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Slátur-Making

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Slátur-Making

Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.

Though most Icelanders still have a taste for slátur, they seem to prefer buying it ready-made nowadays. The sale of the raw material needed to make this delicacy has dropped by 15 percent in one year, according to Sigmundur Hreidarsson, production manager of the meat production company Nordlenska.

The slátur-making package, which can be bought at special slaughter markets in grocery stores like Hagkaup, contains singed sheep heads, stomachs, diaphragms, fat, hearts, livers, kidneys and bottled blood.

Not everything is used for the recipe. The heads are eaten separately or used to make paté, the hearts are used for goulash and the diaphragms, which have very little meat on them, often end up in the trash.

The idea is to use everything from the slaughtered sheep and not let any food go to waste—if you have ever been to Thorrablót, an Icelandic mid-winter feast, you will know that this is true, even ram testicles are eaten—and though eating innards may seem gross to some people, it is actually quite healthy. Liver, for example, is very low in fat, but high in iron.

Once everything edible had been removed, the carcass was still of great value to the poor farmers of the past. The sheepskin, or the gaera, was used for clothing, and the bones for tools or toys. A new shop called Völuskrín, has made traditional toys popular again—like those traditionally made from sheep bone.

Now, back to making slátur.

The membrane is removed from the kidneys and livers, which are then put into a meat grinder. Lamb stock, milk, salt, oatmeal and rye flour is added to the mixture, along with finely chopped fat. A generous portion of fat is required; otherwise the liver sausage will become hard as a rock once it is boiled. The mixture is then stuffed into parts of lamb stomachs and sewn shut.

Making blood pudding is simpler. The blood is passed through a sieve before it is poured into a bowl and mixed with salt, rye flour and plenty of fat. Once it has the right consistency and is not too runny, it is poured into sheep stomachs and sewn shut. Before the age of freezers, slátur was soured in mysa, or whey, but today, the sausages are put into plastic bags and stored in the freezer.

This is the basic recipe for slátur. But every family has its own special recipe, which has been developed and passed on through generations, and by adding secret ingredients like raisins or onions, the taste of slátur varies from household to household.

A busy day of slátur-making is celebrated with a feast in the evening. The blood and liver pudding is pierced with a fork or a knitting needle and boiled for up to two hours. It is then served with boiled potatoes and yellow turnips. Some serve it with a white, sweet béchamel sauce called uppstúfur.

Bon appétit!

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