Traditional Norwegian Fenalår cured leg of mutton

Spain has Jamon Iberico, Italy has Parma ham, and Norway has Fenalår; one of my absolute favorite kinds of cured meats. It’s incredibly flavorful, and actually pretty easy to make yourself too!

My dad has made his own Fenalår for as long as I can remember. Paired with some home made Flatbrød with a dollop sour cream, and a nice, strong caramelly ale, I’m in heaven.

Or on the side with Smørgrøt (butter porridge)…don’t even get me started on that!

While my dad uses a brine to salt his leg, I prefer dry salting, as I feel it gives me better control of the saltiness – I like it a little bit salty, but not like a goddamned salt lick.

Though traditionally made with mutton, I have used this exact technique for curing game, such as roe deer. In that case, make sure to replace 500g regular salt with 500 g nitrite salt (with 0.6% nitrite). Nitrite salt can usually be sourced from a butcher.

Maintain good kitchen cleanliness throughout the whole process. While the salt and juniper berries kills germs, you don’t want to inoculate the leg with your dirty hands and tools.

All the pics in this post is from last year’s 3.8 kg roe deer leg (2019). A leg of mutton would look anatomically similar, but not exactly the same.

To break down the process:

  • Dry salt for 1 day per kg meat
  • Cold rest for 7 days
  • Drying for 2-3 months, or until 30% weight loss

Ingredients

  • A whole leg of lamb, hip joint removed
  • 2 kg sea salt
  • 200 g sugar
  • 50 g juniper berries

Method:

Remove the hip joint, or ask your butcher to do it for you. Also trim the cut surface to nice and smooth:

Massage and squeeze out any artery blood left. Begin from the thinnest part and massage your way towards the thick.

Put the juniper berries and 0.5 kg salt in a blender and run until the berries are crushed and well combined. Mix in with the rest of the salt and sugar, and cover the meat all over with the mixture.

Set aside in a dark, cool place for 1 day per kg meat. The longer you let it sit, the saltier it becomes. Also note that a leg that has been thawed tends to get salty more quickly, so perhaps reduce salting time by 1/2 day.

Note the weight of your leg at this point, as you will use that weight to gauge the drying process.

If your leg is 3 kg, this will be the result:

  • 2 days mildly salty
  • 2.5 days medium salty
  • 3 days sligtly saltier
  • 4 days very salty

The salt will draw out a metric shit ton of liquid. This is Normal.

Cold rest

It is important that the leg rests for a period of time to allow the salt to fully penetrate the meat, all the way into the bone. Otherwise, you may end up with rotting meat.

Simply rinse off the salt under running cold tap water, and pat dry with a kitchen towel.

Cover tightly with cling film and rest in a cool, dark place for a week.

Drying

Remove cling film, pat dry, and hang to dry in a dark, dry and cool place for 2-3 months, or until 30 % weight loss is achieved before you sample it.

Will usually keep for 1 year and more, depending on how well you made it. Unless you eat it. Then it won’t last very long at all…

If you dry it till 40% weight loss then vacuum bag it, it should be shelf stable for 8 years. Some give it a wash with potassium sulfite (Cambden) before bagging it. I’ve never done this before, so read up on it before you do it.

It is important to get a dry surface as quickly as possible, or mould may start to grow. If it gets mouldy, it is not spoiled, you will not die, and it is safe to wipe it off with coarse salt, or a vinegar wash.

Here on the west coast of Stavanger, we have very high humidity, like Seattle on steroids, so cold smoking right before the drying process was some times used to prevent mould. Though I prefer the unsmoked version, it does add a nice touch. Thick juniper branches or beech would be used.

There you have it! Skål 🙂

Check out our recipes for Flatbrød (recipe) and Smørgrøt from Suldal (recipe) too!

2 Comments

    • Hi Anette! Spekekjøtt (or Spekakjøt) is a generic term for all kinds of meat that has been cured, while Fenalår is specifically the hind leg of an animal, specifically mutton, or game (Lår means thigh). So a cured ham (the thigh from a pig) is spekekjøtt, but it is never Fenalår. But Fenalår is spekekjøtt too…

      Clear as mud? 😉

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