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From Northern Oceans and Dragon Ships

Gravlax 1

Gravlax 3

By Tim Hazell

St Brendan is said to have landed on Irish shores in the sixth century with 14 monks to found the monastery of Clonfert in Galway. The light vessel in which they made their dangerous crossing was a curragh, or a little boat of wooden ribs covered with tanned ox hides and caulked with tallow. Time has taken liberties with the facts, but these navigators from northern mists emerge as authentic personalities.

Viking exploits are immortalized in epic poetry, a range of Old Norse verse forms written between the eighth century and the end of the thirteenth century. The following passages are taken from the grand poem Beowulf, which is the most famous work of Old English literature. Its Scandinavian hero, a complex and tormented man, emerges from a world tinged with melancholy, blood, and grief.

It came in his mind

to bid his henchmen a hall uprear,

a master mead-house, mightier far

than ever was seen by the sons of Earth,

and within it, then, to old and young

he would all allot that the Lord had sent him,

save only the land and the lives of his men…

 

Danish culture permeated eleventh-century English life. The great community, of which England was a part, included Iceland, Greenland, Scotland, and the Faeroes, and extending as far as “Vinland the Good,” which stretched from what is now Newfoundland along the coast to modern Maine.

Serve this sugar-cured salmon and sweet mustard condiment in true Viking spirit—Scandinavian fare at its best!

 

Gravlax:

12 to 20 servings

 

Ingredients:

2 bunches fresh dill

4 lbs boned and fileted center-cut section of fresh salmon (will produce two equally sized filets)

1/4 cup coarse salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp coarsely ground white peppercorns

Directions:

Cut off and discard dill stems. Pat fish dry with paper towels, but do not rinse. Combine sugar, salt, and pepper. Rub mixture into filets. Spread 1/3 of the dill over the bottom of a flat dish. Add one of the salmon filets, skin side down. Cover with another 1/3 of the dill. Add the remaining piece of salmon, making a sandwich effect over the dill, skin side up. Cover with the remaining dill and place a plate on top. Add a reasonably heavy weight (brick or heavy book) and let stand in a very cool place for 48 hours, turning the salmon and dill “sandwich” every 12 hours, always re-covering with the plate and weighing it down. When salmon is cured, slice thin on the bias, and serve with rye bread and mustard-dill sauce below:

 

Mustard-dill sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

2 tsp dry mustard

6 tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup white vinegar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Pinch of salt

 

Directions:

Combine the Dijon mustard, dry mustard, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir in the vinegar, using a wire whisk. Gradually add the oil, stirring rapidly with the whisk. Add the dill and salt. Taste and correct the flavors. Yields about 1-1/2 cups.

 

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