Salting meat - Saltkjöt
The recipe contains saltpetre (potassium nitrate), the use of which has been mostly discontinued in Iceland due to health concerns. Saltpetre was used as an extra preservative and it also gives the food a characteristic pink hue. It may be safely left out, but the meat may not keep for quite as long as it would otherwise. The sugar tenderises the meat.
Meat may be dry salted or brined. Dry salting is best for lean meat and brining for fatty meat.
For 50 kg of meat (mutton, lamb, horse, beef, pork, etc.):
3 kg salt (coarse pickling salt works best)
250 g sugar
2 litres water
(30 g saltpetre)
The meat should be cut into in serving-sized pieces (half-cutlets, steaks, etc.). It should be clean and should preferably be brined or salted as soon as it has cooled after butchering.
Choose a clean, watertight container with a tight lid for the salting/brining (a barrel is traditional). Its size should depend on the amount of meat you want to preserve. It should always be as close to full as possible.
Mix together salt, sugar and saltpetre (if using). Sprinkle a little of the mixture on the bottom of the barrel. Roll the meat pieces in the mixture and pack them tightly into the barrel in layers. Press down. Sprinkle a little salt over each layer and pour 100 ml water (2/5 cup) water over each layer. End with a solid layer of salt.
Put a lid or something that fits snugly into the barrel on top of the meat and weigh it down, e.g. with bricks. A brine will form as the juices leak out of the meat. Make sure that the meat is all under the surface of the brine (thus the weighing down). Leave the meat in the barrel for at least 3 weeks, in a cool place. Should keep for up to a year if kept cool.
Brining is adviceable for warmer weather and fatty meat. To make the brine, mix salt, sugar and saltpetre in approximately the percentages in the recipe for the salting mixture, and dissolve in cool water until a raw potato floats in the brine. Pack the meat in layers as in the previous recipe, pouring in the brine when the barrel is almost full. Keep topping up with brine as it seeps into the meat layers, and weight down when the meat has settled and the barrel will take no more brine.
Before cooking the salted/brined meat, soak it in plenty of water as needed (overnight or longer, depending on for how long it has been in the brine, changing the water a couple of times).
This meat may be cooked and served with cooked potatoes and cabbage. The stock may be used to make pea soup.