Preserved Fish and Shellfish

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Few foods go bad faster than fish. And until recently, few people in the world had the chance to eat fresh fish. Before refrigeration and motorized transportation became common, fish were harvested in such numbers and spoiled so rapidly that most had to be preserved by drying, salting, smoking, fermenting, or some combination of these antimicrobial treatments. Preserved forms of fish are still important and appreciated in most parts of the world, especially in Europe and Asia. It’s true that their flavor is much more assertive than the mild fresh fish that are now the U.S. standard. But preserved fish aren’t just an inferior relic of preindustrial necessity. They can be a delicious alternative, and they offer a taste of history.