December 09, 2005

'O Lutefisk

It is officially Christmas time here in the Contagion household. Last night I took Boopie and Clone to a local church for the annual Lutefisk dinner. What’s lutefisk you ask? Well first we need to make sure you are pronouncing it correctly, it is pronounced loo-te-fisk. Unless you’re Swedish and they pronounce it loot-fisk, but the Swedes are wrong.

Lutefisk is an old Scandinavian delicacy. Originally it was sun dried white fish, mainly cod, that was soaked in lye (Yes, the caustic material that the industrial sector uses to make glass and soap) for at least 3 days and sometimes up to 10. Then you soak it in regular water for about 5 days, give or take a day depending on how long you soaked it in lye. Really, the lye is what makes the texture and taste so happy! That is just to prepare the fish for cooking. So for the few of you that aren’t sticking your heads in buckets, wrenching your guts out, I’ll now share the secret of how to cook lutefisk.

The old fashion way to cook Lutefisk: First off, as a warning do NOT use an aluminum pot or pan unless you wanted it ruined. The cooking process will permanently darken it. First you boil the fish; Boil the water. Add salt, using about three tablespoons of salt for each quart used. (Amount of water depends on the amount of fish cooked. Make sure the fish is at least covered by 2 inches of water). Return to a boil. Add the fish to the boiling water and again return to boil for about 20 minutes. DO NOT OVER COOK! When all is done serve with melted butter.

You can also bake Lutefisk: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet place aluminum foil (don’t worry, you’re going to throw the foil away) two sheets thick. Place the lutefisk skin side down and season with salt. Wrap the foil tightly around the lutefisk. Bake for 20 minutes, again DO NOT OVER COOK! When you remove the lutefisk from the oven you will want to drain the excess fluids from the packet. My grandmother recommends just cutting a corner out of the foil and draining it that way. Serve with melted butter.

A great side dish for lutefisk is boiled potatoes, lefsa, pickled herring, rice pudding and lingonberries. Now some people have a white sauce the put over lutefisk, others use a mustard sauce. WELL THEY ARE EATING IT WRONG! Just plain melted butter is all that is needed for this oral delight! Also if it is not cooked properly it tastes really nasty and has a bad texture. Grau once had some that he described as, “fish flavored pre-chewed steak fat.� Either his was obviously cooked poorly or he was eating the skin. Which let me save you some embarrassment, don’t eat the skin… it’s just there to hold the meat in place.

Anyway, I took the boys for our annual lutefisk dinner with my father last night. This is the 28th year they’ve had it, I’ve been every year except for the 4 years I was in college. It’s also serves as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army, their band comes to provide music for us while we eat and they pass the donation bucket around. It’s the official kick off of the Christmas season for me.

Now I must admit, I used to hate lutefisk… up until 4 years ago. Now I love the stuff, my father loves it as well. Boopie hates it. Clone didn’t care for it last year. When they served it, my father took Boopie's and I took Clones. Don’t worry folks; they also had ham, Korv (Scandinavian Christmas Sausage), Swedish meatballs, real Swedish meatballs. Not the crap they pass off as Swedish meatballs in the stores. We are all eating our fill of Scandinavian delicacies when I ask Clone if he wants to lutefisk. Clone says, “Yeah, I like.� Okay… So I give him some, I’ll be double dipped in chocolate if the boy didn’t like it this year. He ended up eating half a bowl of it on his own. HALF A BOWL!

My father was so proud that his youngest grandson was eating the lutefisk. He gave me some crap because “it took (me) 24 years to decide he liked it.� Unfortunately it will be another year before I get a chance to eat lutefisk again. The only person I knew first hand that made it was my grandmother and she’s not making any this year.

To finish this post, I’ll leave you with the lutfisk song in the extended entry.

Sung to ‘O Tannunbaum

Lutefisk... 0 Lutefisk... how fragrant your aroma
0 Lutefisk... 0 Lutefisk... You put me, in a coma
You smell so strong... You look like glue
You taste yust like an overshoe
but Lutefisk ... come Saturday
I tink I'll eat you anyway.

Lutefisk ... 0 Lutefisk ... I put you by the doorway
I vanted you to ripen up ... yust like dey do in Norway
A dog came by and sprinkled you ... I hit him vit an army shoe
0 Lutefisk ... now I suppose
I'll eat you as I hold my nose.

Lutefisk ... 0 Lutefisk ... how well I do remember
On Christmas Eve how we'd receive ... our big treat of December
It vasn't turkey or fried ham ... it vasn't even pickled spam
My mudder knew dere vas no risk ...
In serving buttered lutefisk.

Lutefisk ... 0 Lutefisk ... now everyone discovers
Dat Lutefisk and lefse makes-Norweigians better lovers
Now all da vorld can have a ball ... you're better dan dat Yeritol
0 Lutefisk ... vit brennevin
You make me feel like Errol Flynn.

Posted by Contagion in Family Life at December 9, 2005 10:00 AM | TrackBack

Tell me again who it is that's "not right?"

Posted by: Ogre at December 9, 2005 10:20 AM

My word Herk. You are in the Christmas spirit. It has gone straight to your head and incapacitated you . . .

Posted by: oddybobo at December 9, 2005 10:52 AM

I totally forgot what I was going to write once I saw the words Errol Flynn. OMG... That man is soooo sexy.

Posted by: vw bug at December 9, 2005 11:59 AM

I am so glad I come from a culture where the annual Christmas parties have turkey, ham, or barbequed chicken and/or pork.

And I actuall have tried lutefisk, so I'm not just retching at the description; the memory alone got my eyes to watering as well.

Posted by: Jenna at December 9, 2005 12:37 PM


Growing up, my best friend was Swedish, so we of course had to deal with it around the holidays.


The best thing about it is the acid (ok, base)-chewed utensils and pots that were in her grandma's kitchen.

Posted by: caltechgirl at December 9, 2005 01:05 PM

People, Lutefisk is a delicious delicasy. Really, you don't know what you are missing!

Posted by: Contagion at December 9, 2005 05:25 PM

I know exactly what I'm missing and I've had your Grandmother's Lutefisk before... Pre chewed fish flavored steak fat is a good description.

Posted by: ktreva at December 9, 2005 07:55 PM

I am Swedish and it is pronounced loo-te-fisk in my family. Grau was ill that year and tried to eat Lutefisk when he was under the weather. Not a good combo. We always eat it with the white sauce. It's good that way. Why don't you make the Lutefisk this year yourself and bring it as a dish to pass? Bring on the Lutefisk, Pickled Herring and Lefsa, mmmm.....

Posted by: T-WOG at December 9, 2005 08:24 PM

Eh. It's fish. It'll taste bad no matter WHAT you do to it :-)

Posted by: Harvey at December 10, 2005 07:53 AM