There’s Something Fishy Going on Around Here

Drying food is the oldest method of food preservation, and tørrfisk (stockfish), with a storage life of several years, has been one of Norway’s most profitable exports over the centuries, starting in the Middle Ages.

This ancient technique is fascinating and is still in use today.  Unsalted Codfish is hung out on wooden racks called “hjell”, and dried by the cold air and wind.  The fish is cured/fermented, similar to the maturing process of cheese.

If you’re visiting Northern Norway and see this type of drying rack, I encourage you to stop and take a closer look.  I did this past week and was intrigued by this ancient method, so foreign to a woman from the potato state.

Wooden Drying Racks, Hjell, Nordkapp, Norway

Tørrfisk - Stockfish, Honningsvåg, Nordkapp, Norway

fish heads, exported to Africa for use in soups

fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads

fresh cod hung to make boknafish (for a future post)

cod for boknafisk

And if you happen to remember the Fish Head song by Barnes and Barnes, well it’s been stuck in my head ever since ()

About ekhaugli

I'm Erica from America living at the top of the world - North Cape, Norway. I'm an artist at Once Upon a Dream Studio, nestled in the picturesque fishing town, Honningsvåg. In 2014 I started and environmental art project, One Step at a Time, concentrating on removing trash from or arctic shoreline.
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24 Responses to There’s Something Fishy Going on Around Here

  1. Stevie D says:

    I did see racks like those when I was travelling in the far north, but never knew what they were for. So thanks for that. I thought you would simply have all your fish frozen.:-)

  2. Alex Autin says:

    How cool! I’ve never seen anything like that. I had to laugh though…because I was thinking roly-poly fish heads even before you mentioned it!

  3. anaslensea says:

    Interesting! Thanks for posting!

  4. Fascinating as always, thanks, have tweeted a link to here, you deserve a very wide readership…

  5. Chico says:

    Fantastic! I experienced the process of drying salmon in Fort Yukon, Alaska when we lived there, but now I can brag that us Norskies are the real kings of dried fish! But it begs the question, “so why lutefisk?”

    • ekhaugli says:

      Thank you! I’ll have to check out the “lutefisk” thing. It may be that it was a good way to preserve the fish in the summer months, as stockfish is dried in colder temperatures. I’ll let you know when I find out.

  6. drawandshoot says:

    This is a great post Erica. I’m surprised at how huge the racks are. What a wonderful subject, your images are excellent!

    • ekhaugli says:

      Thanks Karen. And yes, the racks are huge – literal towers of fish. It was fascinating and a bit surreal. I asked for permission from one of the employees, but I still felt like I was trespassing. There was a special atmosphere there. I wasn’t really able to capture that in the photos.

  7. holy mackerel, Erica. That’s ALOT OF FISH!! We eat fish about three times a week. After seeing these pics, I think I’ll have a grilled cheese. The song is so fun!!!!

    • ekhaugli says:

      I know! When I got up close to the racks, it was a bit overwhelming. I talked to an employee who was hanging up some fresh fish who told me all of it will soon be exported to Africa. And speaking of eating fish, I’m going to share a few recipes that use stockfish and klippfish (salted and then dried). Have you ever heard of a Portuguese dish called “bacalao”? It is wonderful!

  8. uthamz says:

    Interesting ! And informative !!
    nice post !


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