Traditional dried haddock

Ark of taste
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Hert ýsa, harðfiskur

In Iceland, traditional dried haddock is made from the species Melanogrammus aeglefinus. The finished product is called hert ýsa or harðfiskur in Icelandic. Traditional dried haddock is slightly salted with a weak brine and hung outdoors on wooden dowels to be dried at low temperatures. It can be dried whole after being gutted and headed or dried as fillets. The addition of salt, which only became common in the 19th century, enhances the flavour of the product. Climatic conditions are very important for the drying. Freezing temperatures and wind at the start of the drying period give the best results. The dried haddock is not soaked or cooked before consumption, but beaten with a mallet to soften it and then eaten raw, sometimes with the addition of butter on top. Production of indoor or cabinet-dried haddock is on the increase in Iceland. In indoor drying, climatic conditions become irrelevant and the processing is speeded up greatly. The indoor dried haddock has a different, more salty flavour than the traditional product. Stockfish was a staple food of Icelandic society throughout history, where it was used similarly to bread and accompanied most meals. It is first mentioned in Icelandic records from around 1200, and for centuries stockfish was the most valuable export product of Iceland. Many types of fish can be used for stockfish production, but cod was predominantly used for export and haddock for the domestic market, as it still is today. Traditional dried haddock is produced all around Iceland where the climatic conditions are favourable, but the main production takes place in the Westfjords. The annual total production of traditional dried haddock can be estimated to be approximately 50 tons. The production method varies slightly from one producer to the other. The method is, in principle, the same one that has been used for centuries. Traditional dried haddock is a popular snack in Iceland for every segment of the population. The consumption is more or less spread throughout the year, with peaks during summer and the traditional Icelandic food festivals from late January to late February. Traditional dried haddock is also considered a health product, as it is almost pure protein with a favourable sodium/potassium ratio.

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