Seasonal wild cod from Norway
Norway has a long and proud seafaring heritage stretching back thousands of years, and its people have rightly earned a reputation for harvesting some of the finest seafood in the world.
But every winter, something remarkable happens off Norway’s northern reaches that gives its fishing communities – and seafood lovers everywhere – particular cause for celebration.
Driven by instinct, great multitudes of cod return from the depths of the Barents Sea to their original spawning grounds all the way off the coast of northern Norway.
These cod arrive in their prime, groomed to perfection by their epic 1000 km swim through freezing, turbulent waters. This heroic journey gives them incredible flesh that’s unsurpassed in taste and texture, flaking off in sumptuous meaty chunks.
Skrei is thought to be one of Norway's first exports, with its arrival each year enabling Norwegians to live in northern territories when other food sources were scarce. For this reason it's known affectionately as the "Norwegian Miracle". It's also known as the "Valentine's Fish", because it spends its life preparing for its long journey to breeding grounds. But the word 'Skrei' actually comes from the old Norse word for wanderer, which is fitting for a migrating fish.
When is skrei "quality labelled Skrei"?
Skrei comes from one of the world's largest and well-managed cod stocks. So what does it take to earn the name "Quality Labelled Skrei"?
Quality Labelled Skrei must be:
- Wild-caught between January and April
- Fully grown (approximately five years old)
- Caught in the traditional spawning grounds that line Norway’s coast
- In immaculate condition - no nicks, bruises or damage
- Packed within 12 hours of being caught
- Stored between 0-2 °C (32-35.6 °F)
- Packed and processed in accordance with strict criteria that guarantee the highest quality
of fresh cod caught in season is quality labelled Skrei
number of countries quality labelled Skrei is sold in
as whole fish, fillet, loin and tail
What makes Skrei so unique?
- Its beautifully white, light and lean flesh
- Firm flakes, a texture earned during its long swim
- Its delicate, silky smooth flavour
- The clean taste that comes from swimming in the cold, clear waters of Norway
Availability depends first and foremost on the weather conditions. During the winter, bad weather can prevent fishermen from getting out to the fishing grounds.
Climatic conditions are also a factor. Water temperatures and the salinity of the sea determine the time and place of the Skrei’s arrival in the fishing grounds.
During the season, quality labelled Skrei is available at fishmongers, supermarkets and restaurants. Ask your supplier for quality labelled Skrei.
Skrei is a carefully controlled product and everyone involved in the supply chain must adhere to strict guidelines.
Norges Råfisklag (The Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organization) has been commissioned by the NSC to determine standard practice for Skrei.
Packers wanting to use the SKREI mark must comply with the NSC’s standards and display evidence that they have met the strict requirements.
Skrei season begins in January and lasts until the end of April. During this period, Skrei Patrol conducts checks at the docks, the wholesale and export centers and in-store across Norway and abroad.
Read more about quality labelled Skrei here.
How to prepare and cook skrei
The fish do all the hard work for you by making that long, arduous swim through the turbulent Arctic waters. This is what makes the flesh so gloriously chunky and succulent. To show it off at its best, avoid over-cooking: it’s done when the core temperature just reaches 38°C.
Tongue to tail
This is a remarkably versatile fish. It’s also big and healthy. So every morsel can be turned into something delicious. Skrei is only available from January to April. It’s an incredible ingredient that, cooked with care, will delight your dinner guests.
This is arguably the best cut. It forks off in glorious white chunks. All it needs is some well-judged seasoning and a simple sauce.
Like the loin (which is the upper fillet) this produces succulent white meat with superb taste and texture, which carries all sorts of flavours brilliantly.
In Northern Norway, Skrei liver is used in a traditional dish called Mølje. Recipes vary from town to town, but it usually contains Skrei fillet, liver and roe, with potatoes and flat bread.
Cod roe can be cooked in broth, and then sliced. It is an important ingredient in the Norwegian traditional dish Mølje.
The skin is full of goodness and flavour. Turn it into a crisp to add texture and height to your dish.
Although you can eat cod tongues, the best bits are the muscles below, which offer a distinctive firm-yet-fluffy texture.
The cheek has a deliciously firm consistency. It can be baked, steamed or sautéed.