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Stories from Norway

You cannot fake the taste of Norwegian Clipfish

There is real craftsmanship in the production of Norwegian clipfish. Creating the perfect product takes time, patience, knowledge and experience. But when it comes to enjoying it, it’s a piece of cake.

You cannot fake the taste of Norwegian Clipfish

Welcome to the land of Norwegian clipfish

Out on the coast of Norway, near the town of Ålesund, rugged mountains and several islands stretch out into the deep, blue Atlantic Ocean. It is a landscape carved out by nature. A cold breeze is blowing in off the sea, smelling of salt, seaweed and fresh clean water. 

"I was born into a life of clipfish production. It is part and parcel of my life," Jakob Dybvik says.

From generation to generation, the knowledge has been passed down

Innovation through generations

He is one of three brothers who took over the family clipfish company founded by his grandfather in the early 1920s. Back then, the cod was dried on rocks near the sea. The cod was laid out, turned manually and protected from the rain and too much sun. The work was never-ending. The word “clip” actually comes from the Old Norse word “kleppr”, which refers to the kind of rock formation that is common on the Norwegian coast. Today, production has moved indoors, but it is still the same natural elements that create the wonderful umami flavour in the Norwegian clipfish.

"My first job as a young boy was to handle the fresh fish that came into the production plant. I would then stand by and watch as the men prepared and cleaned the cod. I loved every minute of it."

The importance of Norwegian craftsmanship

Even though the production process is fairly simple, and there are not many ingredients, producing a high-end Norwegian clipfish is no simple task. According to Jakob Dybvik, a perfect product is a testament to Norwegian craftsmanship.

"There are no technical instruments or science that tell you when the product is perfect and ready. You simply have to feel it."

Jakob compares Norwegian clipfish production to the production of fine wine. Starting out with the perfect product is essential. You then have to work on it over time with great care and precision.

There are no quick and simple solutions to this process. You cannot fake the taste of authentic clipfish.
Jakob Dybvig
Producer of clipfish

Nature matters

From start to finish, Norwegian clipfish is a completely natural product. Norwegian cod comes from the fresh, clean waters of the Barents Sea and is renowned for its fresh flavour and unique texture. In combination with genuine Norwegian craftsmanship, the clipfish ends up with perfect taste and texture.

To make Norwegian clipfish, the cod is cut and laid out into its characteristic triangular shape. It is then salted. The salt displaces the water in the cod, which is why the finished clipfish product contains a high amount of salt. To get rid of the excess salt in the clipfish before cooking it, you simply soak it in water. You can easily control the amount of salt in the clipfish according to how long you soak it. Conveniently, the product swells up in size, leaving you with more fish than you started out with.

"Food safety is an important part of production. Norwegian clipfish is also, inevitably, a robust product as a result of being salted and dried," Jakob explains.

After washing off the salt, the Norwegian cod fish is placed on wooden pallets and moved into a drying facility where temperature, air and humidity are manually controlled. This is where the fish matures over time.

"You rely only on smell, taste and texture to determine whether or not the clipfish is ready. It all comes down to experience and knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation. There are no books or recipes – only the right nose, pallet and pair of hands."

A sustainable product

The Norwegian Bacalhau is made from completely natural resources and sustainable products. Different whitefish, such as cod, saithe, cusk and common ling, are all caught out at sea off the Norwegian coastline. These are cold, clear and highly nutritious waters. The Norwegian cod comes from one of the largest and most sustainably managed stocks in the world.

"We are extremely lucky to be able to make use of such a high-quality and sustainable fish. Norwegian clipfish have been around for several hundred years. We are quite literally making the same product today – out of the same fish stock – as they did several hundred years ago," Jakob says.

In addition to the fish being natural and sustainable, the production plant prides itself on zero waste.

"Nothing goes to waste. Even my grandfather made cod liver oil back in the day. Now we make snacks and other food products out of every part of the fish that gets discarded in the production process."

Easy to love and enjoy

The unique smell of traditional Norwegian clipfish is rich and full. There are several different degrees of maturity in Norwegian clipfish. One type of clipfish takes as long as two years to mature.

"This is a prime product with a rich and full-bodied flavour," Jakob says.

Preparing traditional Norwegian clipfish involves soaking it in cold water to get rid of the salt. By doing this the cod swells up with water and becomes a larger piece of Norwegian cod.

"The great thing about Norwegian clipfish is that it takes a great deal of skill and knowledge to produce, yet everyone who tastes it will recognise its incomparable and unique umami flavour."