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Iceland Mag

Food & Drink

Want to know what you are eating at an Icelandic Þorrablót? Here's your answer!

By Sara McMahon

  • An old turf house in Árbæjarsafn Museum The fourth month of winter, according to the old Icelandic calendar, was Þorri which began in late January. Photo/GVA

Þorri is the fourth month of winter, according to the ancient Norse calendar, and began on a Friday between the 19th and 25th of January. In pre-Christian times Icelanders would celebrate Þorri with a great mid-winter feast named Þorrablót, in honour of the Nordic god of thunder, Þór. The tradition was lost soon after Icelanders converted to Christianity but revived in the 19th century by Icelanders studying in Copenhagen.

Read more: 8 phrases to learn for the mid-winter Þorrablót feast
Read more: Slátur beats fermented shark

Some of the dishes served on Þorri might not sound very appetising, but Icelanders vehemently maintain that they’re guaranteed to put hairs on your chest.


Slátur, Þorramatur

Þorri food Here you see (from top left) hangikjöt, súrir hrútspungar and sviðasulta. On the right we have svið. Photo/Pjetur Sigurðsson

We have explained some of the many tasty delicacies traditionally served at a Þorrablót:

  •    Brennivín, known as Black Death is a distilled brand of schnapps that is considered Iceland’s signature liquor. It’s made from fermented potatoes, flavoured with caraway seeds and served ice cold. Its distinctive flavour masks the taste of fermented shark.
  •    Local beer, preferably a special Þorri-brew – Most local breweries will produce a seasonal Þorri beer. 
  •    Kæstur hákarl is shark meat which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. The curing process removes the ammonia from the flesh and makes it edible. 
  •    Svið, is scorched sheep-heads. This dish originates from a time when people couldn’t afford to let any part of the animal go to waste. The cheek is by most accounts considered the most tender and tasty part.  
  •    Súrir hrútspungar, sour, whey-pickled ram's testicles. The testicles are boiled and cured in whey.
  •    Sviðasulta is meat jelly made with meat from a lamb’s head.
  •    Harðfiskur is what Icelanders called air dried fish – a popular snack even today. Don’t forget to spread some rich Icelandic butter on top.
  •    Lundabaggi is made from sheep’s loins which are then pressed and cured.
  •    Flatbread with hangikjöt, a flat, pan fried bread served with butter and smoked and boiled lamb or mutton.
  •    Slátur and blóðmör, these two dished resemble the Scottish haggish and Irish black pudding, and are traditionally served with mashed potatoes
  •    Boiled turnips
  •    Rye bread

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