Rakfisk is very is considered a fish delicacy and is served with lefse (flat bread), sour cream, real butter and onion. Because of its extremely strong taste and smell, it is common to drink beer and a strong Norwegian spirits (Aquavit) when eating it.
It is not recommended that rakfisk be eaten by people with a reduced immune defense or by pregnant women. Note that all recipes for rakfisk states that the fish must never be in contact with soil. This is very important because of the risk of the wrong bacteria growing in the fish, especially Clostridium botulinum which causes botulism.
The first record of the term rakfisk dates back to 1348, but the history of this food is probably even older. No sources are available as to the exact invention year of the rakfisk dish or the fermentation process that produces the raw material for it.
The rakfisk dish is related to the Swedish dish surströmming and probably shares its origin in the ancient Scandinavian culture after the hunting-gathering way of life evolved into a more sophisticated society in which people were able to store food over a considerable period.
Rakfisk is made from fresh trout or char, preferably over 750g. Remove the gills and guts and rinse well so that all the blood is gone. Scrub the blood stripe with a fish brush. Rinse the fish and put it in vinegar solution for about half an hour. Let the fish rest and the vinegar run off for a while. Then place the fish in a bucket, close side-by-side with the abdomen facing up. Fill the abdomen with sea salt (60g per kilogram of fish). Sprinkle tiny amounts of sugar on the fish to speed up the “raking”, but not more than a pinch for each layer of fish.
Then place the fish under pressure with a lid that fits down into the bucket and a weight on top. The rakfisk bucket is put in a cold place (a stable temperature at about 4 degrees Celsius is the best, but it should be below 8 degrees Celsius at least). After a couple of days you should check if the fish is brined. If not enough fluid has formed to completely cover the fish, add salt brine containing 40g salt per liter of water. The fish may be placed at a higher temperature for some days to make it brine better, but one should be very careful with this.
Leave the rakfisk for two to three months. Rakfisk is well conserved in the brine. When the fish is appropriately “rak,” you can put it into a fresh 4% salt brine, which will slow down the “raking” process. Another method for slowing it down is to put the tub in the freezer (or outside if cold enough) for some time. As long as the fish is lying in the brine it will not freeze.
Text by: Thor Bugge Lanesskog, ThorNews