A smoldering heat enveloped me as I gazed out from the brygge (docks) toward the sea; one hand shading my eyes from the sun’s bright rays. The blue waters appeared never ending – with small, rocky, and only somewhat-barren islands jetting out as the seagulls danced around the them. The breeze gave only the slightest sense of relief from this year’s endless heat wave, but the beauty and tranquility of the landscape alone was enough to take my mind off of it.
I’ve visited parts of Norway’s western coastline before, but this year I ventured south toward Kristiansand to Søgne. The southern coastline, which includes the Skaggerak strait, bears the name sørlandet (the south, or directly translated “the south land”) – I suppose, in part, summarizing the collective area in a way that describes each village, each brygge, each island. Collective lifestyles, like quick morning swims in the sea despite what the temperature gauge might read and knowing the waters so well that navigation relies on the local knowledge and not signs. It’s Norway’s riveria – a coastline dotted with colorful wooden houses that have been a summer destination for Norwegians and tourists alike.
I wasn’t exploring the entire coastline this summer, only staying on one little jutting edge of if it. A summer house nestled in the rocks with a view of of endless waters and blue skies: a summer haven.
The waters are teeming full of life throughout the year and July is nothing short of a good time to take the boat out a little way from the bay and cast a line in the summer weather. The waters can be so giving that fishermen can have their meals taken care of daily – with a good range of fish and seafood – and that’s exactly what we experienced as feasted on cod, salmon, and mackerel.
One of the most prominent fish you’ll find along the southern coast in the summer is mackerel. Mackerel is almost guaranteed. So much so that after a catch of 20 or 30, the next fishing trips might as well return with anything but. Mackerel range is size and make for perfect filets that can be hot-smoked for a quick lunch on the rocks, while the bigger fish (say, cod) can be saved for the evening.
Another leisure activity filling each day was crab fishing from the dock. Simple, yet nostalgic and exciting. An activity resting on patience and stillness – keeping kids and adults alike entertained for hours.
A string with a simple bait tied to one end is tossed into the shallow waters and the other end of the string is tied to the dock. The waiting begins until the crab (usually a small crab) tightens its grip on its perceived meal. The anticipation and excitement swell as soon as the string is pulled gently from the water in the hopes the crab retains its grip and doesn’t let go. Sometimes the crab outwits everyone and will let go having a mouthful of delicious bait. More commonly, laughter and elated shouts resound with success and the crab is placed in a large bucket full of cold seawater and seaweed to provide them sanctuary throughout the day until they are released.
The end of the day finishes with a crab race of the day’s catch. Placed on the dock and cheered to victory, the crabs dive back into the embrace of the sea and find shelter once more on the sea bed.
There’s something incredibly romantic when you spend time near the sea in the summer. The smell of sea, the sounds of the waves and the birds, the feeling of cool water embracing the skin and of wood planks and rocks underneath bare feet. Days not only are longer but feel longer too, particularly this summer when the temperatures were high and the heat of the sun beat down.
When the sun would begin to set, creating a horizon of pink, yellow and orange, the table became a ceremony of sharing the local catch and the day’s moments. One of my favorite fish dishes that we shared was poached salmon steaks cooked in sea water and served with a simple cucumber salad and boiled potatoes.
To make the salmon, our host took a large pot and bent beside the dock as he filled it with seawater. After the water was simmering and the temperature brought down, the large steaks were added and left to cook for only a couple of minutes. The drinks were poured, the candles lit and the steaks served. The pink flesh easily flaked off as my fork pierced it and the taste was exceptional. It was perfectly seasoned from the seawater and the taste was so fresh – something that comes when using quality ingredients sourced locally.
This sørlandet trip was short and incredibly sweet. Our hosts were beyond generous in sharing their time, home, and experiences. The trip capped off with a romantic storm in the evening (one that was well-needed) and even more fish, drinks, and good conversations. Sørlandet is truly a Norwegian gem with nature that welcomes you in.
You can easily bring the sea to your home with this delightful and simple recipe for the seawater-poached salmon steaks. Seawater has a salinity level of 3.5% per thousand, so if you can’t access seawater feel free to use tap water and add in the correct amounts of regular salt.
Seawater-Poached Salmon Steaks
- 1 large salmon (or 8 salmon steaks)
- 4 quarts (4 litres) seawater (or water with 35 grams of salt added per quart/litre)
- Cucumber salad
- Small, boiled potatoes
- Melted butter with fresh parsley
- Sour cream (optional)
Prepare the salmon by gutting and cleaning it, removing the head and tail. Cut into 1-inch (2 ½ cm ) steaks.
Fill a large pot with the seawater or salted water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower the heat. Gently add the salmon steaks and let cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the flesh easily flakes apart.
Remove from the heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the steaks and serve immediately. The bones and skin will need to be removed by each person.
Serve with a freshly made cucumber salad, boiled potatoes, melted butter with fresh parsley tossed in and sour cream, if desired.