Face it, lutefisk STINKS when you cook it!! Especially the kind made from cod. It can also be made from pollock or haddock. These fish are almost odorless.

It is made from air dried or salt dried whitefish (cod or ling) and lye. Its translation from Norwegian literally means lye fish. The lye used in processing gives the fish a gelatinous texture.  Sounds delicious doesn’t it.

To make lutefisk you need to soak the fish in cold water for five days then soak it in a solution of lye and water for two more days.  The jelly like texture comes from the lye in the water which decreases the protein content by over 50%. After this process is complete the fish is then saturated with water.

Because it is saturated with water lutefisk has to be cooked carefully. The standard way to cook it so it stays firm is to put a layer of salt on the fish about a half an hour before cooking. The salt helps draw some water out of the fish but needs to be rinsed off before cooking the fish.

Lutefisk can be cooked several ways.  It can be steam cooked under very low heat by putting it in a pan, add some salt, and wrap it tightly.  Doing it this way takes 20 – 25 minutes.  It can be wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 435F for 40 – 50 minutes. It can be wrapped in cheese cloth and boiled until tender.  Some lutefisk (that is bought in North America) can be microwaved for 8 – 10 minutes in a heat resistant pan.

Be sure to use stainless steel pans, dishes, silverware. If you use sterling silver or aluminum it will turn black permanently. Lutefisk also needs to be removed from dishes and pans immediately because if it’s left on it becomes extremely difficult to get off. will give you some recipes.

Lutefisk can be eaten with a number of side dishes, they include: Meat balls (United States), other countries use peas, bacon, potatoes, lefse, beer, clarified butter, goat cheese, gammelost (old cheese) and white sauce.

Olaus Magnus wrote about lutefisk and these writing first appeared in Norwegian literature in 1555. However, no one really knows when lutefisk came to be.


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