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Dry- Salt Method Of Preserving Fish

The traditional dry-salt method of preserving fish continues to be very popular today simply because it produces such great flavor. For centuries salted fish, particularly salted cod, was a basic food in many countries as it was less expensive than meat and still considered worthy to be served at the best of tables. Because the dry-salt method prolonged the life of the food it became an invaluable tool during times of siege and of course during long sea voyages. Even today because of the simplicity of the salting process, the low cost of production and the ease with which it combines with other preservation methods, such as drying (drying can be done in air and temperature controlled room or machines) or smoking, has led to it being widely used around the world and can been evidenced in various styles of cuisine.
 Dry salting is a simple process whereby whole fish are eviscerated, cleaned, washed and packed with a layer of salt to draw out the juices which then produces brine. The salt acts as a short term preservative in slowing down the proliferation and production of bacteria which causes spoilage and decay. Dry salting is most suitable in home cooking using small pieces of fish which can absorb salt quickly such as fish roe, small fish especially anchovies and herrings. Larger pieces of fish can take longer to cure, usually as long as a week but the slowness of the process can be advantageous due to the quality of flavors produced.
 The quality of salt is very important. The salting period depends on several factors. These include the desired ripened characteristics in fish, the fish species, the amount of salt used, and the storage temperature. A moderate cure is best so that fish displays its characteristics, slightly resinous without being palatably dry. Signs of poor salting includes salt crystals on the food, discoloration and soft or dry, stringy textures.
 Cured fish bought from market can be desalted by washing the fish thoroughly under running cold water. It can then be left whole or by cutting into small pieces speeds up the process. Place fish in a colander with the skin side up in a bowl of cold water so the fish is completely covered. Small fish or fillets should be soaked for at least 12 hours and water should be changed several times. Whole fish should be soaked from 18-24 hours depending on the degree of salting until the fish is almost free of salt.
 The saltiness of anchovies or herrings can be reduced by soaking them in milk or rinsing with water.
 Cod is the most famous fish used to preserve with this method. It is known as morue in French, bacalbau in Portugese and bacalao in Spanish. The popularity of salt cod is so much in Spain and Portugal that there are specialist shops selling only salted cod. Raw salted cod is considered to be very sophisticated, on par with smoked salmon and there are hundreds of recipes. After desalting it can then be used raw, or poached and served cold in vinaigrette with mustard, with mayonnaise or in a salad with potatoes, hot in a white or Mornay sauce, au gratin, in scallop shells, in garlic and tomato sauce. The French dish brandade is a rich puree of salted cod. Salted cod should not be mixed up with stockfish which is just dried cod. Due to overfishing of cod other white fish such as hake, haddock, whiting, coley could be used with the same effect.
 Salted fish can be dipped in batter and fried.
 Salted anchovies can be sold in fillets or whole which need filleting, skinning and washing under water. They are very diverse flavors which can being used in such dishes as pizza topping to Caesar salad. Salted anchovies can be used as starter, they can also be used in sauces like that of bagna cauda, in pasta sauces like tomato, garlic, caper (alla puttanesca )
 Scandavian Gravadlax is made with dry salt cure solution of salt, sugar and dill. It is served sliced thinly and accompanied by a dill and mustard sauce, either on bread of some kind, or with boiled potatoes.


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