Pinnekjøtt – made in the USA

It’s here. The most important ingredient of a real Norwegian West Coast Christmas celebration arrived timely to our Washington DC apartment today: Pinnekjøtt. Cured lamb meat ready for cooking and the taste of Christmas Eve. Big thanks to Willy’s Products in Florida (!) for producing and shipping this delicacy in the US (with certain reservations… it remains to enjoy it the 24th:). Norwegian pinnekjøtt – made in the USA.

US made pinnekjott delivered right at the door

From an operations perspective it’s interesting to ask: Why and how would someone produce pinnekjøtt in The Sunshine State?

The chef Willy Hansen, originally from Harstad in Northern Norway, has since 1993 been “the leading Scandinavian food distributor and Norwegian Gourmet services of the United States of America” (www.willysproducts.com). I would probably guess that such a company would be situated in the colder midwest in Minnesota, Dakota, Iowa etc, but no: Willy’s Products is based in Florida… Knowing that Norway is one of the 11 countries on display at the Disney Epcot center i Orlando might give some explanation. I guess USA as a market for Norwegian food is so geographically scattered anyway that any location will go (Minnesota for example covers 2/3 of Norway’s total land area alone). You have to ship by mail in any case. For pinnekjøtt and stockfish this will not be a problem – but you (and USPS) will certainly run into problems trying to ship lutefisk (dried codfish prepared in a potash lye) or rakfisk (salted and fermented, i.e. decayed, trout) to the end-consumer market. On the other hand, the demand for these “gourmet products” is probably limited… Willy has put up a very good and reliable web shop with Scandinavian cheese, meat, canned goods, chocolate and candy. He even ships overnight if the products are perishable. With reasonable prices this is a great service for all with a taste for the Scandinavian.

If the downstream logistics – shipping by mail – is not a restrictive factor (we received the pinnekjøtt efficiently a week after ordering), than the upstream logistics should be a factor to consider when choosing location. Most of the products are naturally imported from Scandinavia, which give preference to a location close to a shipping port – though, the extra miles shipping within US does probably not cost many bucks. Access to fresh fish and lamb becomes the next concern. Again, the USA is an enormous country and several places will provide you with good quality fish and meat. According to the American Sheep Industry Association, there are in fact 5,53 million sheep in the USA in 2011 (to put that in perspective; it is 600 thousand more sheep in the US than there are people in Norway), and the production is fairly well distributed. However, Florida is among the bottom-ten sheep producing states, but I’m sure they have enough to satisfy the US demand for pinnekjøtt… The question is clearly not the accessibility, but the taste of meat… Does warm-weather Florida lamb resemble the unbeatable taste of Norwegian high-mountain grazing lamb? I’ll know in two weeks.

Norwegian lamb before pinnekjøtt (Photo: matprat.no)

Willy has even made an introduction video to pinnekjøtt that you might enjoy (in my opinion he does everything right except for the tomato and salad on the side that definitely do not belong): http://www.willysproducts.com/video.html. God jul!

6 thoughts on “Pinnekjøtt – made in the USA

  1. Update: The Pinnekjøtt was ok. It gave us a flavour of Christmas memories but was not even close to the best Norwegian variants. We watered it down for approx. 30 hours, damped it for 3 hours to the meat came off the bones, and broiled it at low heat for the 10 last minutes. We suspect that the meat was sheep, not lamb. But hey, what can you expect? Pinnekjøtt from Florida still sounds exotic.

    • Hi Winweathers,

      Pinnekjøtt is very simple to make, but is extremely dependent on the quality of the cured meat. (Willy’s Pinnekjøtt was not the best in the world exactly). If possible; try to import from Norway (expensive, but a quality like no other).

      There is only one way to make it; watering out the meat for some 30 hours, then steam (not cook!) the meat in a big pot for about 2-3 hours to the meat starts to come off the bone. Ready. Serve hot on warm plates.

      You find good recipes here:
      http://mylittlenorway.com/2009/12/pinnekjott/
      http://demo.webnodes.com/salty-dried-sheep-ribs-pinnekjott

      Thanks for your comment on my blog! 🙂
      Torbjorn

  2. I think there is a a lot of guesses in this revue of Pinnekjott. The lamb comes from Australia, produced in Florida under USDA super vision. Watering it out for not more then 24 hour. Steam it to it loosen from the bone. Before serving ,give it a little crisp on the grill in the oven or the grill.Meat is not aloud to bring from Norway,big fine if the customs get you. I have costumers taking it to Norway, that says a little bit of the quality. best regards willy

    • Thanks for your comment Willy. And thanks again for offering this unique service.The package reads “Made in the USA”, and there is no other information about the origin of the meat on the package. If it is lamb from Australia, I recommend you add it to the description for the sake of transperency. I have uploaded the full picture of the package I recived in 2011 here:
      http://wp.me/a30T9S-AI
      Although taking this meat to Norway would be like bringing pizza to Italy or bugers to Texas, I really valued the opportunity to get Pinnekjøtt while I lived in the States. Thanks.

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