Despite modern refrigeration technologies, people still love the taste and versatility of dried fish. Drying, salting and smoking fish helps preserve your extra catch for years, and can be done without modern conveniences. Learning how to make dried fish will give you the ability to store tasty fish in your cellar or pantry through the lean winter months. Follow these tips to get started.
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What Exactly is Dried Fish?
Many variations of dried fish exist, including salted and dried, wet-salted, or freeze-dried. Essentially, by removing water from the fish, it stops microorganisms and bacteria from growing inside the meat. The type of fish ideal for drying usually have a low fat content, since they will preserve longer with less fat. Common types of dried fish include:
Related: Making Pemmican With Game Meat
Why Do People Dry Fish?
Drying fish as a preservation method has existed for thousands of years. It was especially important with the growth of commercial fishing in the 15th and 16th centuries. Fishermen needed a way to keep their fish from spoiling during transportation to different ports. And salting/drying their catch worked perfectly. Native and indigenous communities across Canada still practice the fine art of making dry fish as a method of food preservation.
Another way to preserve fresh fish is by canning. If your family depends on fish for food security, learning how to can fresh fish could be a good idea.
Related: Smoking & Dehydrating Game Meat
Common Ways to Dry Fish
When drying fish, you want to use the freshest fish possible to get the best results. The easiest way to dry fish is by using very salty brine, 3 parts water to 1 part salt. By brining the fish you remove the blood from the meat.
Another traditional method to dry fish involves dry-salting, which is exactly what it sounds like. After cleaning the fish, you lay them in a dry basket and cover in salt. Then use about one-third of the weight of the fish in salt.
Cover the basket and let it sit for 9-10 days. The salt will draw all of the moisture out of the fish, and starve bacteria so it won't be able to grow.
Modern technology means you can make dry fish in a dehydrator or even make smoked fish using a charcoal smoker. Read the instruction manual carefully before trying this. And make sure to wash all parts of the dehydrator in hot soapy water before and after drying fish.
Alternatively, you can dry fish by smoking them. If you have access to a smoker, this will be easy. If not, space the fish out on a wire mesh or rack with good airflow underneath. Build a small fire underneath and flip the fish every other day. Keep in mind, larger fish take longer to fully dry, so check them each day.
Making Dried Fish
Depending on the method you use, you can add smoky flavor or just go for the traditional salted and dried style. Just remember, the key to properly drying fish is clean, salt and make sure you’ve removed as much moisture as possible.
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