Bakalar – We take pride in serving you the taste of Christmas

Bacalao in Norway
Picture: Stiftelsen Nordmøre Museum

What have Croatian Christmas traditions to do with Norwegian cod? A lot. Just read on to find out.

The Norwegian tradition – Clipfish
Clipfish is salted, dried cod. The invention of clipfish dates back as early as the 14th century, and came to Norway in the 18th century with help from Portuguese and Basque fishermen, who had found a new way to conserve cod. Due to easy access by ship, large drying grounds, and perfect climate in the springtime the coastline in Mid-Norway were chosen for production.

The Spanish seamen, who came to Norway to buy fish, introduced Bacalao a la Vizcaina to the Norwegians. This is the traditional way of preparing clipfish in Norway even today – clipfish in a red tomato sauce.

Even if the production is concentrated in the North-Western region, a large part of the raw material comes from Northern Norway. While clipfish can be made with saithe, ling and tusk, the most authentic recipe uses cod.

The traditional way of production was to dry the fish on the cliffs near the sea. Regardless of age and gender – everyone was a part of the production process.

The fishermen were traditionally men, but the heavy work, which included washing and drying, were done by women – for one third of the men`s salaries. The children carried the fish. Today, the cod is mainly dried indoors using modern techniques.

 

The Croatian tradition – Stockfish
Stockfish is dried cod. Stockfish reminds of clipfish, but the production process, also the taste differs. Stockfish dries outside with help wind, and is not salted. Norway produces the most of this fish in the world. Croatia is the third most important country in terms of export of Norwegian stockfish.

The climate in Northern Norway is perfect for creating stockfish, with relatively low temperatures and a right balance of wind, sun and rain.

The Venetian nobleman and merchant, Pietro Querini, was one of the first to bring stockfish to Southern Europe in the first half of the 15th century. Originally, set to Belgium, Querini, together with three ships loaded with wine and spices, set sail in 1431. Due to bad weather, a big part of the crew died along the way. The boats drifted across the North Sea, and stranded in Lofoten, in Northern Norway, where they were found by local fishermen.

After a three-month recovery, the crew sailed on small cargo boats loaded with stockfish southwards. During the 1800s, codfish settled in Dalmatia, as an Italian import. The rest is history.

 

Did you know?

… Both clipfish and stockfish are popular in Catholic countries around the world. The fish was traditionally a great substitute for meat during Lent.

…Dried cod is a versatile product! Clipfish is delicious on pizza, for instance!

…In Norway there is a museum for clipfish. Its located in Kristiansund in Mid-Norway, where the production first started in the 17th century.

…It is healthy! The drying process removes the water content, but leaves all of the nutrients. Clipfish is rich in protein and low in fat. Stockfish consists of 79 (!) percent proteins – one good reason to eat more of the fish.