Today is February 22nd and marks Peder Stol Day, or Peter Stol Day. Historically in Norway, this is when the ice would start melting on the water, and the frost on the ground began to thaw. From this day on, the ice on the water was no longer safe, and if somebody fell through the ice, people were not obligated to help.
This was originally a day in memory of the apostle Peter, who became the bishop of Rome and the first Pope in the Catholic church. He died a martyr, crucified by the emperor Nero (year 54-68) with his head facing downwards. The St. Peter’s Church in Rome is built on top of his grave.
Traditionally the day was called “Per Varmestein” (Per Hot Rock). An old saying goes that Peter threw a burning hot rock in the water on this day, so that the winter would end. This signified the first day of spring, and the weather would remain the same as it was on February 22nd until the beginning of summer. Another interesting tale was that if a hen/chicken could drink enough water from the ice melting off a roof of a house to quench her thirst, it meant it would be a good year (apparently this is also a Germanic tradition).
If the fishing season for herring had not started by Peder Stol Day, there would be no herring that year. The Norwegian people living along the coastline were incredibly dependent upon herring, which was responsible for the growth and wealth of our people – but also hunger and poverty when the herring did not show up. In good years, the “spring herring” would start streaming in towards the beaches during the months of February and March, and thousands of fishermen would gather in small boathouses along the coastline waiting for their catch.
No food tradition is really tied to Peder Stol Day, but because of the role of the herring around this time, I thought it fitting to include a recipe for a herring burger I enjoy. Some of you may be familiar with pickled herring and think that is the only way we enjoy herring in Scandinavia, but nothing could be further from the truth. Herring is wonderfully versatile, and is much more flavorful and richer than any other fish burgers. That is why they can stand some additional strong spices and herbs – making them even better. By the way – I was told by herring fishermen near my hometown that snow storms and a full moon provide the best chances for great fishing..
These burgers are as delicious as they are nutritious – give them a try and let me know what you think!
NORWEGIAN HERRING BURGERS
1 1/2 lb herring filet
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular whole milk)
1 Vidalia onion, finely diced
3 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
2 tbsp capers
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp potato starch (or cornstarch)
Cut the herring filet into pieces, place into a food processor and process/pulse a few times with the salt. Add in the chives, onion, capers, garlic, rosemary, pepper and potato starch. Process until smooth and well combined. In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk (or milk) together), and slowly add in to mixture while blade is running. Season again with salt and pepper – you can form a small little ball and saute it to taste to make sure that it’s to your liking.
Shape mixture into patties. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add a dollop of butter, and saute the herring patties until golden brown on both sides. Serve with boiled potatoes, caramelized onions and shredded carrots. Alternatively, you can serve them with sauerkraut or mashed peas- all are traditional sides to the herring burgers.
Photo Credit: Godfisk.no