Norwegian fenalår cured leg of lamb

Traditional Norwegian Fenalår cured leg of mutton recipe

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 Norwegian pizza bianco with Fenalår pizza and lingonberries….

Norwegian pizza with fenalår and lingonberries

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 will kill off parasites in game, and 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 below 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


  • A whole leg of lamb, hip joint removed
  • 1 kg sea salt
  • 100 g sugar
  • 15 g juniper berries


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. Just ask my brother – he found out the hard way…

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.


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 the magnificent Smørgrøt from Suldal (recipe) too!


    • 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? 😉

  1. We used to be sent one from the Norwegian relatives until our stupid government initiated brexit, (I know Norway is not in the EU but it still abides by the rules) whereas the UK does not! So now make our own too

    • Home made is the best too, since you can adjust saltiness and other parameters to your liking! 🙂

  2. Thanks for all the info. Quick question – i did this process on a deer ribs and loin. The deer fat turned a shade of green after 3 days in dry salt + pink cure. Any idea what happened or why? It still smells fine and i moved on to the 3 month dry time.

    • Hey Will! I’ve never experienced this myself, so I had to Google it 🙂
      According to researchers, a simple chemical process between nitrite (your pink salt) and myoglobin, which inhibits the flow of oxygen in the blood and degrades the blood protein haemoglobin, causes the blood to turn from red to green.

          • I saw a this dish on a video last week and am sad I didn’t get the chance to try it while I lived in Sweden. I’m back in Canada now. I just salted my first lamb leg and put it in the fridge. Thank you for the simple directions and recipe! I can’t wait to try it. I’ll be back in a couple of months with an update. 🙂

          • Awesome! Good luck with that! I really miss Canada – I used to live there in the early 2000’s 🙂

    • Hi Margaret! A lower temperature means it’ll take longer to dry, and develop more flavor. Our attic is nice, dry and has good ventilation, and keeps around 10C in the winter, so that’s where I hang mine.

      Dad hangs his in his living room, so room temperature is possible too. But his dries quicker, especially on the outside, so while his tends to be quite dry on the outside and soft inside, mine turns out a little less hard on the outside, and a bit firmer all the way through. I like that.

      Makes sense?

      • Yes it does, thank you very much. I’m in upstate New York with an unheated basement (no furnace) and a dehumidifier. It stays about 10 degrees C so I’ll hang it down there. By the time the Spring warmth starts creeping in (and the hibernating snakes wake up!) it should be finished. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  3. This sounds delicious, thanks for sharing! I have a couple of technical questions – this can definitely be made successfully with mutton? For me this is different to lamb – lamb is under 1 year old whereas mutton is an older sheep, two years old and more. (Hogget is 1-2 years.)
    Another question – you mentioned squeezing out the arterial blood, so I guess that means the carcass is not hung to mature two or three weeks first before being butchered?
    Finally, some recipes I found for similar cured mutton “ham” talk about cooking it before eating, either frying the slices or boiling the whole joint during the process. I would hate to do that, this looks awesome raw, so I guess some techniques like this one mean you can eat it raw like a Serrano ham, but other techniques mean it has to be cooked first as those conditions lead to spoilage, is that right?
    Thanks so much for any advice, I want to try this for my family as I have access to both mutton and hogget (I’m a sheep farmer always looking for ways to help people discover tasty recipes – in fact if you agree, I’d love to publish this on my own website one day with full credits and links to you).
    Skål 😋

    • Hi! Sorry for the late reply but you ended up in my spam filter!!
      Fenalår was traditionally made in the fall, from September to November (depending on where in Norway they live), when farmers culled based on how much food they thought they would have for the sheep through the winter, and also to stock up for themselves for the winter. Born in April, it means the lamb are typically 5-7 months when slaughtered depending on how big they grow. Yes you can use mutton, but keep in mind that the older the mutton, the more potent flavor.

      The meat is hung and matured as far as I know, but I’m not a butcher. There usually isn’t much blood to squeeze out, but it’s considered best practice to do so, both with Fenalår and ham. I know huge hams are litterally walked over to do this since they’re so big.

      Fenalår is enjoyed just like a Serrano. You can eat it “raw”, or you can fry it, or cook it. Here’s my recipe for pizza with Fenalår Others use the left over joint as basis for the stock for yellow pea soup

      Please feel free to use everything on this site as long as you credit us for our work 🙂

  4. Fenalar is something I’ve always enjoyed. I can still see my grandfather slicing it in the kitchen and putting it on a buttered brown bread he baked fresh when I was a kid. We used to get a leg during the holidays, but it has become increasingly difficult to find.

    In the comments you mentioned at a lower temperature it takes longer to dry. I am trying to find a place to hang it, but my options are limited. We have a few sheds, one that’s temperature controlled, but because of mice and other critters I’m hesitant to hang it in any of those. Also, it’s beginning to get pretty cold in New York. I have a mini-fridge I was thinking of using. It would be the only thing in the fridge, do you think this would suffice if I set the fridge at a higher temperature than normal it would be a little cooler than 10 degrees. My main concern would be the air flow though.

    • Hey Gerry, sorry for the late reply there!
      A mini fridge could work well, as long as you vent it (like open the door once or a few times a day or something like that) I have a friend in the UK who made his Fenalår in his regular fridge, and that worked great. He just had to flip it once a day to prevent it from being squashed on one side.
      A cool loft, or any other cool place in your house that’s reasonably well ventilated would also work well if you have it 🙂
      Good luck!

  5. Thanks for posting this recipe. I loved sharing the fenalår with my family in Hardanger. I’m going to try making some at home, but we ended up with a giant leg. It’s 1 about 5.5 kg. Do you think that’s too big? I know you said it will get really salty the longer it sits, but it might have to sit a while for that size.

    I also started looking into this process a few years ago, and I swear I read to remove the scent gland from the meat, but now I’m not seeing that step listed anywhere. Do you know if people do this or does the curing make it a moot point? Maybe that’s just for roasting….
    Thank you!

    • Hi Beth! The biggest I’ve done is 3.8kg, and that went just fine, no problems at all. If 5.5kg is what you have, then you need to make sure to salt it long enough (but not too long!), and then let it rest in the fridge for the cold rest long enough for the salt to fully penetrate. I think i’d extend the cold rest a bit since it’s so big. Try this:

      Dry salt for 5 days
      Cold rest for 10 days (instead of just 7)
      Drying for 2-3 months, or until 30% weight loss.

      Drying time could be 3-4 months to achieve 30% weight loss with such a big piece, you’ll just have to see 🙂

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