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What is Salt Fish?

About salt fish, bacalao, bacalhau, baccalà

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Bone-in salt fish

Bone-in salt fish

Photo by Cynthia Nelson

Salt Fish is fresh fish that has been salt-cured and dried until all the moisture has been extracted. In order to prepare salt fish for cooking, it needs to be rehydrated and most of the salt removed through a process of overnight soaking in hot water and subsequent boiling. The aim is never to remove all of the salt, enough salt should remain to taste, if not, you can end up with a bland piece of fish.

Salt fish, also called dried fish, has been a part of Caribbean cuisine dating all the way back to the days of colonial rule. Salt fish was first introduced to the Caribbean in the 16th century. Vessels from North America - mainly Canada - would come bringing lumber, and pickled and salted cod, they would return with molasses, rum, sugar and salt.

Today, most of the salt fish consumed in the region is still imported, though countries like Guyana now makes its own salt fish. In addition to the ever popular cod fish, pollock, snapper and shark are also salt cured and dried. Salt fish is primarily made with meaty white fish.

How it is sold

Salt fish comes in two varieties - bone-in with the skin intact and boneless with the skin removed. The bone-in variety costs less than the boneless, skinless salt fish. Both varieties taste the same. The difference lies in the amount of work that goes into the preparation - removing the bones and the skin. However, once the bone-in salt fish is given a good overnight soak in boiling hot water, removing the bones and skin is very easy work.

Salt fish for household use is not packaged and sold in large quantities. It is mostly sold in half and one-pound packages.

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