(Photo by: Apertif.no)
Red Saithe, also called Old Saithe, is a traditional dish from Salten in Nordland County. We do not know how old this dish is, but it is probably one of the oldest methods of preserving fish that still exists. Today, Red Saithe is considered a delicacy.
Red saithe should have a reddish-brown color, and it is prepared by leaving it in salt for one to four years; the older, the better!
The difference between Red Saithe and other salted fish, and what explains the name “Red Saithe” (saithe is a whitefish), is the actual cooking process: The blood is not removed during cleaning and gutting, and it is not washed. In the same way as preparation of cod used for dried cod, the fish is skinned – and backbone and head removed.
The fish is put between layers of coarse salt in wooden barrels or plastic buckets. It is lying in the brine throughout the ripening period which lasts for a minimum of one year. Not unlike the principle of making the traditional Norwegian delicacy “Rakfisk”; both undergoes a fermentation process, but with a completely different result.
The Red Color
Originally it was believed that the blood made the saithe red. This is not correct, but the reason why Red Saithe never rots is because of the blood’s bacteriostatic effect.
The red color originates from Calanus finmarchius, which is the saithe’s favorite food. Red Saithe caught in summer is redder than saithe caught in the winter.
Another phenomenon is that the older the Red Saithe gets, the less salty it becomes. After a few years in brine, from three to four years, the salt starts to draw out of the fish and it gets a more mature taste.
Red Saithe is divided into portions and put into fresh water for four to five hours. Then, it is put to a boil, the water is strained off and then the fish is boiled in fresh water for one more time, and poached for about 10 minutes.
Red Saithe is served with carrot, rutabaga or peas stew, fried bacon, boiled potatoes and flat bread.
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews