The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Bergen, Day 5: Roast Pork Ribs at the Sandvik Summer House

Let's go back....six months. I was in Norway. I'm still writing about it. Refresh your memory with day 1, day 2, day 3, and day 4.

On the way to Tysnes The ferry is here!
Driving to the ferry. And arriving at the ferry!

"I'm in a car! On a boat!"


"On a boat!"


Kåre probably didn't respond with such disinterest, but since I can't remember conversations that happened over six months ago, I shall turn to the time-honored practice of "making stuff up."

However, I'm pretty sure my part of the conversation is accurate—the part where I'm really excited about being in a car on a boat. Why? Because I'd never experienced it before—riding in a vehicle, in another vehicle, on water. That's like a cat hitching a ride on a porpoise to get across a river. Exactly like that. Or nothing like that. Something like that?

Cars and trucks on the ferry
Mail truck, get on the boat.

...Well. The experience tickled me for some reason. Probably because I'm 500 percent landlubber. Kåre grew up with the ferry experience thanks to a childhood of frequent visits to his family's summer house in Tysnes, an island most easily accessible from Bergen by driving to the southern tip of Os and riding a ferry for half an hour. Which is what Kåre and I did because we were going to spent the night at the house.

Summer house
This house, it is cute.
Living room
This living room, it is cute.
Sauna in the back
I sure love that wood. You can see the sauna through the open door.

And thus was another experience unknown to me: staying in a summer house (and considering Scandinavians have their own subsection in Wikipedia's entry for "summer house," I'm assuming they're particularly fond of summer houses). A very cute, homey, cabin-like house with a sauna, fireplace, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, and living room. Car-in-a-boat can't compete with that.

The Sandvik Family Summer House didn't start off with all those amenities though; Kåre's dad and grandfather had built it in the '70s at a time when plumbing wasn't available in the area (toilets and saunas would have to wait). When they needed water, they'd fill jerrycans at a nearby stream. Plumbing was installed once it became available, transforming the cabin into more of a proper house—still humble, even if less rugged.

About five years ago Kåre's parents thought about selling the house since, with their kids all grown up, its use became sparse. Thankfully, Kåre's sister, Anne-Kristin, bought the house to keep it in the family (and, well, so her husband and kids could use it). A good choice, I'd say. When Kåre was a kid growing up in Os, his family would use the house most weekends. These days the Sandviks goes during major holidays and Anne-Kristin's family uses it as their summer vacation home.

And another reason to use the house: when I'm visiting. In which case it's just me 'n Kåre.

First step, start fire

First step when arriving at the house: Set stuff on fire. In the furnace and fireplace, that is. Because it's freakin' cold. (But don't turn on the fan above the stove while the fireplace is roaring without opening a window in the kitchen. Otherwise the room will fill with smoke. We learned from experience.)

Kitchen Let's roast some ribs
The kitchen is ready for PORK UNLEASHING.

Second step: Prepare the pork rib! I mean, if you're cooking pork rib. And you should—specifically, ribbe, a traditional Christmas dish of roast pork ribs with deeply scored skin resulting in meat studded with crispy pork fat cracking nubbins. It is so, so very good. Like, "What did I do to deserve this pork's absence in my life [slams palms on table] WHAT DID I DO [anger turns to sobs] WHYYYY [cheeks glisten with steams of tears, nasal passages clog with gloom-mucus]?" good.

I might be overselling it a bit. But it's very tasty, and easy to make, to boot. We used this recipe from Mat Prat. The Google translated version is....serviceable. Thanks to Kåre's bilingual brain, here's a translation:

Ribbe (Norwegian-style roast pork ribs)

Serves 4


2 kg tynnribbe, a Norwegian pork cut that appears to be like spare ribs with the belly/side meat and skin still attached (more info in Morten's and Ryan's comments)
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
About 2 cups water


  1. Portion 500 grams per person. You won't eat all of it; you can eat the leftovers for breakfast. AWESOME BREAKFAST. Check that the bones are totally cut through to make it easier to cut later. (If it's not cut, it won't affect the cooking; it'll just be harder to cut after.)
  2. Cut through the skin down into the fat with a sharp knife. If you make the squares parallel to the ribs it'll be easier to cut neatly after cooking.
  3. Rub rib with salt and pepper 1 to 3 days before cooking. [We didn't have to do this because we bought pre-seasoned ribs.] Make sure the spice gets between the skin and bone. With the skin side down, cover with aluminum foil and put in a cold place; that way the spice will soak into the rib and give better flavor.
  4. Put rib in the pan with the skin up. Put an upside-down plate under it so the rib is a bit higher in the middle; that way the melted fat will run off. It's important that the rib is equally high on both ends to get equal results. (You can also use a ball of foil to prop up the rib.)
  5. Pour about 2 deciliters of water into the pan and cover entire thing in aluminum foil. It's important the foil is airtight for steaming to be successful. If it doesn't look completely tight, add water later according to how much you need.
  6. Preheat oven to 230°C. Put pan in middle of oven and steam for about 45 minutes. The rib will puff up a bit and the skin will fan out/separate.
  7. Remove the foil and leave the plate and reduce temp to 200°C. Put pan back in oven and let rib roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours for thin ribs, and 1 1/2 to 2 hours for thick ribs. The cooking time is equally long no matter what it weighs.
  8. Often the rib will get crisp skinned by itself; if it doesn't you can do the following towards the end of the roasting: put the pan higher in the oven and increase temp to 250°C, or use grill function in oven. Pay close attention so you don't burn it. Don't leave the oven; this will go fast. If only parts of the rib got crackly skin, you can cover these parts with foil so they don't get burned.
  9. Let the rib rest for about 20 minutes so the juices settle. You'll get a juicy and good rib. Things you can cook in last 20 minutes: Medisterkaker [meatball things], Christmas sausages, apples and prunes. Rib is commonly served with cooking juice/sauce, sauerkraut or red cabbage, prunes, apples, or lingonberries.

And again, with photos.

Score the skin Pork ribs, ready for oven
Those squares will become GLORIOUS CRUNCHY NUBS-O-FAT.

First, score the skin down to the muscle. Get the blade deep in there. The pig's already dead and all. (Actually, first you'd season the meat, but ours came pre-seasoned.)

Put the foil on tight!

Second, prepare for cooking phrase number one: steaming. Stick the whole pork slab on a rack in a pan with a little bit of water, seal the pan tightly with foil, and pop in the oven.

First stage is done
Appropriately steamed.

Third, prepare for cooking phase number two: roasting. Remove the foil—and take a big whiff of the pork fumes—then stick the uncovered pork back in the oven.

Potatoes rosti

In the meantime, prepare some starchy sides. We boiled amandine potatoes—small, thin-skinned, creamy tubers—and baked some frozen rösti. Two potato-based sides? Yeah, we overestimated our starch needs. We ended up with enough food to feed at least four people.

And then...

Pork ribs are ready!
Beauty shot.


Pork ribs are ready!
And another.


Pork ribs are ready!
There she is.

Ok, it had some problems around the edges—excess carbon and whatnot. But it was still delicious. And extra crispy.

Slicing the pork ribs

The result: pork meat saturated in pork juice and pork fat, topped with a thick layer of crunchy pork skin and rich pork fat. Altogether, it is everything you want pork to be.

...Except for the part where you (and by "you" I mean "we") pass out from too much pork. But that's just how pork works.

Kitchen window Cinnamon bun time! I've got coffee...mixed with condensed milk
Good morning.

The next day we started off with homemade cinnamon buns and coffee before taking a little walk in the nearby forest.

Sign Carved tree Snow and branches Stream Walkin Rock wall
Nature and stuff.

Little streams, untroddened snow, naked trees—all this good stuff can be yours just up the road from the summer house.


Down the hill and across the main road you'll get to the dock that Kåre's dad built for the family's boat.

Yup, it's pretty
Yeah, that is pretty.

And if you drive around the island as we did (it takes about an hour), you'll pass loads of forests and eventually loads of snow-capped mountains. There's eye candy pretty much everywhere.

On the ferry, back to Bergen
Going back to Os.

...Including when you take the ferry back to Os.

After we got back to Bergen we had to head out for dinner with Morten. You will read about it someday, assuming I don't die today in Hurricane Irene. Pretty sure I won't. [nods]


santos. / August 28, 2011 8:49 AM

it's like a tick riding on a cat hitching a ride on a porpoise over the sea...and you're the tick.

i think thin ribs are short ribs. or at least the beef equivalent is in the UK.


Morten / August 29, 2011 12:01 PM

Familieribbe "family ribs" is pork loin back ribs with loin attached, and svineribbe (more common, and better because it's more uniform) is pork loin back ribs without loin.

Because of the Norwegian christmas tradition of eating pork ribs (60% of Norwegians have that for christmas) we don't cut off the spareribs like an American might. Spareribs as a dish have become more popular, but are made of the cut you would call baby back ribs.

roboppy / August 30, 2011 4:33 PM

santos: Ah yeah, a tick is a better comparison. But I just like cats and porpoises so much!

Thanks for the bday message!

Clement: Thanks! I got an explanation from Morten below as well.

Morten: Thanks! Looking up meat cuts have confused me muchly. Bluh.

The Hungry Traveler / September 6, 2011 10:29 PM

Hello, longtime lurker here :) Just had to comment cause your post about riding in a CAR while on a BOAT just reminded me so much of going skiing when I was little - I live on Long Island, and to get to Vermont we'd take the ferry to Bridgepot, Connecticut and then drive the rest of the way up to Vermont, always at night after my dad got off work. It was always cold and often would be snowing by the time we got to you friend's house, which was on an isolated back road in the woods. They would light a fire in the woodstove for us so we'd be nice and warm when we arrived. Ahh, memories!

roboppy / September 11, 2011 1:14 AM

The Hungry Traveler: Thanks for delurking! :) Sounds like a nice memory...I've never been to Vermont! And I've never skied for real. D'oh. (I definitely want to give it a go. Maybe in Norway.)

Ryan / February 12, 2013 3:46 PM

Given what Morton points out it seems that these are basically spare ribs with the belly or "side meat" (the thinner portion of the belly that sits higher up over the ribs) still intact and then with the loin either removed or still attached. In your carving photo you can actually see the dividing line between the side meat and spare ribs, its that rectangle of meat just below the fat.

Morton you might be interested in tracking down some genuine spare ribs. They're meatier than baby backs and with more connective tissue can stand up to longer cooking without drying out. At the very least svineribbe with the skin and fat removed would be a good stand in if you want to try some American or Asian recipes.

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