Smoked, dried, salted fish is a popular ingredient for Caribbean cooks, used to enhance or stand alone in a recipe.
Fresh fish are cured with salt and dried or smoked to remove most or all of the moisture in order to preserve the fish. Salting, pickling, drying and smoking are historic methods used to preserve fish before kerosene or electrical refrigeration became widely available. Originally, smoked and dried fish were introduced to the West Indies by the British, and later imported from Canada. Centuries later, the taste for savoury “salt fish” has remained in the Bahamian and West Indian palate in a range of applications. Dried fish retains much of its nutrients and increases the depth of the flavour profile.
Salt fish must be rehydrated before use by soaking and boiling away most of the salt. It takes a bit of technique to accomplish this without removing all of the brine and ending up with tasteless fish. Salt fish that is sold with bones intact, or whole, must also be properly cleaned of bones and skin.
While there are many types of preserved fish enjoyed around the world, the most popular include:
- Herring (Kippers, Red Herring, Bloaters)
- “Salt Fish” aka Salted Cod Fish
- Smoked Salmon, Cod
- Salted Mackerel, Haddock
- Sardines, Anchovies, canned Smoked Sprat, Pilchards
- Dried squid, shrimp
- Bonito – Japanese dried mackeral flakes
This is a short description of the most popular products.
Kippers, Red Herrings & Bloaters are all the products produced from the same original fish, the Herring.
RED HERRING: Whole herrings are soaked in salt brine for 2-3 weeks, then smoked for another 2-3 weeks. The herring is not gutted or split before being processed and has a strong, distinctive flavour and rich red colour. The texture is harder and red herring keeps for a long period of time.
BLOATERS: Whole herrings that are soaked and smoked for much less time than Red Herring. The herring is not gutted but may be split during the process. Because these herring are only lighted smoked and cured, they do not keep as long as red herring, and have a milder flavour and softer texture.
KIPPERS: Whole herrings are split along the back, gutted and brined for 3o minutes, then smoked for 1-2 days.
SALTED CODFISH: Whole fresh cod is headed, gutted, cleaned and filleted, most likely at sea. The fish is salted and dried then packaged for sale.
SARDINES are related to Herring fish but are much smaller. Sardines and anchovies are most often salted, smoked and canned with oil.
Popular dishes using salted and dried fish include:
- Jamaican “Ackee & Saltfish”
- Bermudian “Codfish & Potato” – Salt Cod with Potato, Avocado, Banana & Boiled Egg
- Soups, Stews, Sauces
- “Solomon Gundy” – pickled fish pâté or paste made with red herring or mackeral, popular in Jamaica
- Smoked Fish Dips are popular in The Bahamas, especially in the Abaco Islands, using Smoked Wahoo, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi), Tuna or Salmon
- Fish Fritters and Cakes
- Smoked Herring: 6002007 Split Bloater Herring 1/18 lb
- 6201013 Herring Whole Round Sea Frozen 1/25.5 lb
- Sea Best Sardines in Oil 5807017 50/4.4 oz
- Sea Best Sardines in Tomato Sauce (50/125 gm) 5807018 50/4.4 oz
- Smoked Salmon
- SALTFISH: Salted Hake: 6003040 1/50 lb
- Anchovy Fillets: 5801010 White Crown Anchovy Fillets 1/28 oz
- Canned Tuna