Local Heart, Global Soul

July 1, 2009

What is Salt Cod? sounds fishy to me….

Filed under: PORTUGAL,Portuguese Food — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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Salt cod (photo © Kiwidutch)

Salt cod (photo © Kiwidutch)

Firstly, what is Salt Cod?
The drying of food is the world’s oldest known method of food preservation, and fish, once dried, has a shelf life of several years. Five hundred years ago Europeans discovered the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, where a variety of white fish, including vast stocks of Cod were found.

Originally the fish was cleaned, the heads removed and salted. The slabs of fish were dried either on rocks or  wooden frames. The salting process worked very well for white fish and the resulting trade in dried and salted  fish grew to huge proportions once it could be easily transported back to Europe where demand soured.

Consequently the distribution of cod spread and it became a staple ingredient in the traditional kitchens of Brazil, the Caribbean, many West African countries as well as most of the countries that spanned the Mediterranean.

In the 17th Century, salt was imported in bulk cheaply from the South of Europe to their Northern European neighbours and cheap labour in the form of fishing families turned what started as a dried fish cottage industry into a viable industry that was economic and profitable.

Cod was dried in the sun, or the wind (or both) without salt and became known as ” stockfish” . Cod dried with salt became known as ” salt cod” . The main production areas for salt cod today are Norway, Iceland and Canada and salt cod has become known around the world by many different names: “klippfisk” or “clipfish” in Scandinavia, “morue” in France, “baccalà” in Italy, “bacalao” in Spain, “saltfiskur” in Iceland.

In Portugal it is known as “bacalhau”.

No longer is all salt fish sold today actually cod: overfishing and and plummeting cod stocks have meant that pollock, ling, blue whiting and haddock are amongst the other fish varieties that make up the salted fish available today.

So… this is how your salt Cod looks when you buy it… it’s solid as a brick, very dry, and… well, ….salty !

Later in this blog I will tell you all about my very first adventures (and misadventures) in the development of my love affair with bacalhau.



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