What is Thorrablot? It was a sacrificial midwinter festival offered to the gods in pagan Iceland of the past. It was abolished during the Christianization of Iceland, but resurrected in the 19th century as a midwinter celebration that continues to be celebrated to this day. The timing for the festival coincides with the month of Thorri, according to the old Icelandic calendar, which begins on the first Friday after January 19th (the 13th week of winter). In Toronto we celebrate in Spring for the practical reason of avoiding unpredictable weather and ensuring a fun Feast. Over 20 of these feasts are celebrated in cities all over North America between January and April.
Origins of the name “Thorri” is most likely from Thor the God of Thunder in the old Nordic religion. The community gets together to eat, drink and be merry. The menu consists of food cooked and preserved in the traditional ways of smoking, curing with sugar, salt or whey and drying. Toronto’s Thorrablot features Icelandic Lamb imported from Iceland including Smoked Lamb Boneless Leg (Hangikjöt), Rolled Spiced Cured Lamb Shoulder (Rúllupylsa), Lamb Liver Sausage (Lifrarpylsa), Lamb Blood Sausage (Blódmör), Graflax Salt and Sugar Cured Salmon (Lax), Wind Dried Fish (Harðfiskur), (Brúnt Brauð) Icelandic Brown Bread and (Flatbrauð). Traditional Rye Flatbread. This is traditionally washed down with some Brennivin, also known as Black Death, made from potato and caraway or Beer. In Toronto we serve hundreds of Icelandic Pancakes (Ponnukökur) and of course, Vínarterta!
Survival in Iceland was harsh and methods for preparing and preserving traditional Icelandic food predated modern day storage and cooking technologies. Food was traditionally stored using more primitive methods. This traditional food consists of pickled, salted, cured, or smoked fish and meat of various kinds. In order to survive the long winter months, all parts of the animal were consumed. Things like fermented shark, singed sheep heads are on the menu of specialty restaurants still today.
In many ways food preparation has not changed in over 1000 years. Excellent examples of traditional methods of food preparation are used just as easily by families everyday as they are for annual celebratory Thorrablot feasts in Iceland and in North America.
Arden Jackson talks about Thorrablot and Vínarterta on Canada AM Click Here!