Dried Cod, and the Island Kings

Trough the last centuries, oak timber, ‘klippfisk’ (dried and salted cliff dried cod), and ‘tørrfisk’ – dried cod (hang-dried cod) have been the main Norwegian export articles. Hang-dried cod is made from cod, saith, haddock, tusk and flatfish. Today, only cod is used for export. Hang-dried cod is produced in Nordland and Troms County, Northern Norway. When the fish has been cleaned and skinned, it is tied and hung in pairs for drying. The process takes several weeks, and the cod gently dries in the pure arctic breeze. (See image)

Traditionally, the most important export markets are Spain and Portugal, where dried cod is a common ingredient in seafood dishes.

Since the beginning of the 18th century, fish exports has been the main source of income for the fishermen in Northern Norway. Small coastal villages in Nordland and Troms quickly became the richest places in Norway due to the fish exports, and soon the phenomena of ‘Islands kings’ was established: ‘Island kings’ were originally fish boat owners that became rich trough fish trading with Spain and Portugal. In exchange for the dried fish, they received payment in exotic articles that were unknown to Norwegians. Articles like textiles, spices, olive oils, fruits and wine, among others. It is also a fact, that many Norwegian sailors married wives with a Portuguese origin. That is one of the reasons why you will find many northern Norwegians with brown eyes and easily tanned skin.

At that time, Portugal was a big colonial power with colonies in South-America, Guinea, India and the Western and Eastern Africa, with access to a variety of exotic products. The ‘Island Kings’ brought the merchandise back home and sold it trough their own shops and markets, which made them even richer.

So, how is the hang-dried cod used today? In Spain and Portugal the raw material is primarily used in bacalhau and other fish pans. In Norway, hang-dried cod is used as a basis for lye fish For some weeks after the cod is dried, its watered out and put in a lye solution. In the old days, people made their own lye from boiling birch ashes. Many people also use hang-dried cod purely as a snack.

Today, the sight of hang-dried cod has become important to the coastal landscape and is regarded as cultural landmarks.


Text by: Thor Bugge Lanesskog, ThorNews

Photo: on top:unknown, below: real food traveler

Categories: Culinary Surprises, Traditional Food

1 reply


  1. Stockfish from Lofoten Honored in Italy | ThorNews

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