Home-salted Cod Fillets

Preparation info

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

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The kind of salt cod we associate with the Mediterranean is the heavily salted and sun-dried stockfish that hang like wooden boards outside food shops. These are cod prepared as they have been for a thousand years, to produce a basic protein source that keeps in the hottest weather without going off.

While dishes like Provençal brandade de morue and Portuguese bacalao use it to best advantage, one should not think salt cod is intrinsically superior to fresh. Indeed, it only existed at all because refrigeration and freezing did not. Traditional salted fish is therefore more to be judged for its preservative merits than on its culinary excellence. The limitations are known and should be understood.

However, salting purely to improve succulence, flavour and texture is a splendid technique to embrace enthusiastically at home. Fresh or frozen cod fillets are exposed to salt for between 2 and 24 hours and then the fish is soaked to remove excess salt before use. That something so easy can produce such extraordinary and beneficial changes is difficult to believe until you try it yourself. It does not really work with less than 900 g/2 lb of cod, and 1.8 kg/4 lb is better.

For every 450 g/1 lb of cod fillets you will need 55 g/2 oz Maldon sea salt. Scatter half the total salt over the base of a metal or glazed pottery dish and lay the fillets on it, flesh side down. Put the rest of the salt on the top, pressing into the skin. If you are doing more than one layer, ensure an even distribution of salt between each layer of fish, taking care that there are no areas without salt, or those parts will go off in a very nasty and smelly fashion. Cover tightly with cling film (foil is not impervious to the pickle), place a weight on top and leave overnight in the refrigerator.

Once salted it will keep for a week without deterioration in the refrigerator, but no longer. Home-dried cod needs a maximum of 30 minutes’ desalination under a dribble of cold running water before use.

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