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The first record of the term rakfisk dates back to 1348, but the history of this food is probably even older. No sources are available as to the exact invention year of the rakfisk dish or the fermentation process that produces the raw material for it.
Fisk is the Norwegian word for "fish." Rak derives from the word rakr in Norse language, meaning "moist" or "soaked". The word descends from Proto-Indo-European *req, which means "source" or "drop," and is the root of "rain" and "irrigation."
Rakfisk is made from fresh trout or char, weighing over 750g. After gutting and rinsing, the fish is placed in a bucket and salted. Small amounts of sugar may be added to speed up the fermentation process.
The fish is then placed under pressure with a lid that fits down into the bucket and a weight on top. A brine is formed as the salt draws moisture from the fish. The rakfisk bucket is stored at 4–8 degrees Celsius for one to three months.
The finished product does not need cooking and is eaten as it is. Rakfisk will traditionally be served sliced or as a fillet on flatbrød or lefse and almond potatoes. Some also use raw onion, sour cream, mustard-sauce, a mild form of mustard with dill. Although not an everyday meal, approximately 400 tonnes of rakfisk are produced in Norway annually.
It is not recommended that rakfisk be eaten by pregnant women or people with an impaired immune system.
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