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Salt-cured lamb ribs and root vegetable mash

For many Norwegians, there can be no Christmas without Pinnekjøtt!

Pinnekjøtt .
Photo: Synøve Dreyer /matprat.no
Pinnekjøtt .
Photo: Synøve Dreyer / Matprat.no

This lamb dish is synonymous with family, good times, and the high spirits the Christmas season brings ...

... especially for the people in Fjord Norway!

Here, they have a strong tradition of serving pinnekjøtt as their Christmas dinner. In fact, as many as 76% have it on Christmas Eve, which is the focal point of celebrations in Norway rather than Christmas Day.

Christmas dinner .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Christmas dinner .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

It's not too surprising, as the beautiful valleys and fjords of this part of the country are excellent for farming sheep.

Sheep grazing in Aurlandsfjorden .
Photo: Øyvind Heen / fjords.com
Sheep in Aurland .
Photo: Ruben Soltvedt

The unique taste of pinnekjøtt is a result of the ancient preservation method of salting and drying the meat.

Salting Pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs) .
Photo: Matprat.no
Salting lamb .
Photo: Matprat.no

... while the name pinnekjøtt (literally 'stick meat') is thought to either refer to the birch sticks that are used in the steaming process or to the meat's resemblance to sticks.

Ingredients for Pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs) .
Photo: Studio Dreyer-Hensley / Matprat.no
Pinnekjøtt from Setesdal .
Photo: Astrid Hals / Matprat.no

In Norway, pinnekjøtt is traditionally made through salt-curing and sometimes also smoked – and Norwegians love to discuss which variety tastes the best!

Try the traditional recipe at home:

Pinnekjøtt .
Photo: Sara Johannessen / Matprat.no
Pinnekjøtt .
Photo: Sara Johannessen / Matprat.no

Pinnekjøtt and root vegetable mash


Makes five portions

2 kg salt-cured lamb ribs

Root vegetable mash:

1.25 kg swedes (also known as rutabagas)

2 carrots

1 potato

3 tbsp butter

100 ml cream

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Source: Matprat.no


1. You'll need approximately 400g lamb ribs per person. The meat has to be cut before being left to soak in cold water. Completely submerge the meat, using plenty of cold water, and let the ribs rest at room temperature for about 30 hours. Remember to change the water once about half-way through this period.

2. Place a metal steamer rack or birch sticks (bark-free) at the bottom of a big pot (like a lobster pot). Add water until it reaches the rack or the sticks. Put the lamb ribs on top, before covering the pot. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and let the lamb ribs steam at 85-95 degrees Celsius for approximately 3 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. Keep an eye out in case the water evaporates. There should always be water in the pot.

3. Peel the potato, carrots and swedes. Chop them into chunks and boil them until soft in lightly salted water. Drain the water and mash the vegetables.

4. Add butter and cream to the mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Grated nutmeg can also be added for some extra zing.

Merry Christmas!

A serving of pinnekjøtt with sausage and mashed turnips
Pinnekjøtt with mashed turnips.
Photo: Studio Dreyer-Hensley / Matprat.no

Pinnekjøtt has a long tradition, but that doesn't mean you can't mix and match and use it as a base for other recipes!

Try it as a burger, with BBQ sauce, or with rice. So good!

Pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs) szechuan with coconut rice .
Photo: Sarah Johannessen / Matprat.no
Pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs) szechuan with coconut rice .
Photo: Sarah Johannessen / Matprat.no

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