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Frozen In Time: A Lutefisk Tradition [VIDEO]

Ashli Gerdes, WJON News

ST. CLOUD — One local restaurant has been cooking up a Norwegian holiday delicacy around Christmas time for years.

Ace Bar and Grill in St. Cloud hosts a weekly lutefisk buffet starting around Thanksgiving time that continues through the Christmas holiday. They buy their lutefisk from the Day Fish Company in Braham.

Lutefisk is a dried cod fish that is soaked in water for several days and then soaked again in a lye based solution.

The widely practice Norwegian and Scandinavian tradition of eating lutefisk around Christmas stems from necessity.

The cod was soaked in the lye solution as a way to preserve it during a time without refrigeration. The fish is dried and starts out hard like wood.  It’s placed in a poisonous lye solution for about seven to ten days before it’s soaked in water to wash the lye out.

The cod swells and is known for its gelatin like texture and fishy odor. If you don’t wash enough of the lye solution out, it could make you sick.

Jason Kurtz is the executive chef at Ace Bar and Grill. He says he’s good at making lutefisk but, “it’s interesting to watch people eat it for the first time. I think the texture is the hardest thing to get passed. If you can get passed the texture you may like it. I don’t eat it. I cook it very well but I don’t eat it.”

The lutefisk can be microwaved, boiled, baked and prepared a variety of other ways. It’s traditionally served with lefsa, sweetish meatballs, fruit soup and boiled potatoes.

Elly Van Diest has been practicing the tradition since she was a child and says she enjoys eating it, “when my grandmother fixed it, it was dried and she soaked it for several days to get the lye out. You had to keep changing the water, and then you had it on Christmas Eve. I like kind of carrying on the Scandinavian tradition.”

Kurtz says many of his customers travel long distances to eat the lutefisk buffet.

Although Ace Bar and Grill only serves their lutefisk buffet through Christmas  Kurtz says many people continue to practice the tradition themselves up to a few weeks after the holidays.

You can see a short video on the tradition of lutefisk below.

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