What generations of Norwegians born after the 1920s remember most clearly from their childhoods is the tradition of smoked herring. Those who spent their youth in villages along the coast can still picture the fat silver fish their mothers would roast on burning coals and leave hanging over the fireplace. They would serve the herring with mashed potatoes.
Herring has been an essential part of the Norwegian diet for hundreds of years. Remains of the fish have been found all over Norway in archeological sites dating as far back as 600 BC. As early as the 13th century, the country was already enforcing laws regulating herring fisheries, stipulating the tools used and establishing punishment for offenders. By the 19th century, salting houses – where the fish were salted in wooden barrels – numbered nearly 1,000 along coastal Norway.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Norwegian market for cured and smoked herring was mainly destined for export to the Caribbean alongside the so-called "slave herring" sold by the British. It was during this period that Norwegians refined their salting and smoking techniques, adopting the British tradition of using different processing methods for silver, golden and hard cured herring. Today silver, golden and hard-cured herring are still produced by the family-run company Njardar, in Leinøy, using the diverse processing methods for the three different types. Founded at the beginning of the last century, Njardar is the last company in Norway that still uses artisan salting and smoking techniques.
The situation has drastically changed since the golden age of herring fishing, which lasted from 1946 to 1968, when the region boasted 35 companies that produced the three kinds of herring. Eight of these small plants were based in the small fishing village of Naeroy. However, after 20 unfavorable years, all the processing companies were forced – one after the other – to shut down, which led to the disappearance of herring from the Norwegian diet.
Two main factors have caused the decline: on one hand, the last significant stock of herring reached Norwegian waters in the 1950s, supplying fishers with catch to last about twenty years, which were followed by a series of unfortunate fishing seasons. On the other hand, competition from industrial production has gradually estranged Norwegians from consuming artisan herring.
Unfortunately, rapid industrial development has caused most of the companies to close down. Nowadays, the Njardar Company, a family-owned business, is the last company in Norway that producing it. The Presidium intends to raise awareness among consumers, revive the traditional production methods at risk of disappearing, and support a good example of sustainable small-scale fi shing.
Møre og Romsdal County, Sunnmøre region
Presidium supported by
Møre og Romsdal Fosnavaag
N-6094 Naeroy, Leinøy Sunnmøre
Tel. +47 90861017
tel. +47 90861017