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Pinnekjøtt is a Norwegian dish prepared using mutton or lamb. This dish is a must-have during the Norwegian Christmas celebrations. It is most popular in Northern and Western Norway and people enjoy it with potatoes, pureed swede (trimmings served with the dish), beer and akevitt. Nowadays, the beer is mostly replaced with red wine, which suggests the growing popularity of wine amongst Norwegians.

The dish is prepared from dried and salted lamb ribs, which also have strong flavor. The name of this dish translates to “stick meat” in chaste English and it has nothing to do with the shape of the meat used in preparation. However, stick meat refers to the birch sticks used in steamer while cooking the meat. The birch sticks impart subtle, minty and sweet flavor to the dish. Unlike some other mutton or lamb based dishes, Pinnekjøtt is mostly favored by Norwegians because it is very easier to prepare it. About 31% of the Norwegians admit that they bank on this dish during the Christmas dinner.

Origin of Pinnekjøtt
There are no written records to verify the exact origins of this dish but some experts suggest that the tradition might have begun as a means for preserving meat. In Norway, many animals were slaughtered during harsh winters. Their body parts were used for different purposes; the meat was smoked after salting and preserved for summers. Sometime later, the process underwent a drastic change and evolved into this dish, fondly known to the Norwegians, as “stick meat”.

Ingredients and Method of Preparation of Pinnekjøtt
This dish is a specialty of Western Norway, where the lamb meat is used in all food preparations. Today it is slowly becoming popular throughout Norway, but hardly any change is noticed in the recipe. The method of preparation may vary, at times,depending on the taste preferences. Lamb ribs, and water are the primary ingredients required to make the dish.

The lamb ribs are salted, dried and smoked. The ribs are steamed in a large steamer with birch twigs. Before steaming, the dried ribs are soaked overnight in cold water. Large traditional pots are used for preparing the dish. The birch twigs are arranged in the bottom of the pot and then, gradually ribs, and water is added. The rib is cooked in the water for about 2 hours until the meat wanes off easily from the rib. Sometimes the ribs are browned in frying pan or grilled depending on the taste preferences of an eater.

Eating and Serving Pinnekjøtt
The dish is traditionally served with rutabaga , potatoes, sauerkraut, cranberries mashed and combined with sugar, dark brown gravy (taken from cooking juices) and traditional bread. Sometimes the dish is also served with sausages.

If this stick meat is served as a standalone dish then it is recommended to serve only 500 grams per person due to its bone fat content. If the stick meat is served along sausage then it is recommended to limit the serving to 350 grams.

Interesting Variation of Stick Meat
The hardcore version of this dish is known as smalahove, which is prepared from sheep’s head, which is again another signature dish from Western Norway. The brain is removed from the head of the sheep, and it is cleaned, salted, and dried before cooking. The brain is nearly cooked for about three hours and then served with rutabaga and mashed potatoes.