Watch this audio slideshow of Þorrablót, an Icelandic mid-winter feast. In the past there was no fresh food available at this time of year so people ate dried fish, smoked lamb, putrefied shark and soured blood and liver pudding along with other soured meat products—ram testicles included.
Narration and photos by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. The first two photos and the last were taken at a Thorrablót celebration in Aalborg, Denmark, in mid-winter 2004. Courtesy of the organizers. The second to last was taken at a recent Thorrablót feast in New York, held inside an old church near Central Park. By Ásthildur Erlingsdóttir.
Icelandic communities abroad are often particularly ambitious about celebrating Þorrablót, the Icelandic mid-winter feast. A couple may dress up in national costumes and offer guests a bite of putrefied shark and a shot of brennivín (Icelandic schnapps) when they arrive.
The venue is usually decorated with Icelandic flags and other national themes, like from Norse mythology. In Iceland, such parties are held to celebrate Þorrablót too, but many prefer having their mid-winter feast at home.
A traditional menu may consist of hangikjöt, smoked lamb with boiled potatoes, green peas, red cabbage, apples and uppstúfur, a sweet white sauce. If available, the dish is served with the traditional Christmas bread laufabraud and Christmas ale (a mixture of orange soda and malt).
While most people fancy smoked lamb, súrmatur, soured lamb products, are not to everyone’s liking. They can be bought ready-to-eat in special trays and buckets at supermarkets.
Súrmatur includes soured blood and liver pudding, ram testicles, sheep-head jelly, brisket and lundabaggi, a roll of secondary meats. Also eaten at Þorrablót is putrefied shark and buttered dried fish. A traditional type of bread served alongside the Þorri dinner is flatkaka, a special Icelandic rye flatbread.
Because not everyone is capable of downing the Þorri food, people may also serve roasted lamb at the occasion or even hot dogs or lasagna for the kids.
After dinner at Þorri feasts abroad, an Icelandic band usually entertains the crowd with songs they recognize from back home and in a mood of nostalgia they dance and sing until the early hours of the morning.
Click here to read more about Þorrablót and the food served at such occasions.