Iceland, with its long, dark, frigid winters, is no stranger to preserved fish. There are the famous ones, like ha´karl (rotten shark) and harðfiskur (strips of cod air-dried until tough and leathery). But a century ago, up at the end of the road at the furthest tip of one of the fingers of the Westfjords peninsula, perched between towering fjords and a deep, icy, fish-filled lagoon, the folks in the small fishing village of Suðureyri began using a new preservation technique: tinning. If these livers are anything to judge by, the results are spectacular.
For the bad rap that fish liver oil gets for being unpleasantly pungent, these livers are mild and easy to love—the first time I tried them I was with an 8-year-old, and she kept going back for more. The monk fish liver is particularly clean and light, with a mild fish flavor and a smooth, meaty texture. The cod liver has a bit richer, more umami flavor something like a cross between tuna and sardines, with a thick, buttery, luscious texture. Either would be great in a rich pasta dish, over toast like pâté, dolloped on a salad, or even eaten straight from the tin.