Ribbe is served for Christmas Eve dinner in many Norwegian homes. It is easy to prepare and, if so desired, can be baked the day ahead and served cold. However, the thrill of Christmas Eve would vanish in our home if the heavenly aroma of ribbe or skinkestek (roasted fresh ham) and surkål didn’t fill the air. If cold pork belly is your choice, make certain that the accompaniments such as boiled potatoes, gravy, and surkål are served piping hot.
The pork belly should be neither too lean nor too fat; find a happy medium. If the belly has surplus fat, trim, leaving about one-half inch for self basting. Rub the belly with a generous amount of salt and pepper which has been thoroughly mixed (twice as much salt as pepper). Place in roasting pan in a 450-degree preheated oven, reduce immediately to 350 degrees and roast 30 to 35 minutes per pound until nicely browned (45 minutes to 1 hour). Then add 1 cup boiling water and continue baking. Make sure every part of the roast is basted often. During the last half hour no basting is required. When cooking is completed place on platter and allow to rest 10 minutes before carving.
The accompaniments served with ribbe vary, but surkål, potatoes, and tyttebær (lingonberries) are a must. Other additions can be dried apricots cooked until barely tender and filled with currant jelly, stewed prunes, or apples.
Authentic Norwegian Cooking, by Astrid Karlsen Scott, is available through Heritage Books.