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The last of the four great Norwegian Christmas dinners is "svineribbe", which literally means "pork rib". It is obviously made from pork ribs, and is usually cut to give a relatively large, rectangular piece of meat, about two inches thick. As this is not the traditional Christmas dinner in my family, I'm not entirely sure about all the details, for example I don't know if you cut away the bones, if you don't, or if it's optional. I do know, however, that svineribbe is prepared in the oven, that the rind is left on, and that it is absolutely essential to get nice, crisp crackling.

(Does crackling mean what wikipedia says it means? Is crackling crispy by definition? Is rind the correct term for uncooked crakling? Why didn't they teach us these important words in school?)

In order to help people achive the ultimate goal of perfecty, crisp crackling, there will usually be a number of TV shows either fully or partially dedicated to Christmas food in the last few days before Christmas, and all kind of different techniques will be presented. The main things seems to be that if the svineribbe is placed on a flat surface in the oven, fat will pool on the surface, and this prevents the crispyness you want. The simple solution is to place something under the middle of the meat, and upside-down plate, for example, which will allow the fat to flow away. The problem with this is that the middle of the svineribbe will then be closer to the heating element in the top of the oven, compared to the edges, and you can end up with a burnt patch in the middle. To avoid this, you can introduce countermeasures such as a cleverly placed piece of tin foil, and there is something to do with soaking in water, and some other stuff about cooking the svineribbe upside-down for a while, and then turning it, and I can't really remember it all as I've never tried this myself. I've even heard some people recommend careful use of a blowtorch if all else fails and the guests are waiting, eager to judge you as a person based on the crackling of the crackling. Here you can see a video of Ingrid Espelid Hovig (the mother of Norwegian cooking programs) explaining how to get perfect crackling.

While svineribbe is not my favourite Christmas food, it's actually not bad at all, and we sometimes eat it at other times of the year. It is usually served with potatoes, "surkål" (see explanation in article about pinnekjøtt), "medisterkaker" (a kind of meat balls made from something called "medisterdeig", which is essentially minced meat of pork with extra fat) and gravy. I think some people also have "tyttebærsyltetøy" (lingonberry jam), and there are probably other sides I don't know about, as I'm not an expert in this field.

By the way, this has been a good autumn for people who love svineribbe. For some reason, several of the larger food chains in Norway decided that cheap svineribbe would be the best way to attract customers, and this has resulted in prices as low as 15 kroner (roughly £1.50) per kilo. For comparison, pinnekjøtt costs more than ten times as much, though pinnekjøtt is of course more expensive to produce at it is salted and dried, and svineribbe isn't normally this cheap.

-Tor Nordam


Camilla,  15.12.10 00:40

Svineribbe is another of those Christmas foods I will never understand. It is not utterly disgusting and morally wrong, like lutefisk, but it is less interesting than codfish and you have to cut away about half of it if you don't want to feel sick. My family has experimented with the idea in the past (I think there was a grandparent somewhere who had brought the tradition into the family), but it was thankfully dismissed while I was still quite young. Lutefisk is still going strong on my mother's insane side, but they have the grace to give pinnekjøtt to the children (and I am thankfully still counted as one of those).
Tor,  15.12.10 00:44

The whole intermarrying between traditions-thingy is quite interesting, though if the solution is to have several different dishes, then everyone will eat everything in a few generations. I'm glad you are from the same tradition as me.