Jo's Icelandic Recipes

 

How to prepare "rotten" shark:

Don't try this at home unless you know what the end product is supposed to taste like. Putrefied shark  can become spoiled. 

I read in a book that fresh shark is unsuitable for eating because there is uremic acid in the flesh. This I am inclined to believe, considering that cured shark smells like stagnant urine or ammonia. It has also been claimed that that there is cyanic acid in shark meat. Fresh shark meat is said to have caused people to vomit blood. The curing process removes the acid from the flesh and makes it easier to digest. Connoisseurs of strong cheese generally like cured shark on the first bite. Others find it to be an aquired taste...

Cured shark for sale at an outdoor market.
Looks a bit like jerked meat, doesn't it?

       

Cured shark being served and sampled.

Traditional method: 
Take one large shark, gut and discard the innards, the cartilage and the head. Cut flesh into large pieces.Wash in running water to get all slime and blood off. Dig a large hole in coarse gravel, preferably down by the sea and far from the nearest inhabited house - this is to make sure the smell doesn't bother anybody. Put in the shark pieces, and press them well together. It's best to do this when the weather is fairly warm (but not hot), as it hastens the curing process. Cover with more gravel and put heavy rocks on top to press down. Leave for 6-7 weeks (in summer) to 2-3 months (in winter). During this time, fluid will drain from the shark flesh, and putrefication will set in. 
 

When the shark is soft and smells like ammonia, remove from the gravel, wash, and hang in a drying shack. This is a shack or shed with plenty of holes to let the wind in, but enough shade to prevent the sun from shining directly on the shark. Let it hang until it is firm and fairly dry: 2-4 months. Warm, windy and dry weather will hasten the process, while cold, damp and still weather will delay it. 

Slice off the brown crust, cut the whitish flesh into small pieces and serve, preferably with a shot of ice-cold brennivín.

The modern method for curing shark relies on putting it into a large container with a drainage hole, and letting it cure as it does when buried in gravel.