(POSTED: April 9, 2008)
Dried and Salted Cod
Cod can be preserved by salting, drying, or both. Salted and dried cod is usually called salt cod; cod which has been dried without the addition of salt is called stockfish.
Salt cod is produced in Canada, Iceland, and Norway. It is sold whole or in portions, with or without bones.
The production of salt cod dates back at least 500 years, to the time of the European discoveries of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. It formed a vital item of international commerce between the New World and the Old, and formed one leg of the so-called triangular trade. Thus it spread around the Atlantic and became a traditional ingredient not only in Northern European cuisine, but also in Mediterranean, West African, Caribbean, and Brazilian cuisines. The ingredient and the dishes made from it are known under names related to these cultures, for example baccalà (Italian), bacalhau (Portuguese), bacalao (Spanish), bacallà (Catalan), morue (French), klippfisk/clipfish (Scandinavian), and saltfiskur
Traditionally, salt cod was dried only by the wind and the sun, hanging on wooden scaffolding near the seaside. Today, it and other dried fish such as stockfish are mainly dried indoors by electrical heating.
How it is made
The process: The fish is gutted and decapitated, often on board the boat or ship. (This is feasible with whitefish, whereas it would not be with oily fish.) It is then salted and dried ashore. Traditionally the fish was sun-dried on rocks or wooden frames, but today other means are used.
Species of fish
Traditionally salt cod was made exclusively of cod. After the collapse of the Grand Banks (and other) cod stocks due to overfishing, some products sold as salt cod are in fact other whitefish, such as pollock, haddock,Blue whiting, ling and Tusk.
In Norway, there used to be five different grades of salt cod. The best grade was called superior
extra. Then came (in descending order) superior, imperial, universal and popular. These appellations are no longer extensively used, although some producers still make the superior products.
The best klippfisk, the superior extra, is made only from line-caught cod. The fish is always of the skrei, the cod that once a year is caught during spawning. The fish is bled while alive, before the head is cut off. It is then cleaned, filleted and salted. Fishers and connoisseurs alike place a high importance in the fact that the fish is line-caught, because if caught in a net, the fish may be dead before caught, which may result in bruising of the fillets. For the same reason it is believed to be important that the klippfisk be bled while still alive. Superior klippfisk is salted fresh, whereas the cheaper grades of klippfisk might be frozen first. Lower grades are salted by injecting a salt-water solution into the fish, while superior grades are salted with dry salt. The superior extra is dried twice, much like Parma ham. Between the two drying sessions, the fish rests and the flavour matures.
The best cut of salt cod is considered to be the middle of the back of the fish.
The drying of food is the world's oldest known preservation method, and dried fish has a storage life of several years. The method is cheap, the work can be done by the fisherman or his family, and the resulting product is easily transported to market. Salting became economically feasible during the 17th century, when cheap salt from southern Europe became available to the maritime nations of northern Europe.
Originally, drying served as the only practical way to preserve the codfish; this method preserves
many nutrients and is said to make the codfish tastier.