The name “pinnekjøtt” comes from the cooking method that traditionally has been to steam the meat on wooden sticks (birch). In Norway, about a third of the population eat pinnekjøtt on Christmas Eve, which makes it in second place after the rib of pigs. More and more eat it on Christmas Eve, and many have it on the menu during Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or even in easter.
The dish has its roots in the old Norwegian community where salted and dried meat was an important part of the diet. The beef meat originates in areas with large sausages, especially in western Norway, but also in northern Norway and some eastern country villages. Status as a party and Christmas food is due to the fact that the meat has high fat content and was therefore attractive. When the sheeps ribs were salted and dried, and did not eat freshly as swine ribs, it was a consequence of natural feed and feed time. In recent years, several have embarked on new ways of preparing the meat, ranging from steam on a steel grating to cook the meat directly into broth.
Traditionally, the preparation of pinnekjøtt began with fresh sides being placed in brine for a couple of weeks, alternatively they could also be dry salted for a short period of time. Then they were hung up to dry in a dry, airy and cool place for 6-8 weeks, and preferably longer. In some places you also smoked the pinnekjøtt. When it was dry, they were hung up in the stabburet. In the dried state, the ribs could last well for a long time.
The day before cooking, the sheep’s side was cut up along the ribs and placed in cold water, usually overnight. The diluted ribs were steamed in a pan on a grid of birch pines both with and without bark . That way, it should be slowly lighted under cover until it was tender for 3-5 hours.
Although the process of salting and drying today is industrialized, the principles are still the same, and you can buy both whole sides and pre-cut ribs. One uses a mixture of coarse and fine salt and rubs the sides with salt by hand. This in order for the outer muscle cells to break and the salt needs to penetrate quickly. Then the meat are stored for about eight days. Then the sides are flushed well with water and hang for drying.
The chemistry behind pinnekjøtt
The salting of the pinnekjøtt binds to water and draws it out of the meat, as does air drying. This makes the meat more durable than it originally was. Smoked pinnekjøtt can get a lot of chemicals through the smoke, including antioxidants and nitrogen compounds that prevent botulism-causing bacteria to bloom.
The pinnekjøtt that is only salted and dried is brown while smoked pinnekjøtt is burgundy is due to the fact that smoking reduces the protein myoglobin to nitrosomyoglobin which has the characteristic reddish color, while myoglobin exposed to air turns into methyoglobin that is brown.
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