Cod is the most common fish used in stockfish production, while other white fish, such as pollack, haddock and ling, are used to a lesser degree.
The fish is prepared immediately after capture. After gutting the fish, it is either dried whole, or split along the spine leaving the tail connected. The fish is hung outside on flakes from February to May, or dried inside in special drying houses.
The cold climate protects the fish from insects and prevents bacterial growth. A temperature just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, with little rain, is ideal. Too much frost will spoil the fish, as ice destroys the fibres in the fish.
The climate in Northern Norway is excellent for stockfish production. Due to the stable conditions, the stockfish produced in Lofoten is regarded as the best. The traditional cod harvest in Lofoten also takes place during the best drying time.
After its three months hanging on the flakes, the fish is then matured for another two to three months indoors in a dry and airy environment.
If you are curious about the stockfish production, the Lofoten Stockfish Museum is worth a visit.
During the drying, approximately 80 per cent of the water in the fish disappears. The stockfish retains all the nutrients from the fresh fish, only concentrated - it is therefore rich in proteins, vitamins, iron, and calcium.
After sorting by quality, most of the stockfish is exported to Portugal, Italy and Croatia. In Norway, the stockfish is mostly used as a snack and for "lutefisk" production. In Italy and Portugal, the fish (called stoccafisso) is soaked and used in various dishes, and is viewed as a delicacy.
Low-quality stockfish is also commonly used as supplemental food for pets, primarily as dog food or dog treats.
The Vikings exported dried fish, and from the 1400s and on, stockfish was Norway’s most important export article for a long time. Beside oil, gas, and income from the merchant fleet, stockfish is Norway's longest sustained export commodity, and one of the most profitable exported goods over the centuries.
On the menu
After being forgotten as a dish for hundreds of years, Norwegian chefs are again putting dry cod on the menu. It is first and foremost in Northern Norway that you will find it today. The tradition of hanging cod to dry in the wind has survived for hundreds of years. Until today most of it has been exported, but it is finding its way back to Norwegian homes and restaurants.
We recommend the following restaurants for a stockfish experience:
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