i.e. from a large package) is of course delicious with baked potatoes or in green salad. No, I am not a drunkard, but brennivín is a message from heaven.

The modern method for curing shark relies on putting it into a large container with a drainage hole, and letting it cure as it does when buried in gravel.

Shark source

Brennivín source

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