The older I get I appreciate anchovies more and more. I used to consider them cheap fish, but they are so much more than that. They have one of the strongest flavours among fish and salted anchovies are very often added as taste improver to meat dishes like beefsteak tartare, meatloaf or Dalmatian pasticada. They can be added to pizza as well, and they are also one of the key ingredients in Worchester sauce, I bet you didn’t know this!
There are so many recipes with anchovies, but in this post I will tell you how my father prepares salted anchovies. Trust me when I say that his salted anchovies are the best I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve tried some anchovies! 🙂
Let’s start with the container! The container for salting anchovies should be cylindrical and not conical so that all the time all anchovies are under weight. We used to use a big metal can from cucumbers or tomato sauce, like those that restaurants have. It is important that the lid can fit into the container (not to stay on the top) and put pressure on the anchovies. The last few years we are using a special little wooden barrel with a pressing system.
We use coarse sea salt and usually salt around 7-8 kg of anchovies, but you can start with less fish.
Here’s how we do it!
- Clean the anchovies. Discard the heads and guts. Bones and tails can stay.
- Rinse them with water.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of salt in the bottom of the container, and lay a neat layer of anchovies on top. Sprinkle another layer of salt followed by another layer of anchovies laid cross-wise to the previous layer, continuing until the container is full and finishing with a thick layer of salt. Try to fill the space as better as possible.
- Tap the container to level everything off. Put the lid on and put some weight in order to put pressure on the lid. Usually we put 1/3 of the total anchovies weight, and after two weeks half of the weight can be removed so that they don’t become too squashed.
- After one day you will notice a little red water at the top, and after 10-15 days it should be removed and replaced by salted water. They say you should put a potato in the water, then continue adding salt until the potato starts floating in the water. that’s how you know the right density. 🙂 We use tap water.
- Store them in a dark cool airy place. We always cover the container with kitchen cloth to avoid insects to drown in the salty water on top.
- It is important that the anchovies are immersed in water and salt all the time. This should be continuously checked because the water could evaporate and then the anchovies would go bad.
We keep anchovies for at least 4-5 months before use. You can try to take a few of them out after a few months to check whether they are done. When they are done, anchovies are soft, bones can easily be removed and there should be no blood inside.
If you are salting sardines, they are smaller so they can be used after 2-3 months.
After they are done, remove the bones and any leftovers of fish fins on the back and throat.
Store them in glass jars in white oil (like sunflower). They should always be fully sinked in oil. Once you open the jar, keep them in the fridge.
And that’s it! I will write a post on how to serve them soon.
Good luck with your anchovies!