is an old favourite of the Icelanders. For centuries, Icelanders have
smoked, pickled and dried food for preservation, and hangikj÷t is
one of the most delicious of the smoked products. Much like in olden
times, hangikj÷t is not an everyday food, except when used as a
topping for bread, skonsur and flatbread. It may be eaten either hot or
cold, and is traditionally served with cooked potatoes, white sauce, peas
and pickled red cabbage. It is still the most favoured Christmas meal for
many Icelanders. What follows is a description of the old method used for
smoking lamb/mutton to make hangikj÷t.
The method for smoking fish will
be added later.
Smoking food, general information:
Smoking is an ancient food preservation
method, which leaves the food tasting delicious. The smoke dries the food,
and contains preservatives which prevent the food from spoiling. All food
that is to be smoked must be salted first.
The smoke room:
The best facility for smoking food
is a small shed or room with a high ceiling and a chimney. There should be
a fireplace in the center of the floor, and rafters up close to the
ceiling for hanging the food. If only a small amount of food is to be
smoked, a barrel smoker can be used. This is made by stacking two barrels
on top of each other. A small fireplace is made in the bottom one, and the
food is hung in the top one. Sometimes the smoke is piped from one barrel
to another through a flue. This cools down the smoke and prevents it from
cooking the food. The food must never be hung so close to the fire that
the heat reaches it.
The smoking materials:
The best smoke comes from wood,
especially birch, willow and juniper, but you can also use heather or
sawdust. Dried, pressed sheep dung mixed with straw from the floor of the
sheep pens is used by some Icelanders, and sometimes dried peat was used.
The fire must be covered
to make sure it does not flare up and burn too high. The aim is to getthe maximum of smoke with the minimum of fire. The temperature of
the smoke as it reaches the food must not be higher than 20-25░C. Smoking
times can only be given in approximates, as it depends on the volume of
smoke, size of the food pieces and various other factors.
Small pieces can be
smoked in a matter of hours in a barrel smoker. Meat should not be smoked
for more than 2-3 weeks.
Any meat can be smoked, like
mutton/lamb, horse, pork, game bird breasts, etc., but only lamb/mutton
and horse meat are called hangikj÷t. Legs, thighs and sides of
lamb are well suited for smoking.
Clean the meat well, and pickle in
brine #1 for 2-4 days, depending on thickness of the pieces. Allow the
brine to drip off the meat before smoking it.
Brine#1 for pickling meat
20 liters water
10 kg coarse salt
500 g sugar
100 g saltpeter (Note:
This is an unhealthful chemical and is no longer used by modern
This recipe may be halved
for a smaller amount of brine.
Heat the water to
boiling and mix in sugar, salt and saltpeter and cook for 5-10
minutes, or until the salt is melted. Strain and cool the liquid.
This brine is strong enough for salting small pieces like r˙llupylsa
and also for salting meat that will be smoked.
Hang up the meat and start the
smoking process. Make sure the fire never dies ľ the smoking must be
constant. Taste check the meat in a week or so ľ the meat should taste
smokey. If the meat is at all slimy to the touch, or has a rancid taste,
it is spoiled and must not be eaten. Smoke for another week and taste the
meat again. It should be reddish in colour with a pronounced smokey taste.
For evensmokier taste, give
it another week, but no more than that, or it may become too dry.
When the meat is smoked, it
should be hung in a cool, dry place. Meat that has been hung for a while
is more easily digested than meat that has not been hung. Hangikj÷t can
be eaten raw, and is excellent served by wrapping thin slices around
pieces of melon.
Home-smoked hangikj÷t sometimes
needs to be salted during cooking, and sometimes not. Taste it raw to evaluate whether or
not you need to cook it in salted water. Cook for about 40 minutes for
each kilo of meat, less if you cut it up before cooking. When cooked,
remove the cooking pot from the stove, and allow the meat to sit in the
cooking liquid for about 30 minutes before removing it. This step may be
skipped if the meat is to be served hot.
Left-overs may be sliced thin and used as a
topping for bread, or the meat and potatoes can be diced and added to
white sauce along with the peas, warmed up and poured into small pie
shells for serving.