Nana's Rullupylsa

For several years now, I have been enjoying a Scandinavian treat from a recipe that was passed down to a friend from her Nana (of Norwegian descent) - her family makes it at Christmas time.  It is something that I have grown to love and decided last year to start making myself after some proper tutelage from my friend.  There was supposed to be a blog about this last year, but photos were lost/misplaced, excuses were made, fingers pointed...ahem...needless to say, I am finally getting around to it.

Rullupylsa (an early Norse word) is a sausage preparation typically made from lamb flank (belly) which was seasoned with a cure/spice mix, pounded, rubbed with pureed onion, rolled, pickled, boiled and then pressed. (I am no linguist, but the name almost seems a literal translation of 'rolled and pulsed'). 

Allspice and onion - two of the main ingredients - have very high inhibitory factors (the ability to inhibit bacterial growth).  Bonus that these ingredients also happen to taste great together and sort of explain how they came to end up in this dish - being used as a great way to help preserve the meat in a climate that may have not always been cold enough to do so.  Amazing to me is how allspice made its way from Jamaica (where it originated and was discovered by Christopher Columbus) to Scandinavia to become an integral flavour in this sausage. 

After our freshman attempt last fall, we were ready to embark upon our second mission.  We got together with our friends for a Rolly-Making evening (dinner and wine ensued, of course).  Stage one of the preparation involve pounding the meat into submission.  We used beef flank steak and asked our butcher to do some of the heavy lifting for us.  The resulting piece of flank didn't need too much more manipulation to make it camera ready.  The seasoning mix was then sprinkled on one side of the steak, then rubbed with onion puree, then rolled and tied.  In the meanwhile, a brine was prepared, where the rullupylsa sat for about 1 week.  We have a small cooler which holds the brine and rolled meat perfectly.  It sat in the garage outside - making sure it was cold enough (maximum temperature of 5C).  If it is not cold enough, I would have made room for it in the refrigerator.
Pounded flank steak
Covered in onion puree and spice/cure mix
Rolled and tied
Add any leftover puree and spice/cure mix to marinate 
At the end of this time, it was removed from the brine and rinsed with cold water.  I used a large roasting pan, placed the rolls inside and added enough boiling water to cover.  I placed the pan in a 350F oven for 2 hours - enough time to cook the meat until tender but not falling apart.  Cooking too long will result in your rullupylsa shredding when you try to slice it.

Once the meat was cool enough to handle, it was placed in a container with holes for drainage - and pressed for about 3 days.  With the assistance of our friends, we had previously constructed a wooden box with a series of inserts in order to press the meat into a nice rectangular shape.  The box was then clamped and placed inside another cooler, and left to sit in our cold garage for the next three days.
Completely covered with brine in the small cooler
In pan ready to be covered with boiling water and cooked in oven
Piecing together the wood in the box which contains the cooked rullupylsa
Last minute adjustments...
Pressed and ready to hang out for a few days
After the pressing...ready for the unveiling  
(Almost done...)

The moment of did it turn out?  I removed the claps, disassembled the box and removed the sausage.  After removing all of the twine (perhaps the trussing was a bit over ambitious :-)), I was rewarded with a firm, cured sausage.  I cut it in half, sampled our hard work and was rewarded with a perfect coil, pink in the center and firm.  We shared a slice and it was fantastic!  I quickly wrapped the rest in plastic wrap then tin foil (I find tin foil does the best job of keeping freezer burn at bay) before we lost our minds and devoured our hard work before having a chance to share with family and friends.

I hope Nana would be proud - thanks Lori.

Nana Olga Newton

Here Nana's recipe:
3 pounds beef flank steak
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 teaspoon saltpetre
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large or 2 small onions
- Grate onion fine and sprinkle on meat
- Add rest of ingredients
- Roll and tie as tight as possible
- Leave in brine for 1 week
- After 1 week, boil meat in fresh water for about 2 hours, until meat is tender
- Press meat as heavy as possible

2 quarts water
1 scant cup coarse salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons saltpetre
- Boil gently for 20 minutes
- Allow to cool completely before placing meat in brine

1 - Darwinian Gastronomy:  Why we use spices, Jun 1999; Paul W Sherman; Jennifer Billing
2 - Weather in Iceland
3 - Origins of Allspice


  1. I am familiar with this delicious treat living in Manitoba where there is an Icelandic settlement! Gimli Manitoba.. I didn't realize it had to be pressed for 3 days!

  2. We tried doing it for a shorter period of time, but it didn't hold together as well when it was sliced. Worth the wait though!

  3. I am eyeing the thinly sliced lamb that I purchased from an Asian store for Hot pot and am thinking I will tried this recipe!

  4. Do let me know how it turns out Marilyn!