What Exactly is Lutefisk?

Lutefisk (or lutfisk for Swedes) is dried whitefish; usually, cod, soaked in lye.

Lutefisk originated in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, pickling the fish in lye was a way to preserve it for the long winter months. It was also eaten as part of the Christmas traditional dinner.

Unflavored fish soaked in a metal hydroxide? Merry Christmas!

To prepare lutefisk, you need to perform a series of cold water baptisms for the fish. It needs all the help it can get. The time for the cold water soaking is about 15 days.

Once the fish is ready to cook, you will need to find a skilled Norwegian or Swedish grandmother. If you cannot find said grandmother, forget the fish and order some fried chicken take out. Since the fish is now saturated with water, it can fall to pieces or turn into jelly. If you have ever had lousy lutefisk, you know this.

Nowadays, lutefisk is primarily eaten in Minnesota and Wisconsin around the Christmas season.

Depending on what house you find yourself in, lutefisk is served with a variety of sides: boiled potatoes, smashed green peas, lefse, gravy, white sauce with pepper, butter, rutabaga, fried bacon, and meatballs. Lutheran churches that span across both states are well-known for serving lutefisk and Swedish meatballs in November and December.

Recently in its home country of Norway, lutefisk has been gaining more attention with an increase in consumption, especially around the holiday season. Maybe we will start seeing this pickled fish plated in 3-star Michelin restaurants across the world! Or maybe not.


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