Hearty and filling, this traditional soup from the wild and remote Shetland Islands is made from reestit mutton, a salted and brined preserved mutton unique to the islands.
Come this Spring I’ll have called Shetland home for twenty years. Seven of those I’ve have been tinkering away at this food blog. I can not believe, after all these years of blogging, I’ve never shared the recipe for Shetland’s unofficial national dish: reestit mutton soup.
Well, truth be told, I have shared the recipe before, but over on the old Taste of Shetland website run by Shetland.org. I shared a recipe I’d picked up nearly twenty years ago at the long-since closed Globe Butchers in Lerwick.
It’s nigh time I shared it, well, my own version of it, here.
SHETLAND ISLANDS REESTIT MUTTON
Reestit Mutton is a variation of the Scandinavian skerpikjøt, an air-dried mutton, or vivda, Norse for ‘leg meat’. It is a traditional Shetland way of preserving mutton with salt for consumption during the winter months. The mutton was first salted in brine and was then traditionally hung in the rafters (reest) of houses, where the peat smoke with add flavour and help preserve the meat.
Each butcher has its own secret recipe for making reestit mutton, but before the middle of the 1970s, this process was something done at home. Reestit mutton can still be seen hanging in butchers windows and in sheds around rural Shetland.
Now, you can buy reestit mutton online from the Anderson Butchers (pictured above, held by my friend Chris from Reel Maet Shetland, find him on Instagram too!) through the Taste of Shetland online shop.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR REESTIT MUTTON SOUP
- reestit mutton – you can only get this from Shetland.
- floury potatoes – I like J.K. Mainland’s
- turnip (or neeps)
- water (or lamb stock)
- butter (not part of the traditional recipe)
- a good stock pot (see our giveaway, below!)
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HOW TO MAKE REESTIT MUTTON SOUP
Step 1: boil your reestit mutton for two hours. Discard all but a ladleful of water.
Step 2: chop the reestit mutton into small pieces.
Step 3: heat butter in a stock pot and saute the onions and carrots until softened (for the traditional recipe you skip this step).
Step 4: add the rest of the vegetables, the water (or lamb stock) and ladleful of cooking water.
Step 5: simmer until the vegetables are tender and mash with a potato masher to thicken the broth, leaving some larger vegetable pieces.
Step 6: add the reestit mutton and heat through. Serve with buttered bread or bannocks.
The first time I’d ever tried reestit mutton soup was during the annual Up Helly Aa celebrations. It was running late into the night and there was a very busy group of women in the local hall I was at serving polystyrene cups full of piping hot reestit mutton soup and trays of salt beef bannocks to the revellers. It was a very welcome midnight feast, and kept us going for a few more hours yet.
A good soup needs a good stock pot, and I use a copper tri-ply pot from ProWare Kitchen. They sent me their range of pots and pans nearly five years ago and they’re still going strong. In fact, they’re just as good as they were when they arrived, and I use them nearly every day!
Over the years they’ve developed that characteristic copper burnish, which I love, but I could (if I fancied) bring them up to their original shine.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post and enter our giveaway to win one ProWare Kitchen’s 24cm copper tri-ply stock pots worth £112!
Shetland Reestit Mutton Soup
- 200 grams reestit mutton cooked and cooled weight (2 lb uncooked with bone)
- 25 grams butter (optional)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 200 grams carrots (4 medium carrots)
- 300 grams potatoes (about two medium-sized ones)
- 225 grams turnip (half a turnip)
- 2 pints water (I use lamb stock)
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- To cook the reestit mutton, place it into a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring it to the boil and continue to boil for two hours, or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat from the water and reserve a ladleful for the soup.
- Meanwhile, chop all of the vegetables into small dice.
- Heat butter, if using, in a large soup pot. Saute the onions and carrots over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes or so, until the onions are softened.
- Add the remaining vegetables, the water (or lamb stock) and the reserved water from cooking the reestit mutton. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Mash some of the vegetables with a potato masher to thicken the broth, leaving some larger pieces for texture. Add the shredded reestit mutton and heat through.
- Serve with buttered bread or bannocks.
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