Dried, salted cod fish - A little bit of history, a lot of taste
BENEFITS OF COD FISH
Cod (Bacalhau - as we call it in Portugal) is a very popular fish, with a mild taste, a white flesh, which is an important source of vitamins we all need, such as Vitamin A, D and E and the provider of important fatty acids known as Omega 3. Being a source for proteins, minerals, like phosphorus, calcium and iodine, its flesh is also almost 100 % cholesterol free.
Apart the health benefits it’s also a delicious fish, that can be cooked in a thousand different ways.
Some people know and cook fresh cod, but what made cod known all over the world, that set the difference was actually not its freshness. For some people, when you talk about cod, you are talking about dried, salted cod.
It may seem different, it may sound and, even, smell funny, but dried, salted cod is one of the best ingredients in the world.
Some of the most famous dried, salted cod in the world comes from the North Atlantic Ocean
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
In Portugal there are 1001 ways to cook cod, it’s part of our history, our gastronomy and even cultural identity. Dried, salted cod cooked a thousand different ways is our national dish(es) and it is something so embbeded in our culture that we actually refer to cod as our "good friend". Where would we be without our dried salted cod? We would still have made it around the world, but probably not so many would have made it home.
You see, dried, salted cod fish was part of the sailors’ diet during the Portuguese discoveries during the 15th and 16th centuries, a big part of it actually. Because cod is the sort of fish that keeps its nutritional proprieties even if dried and salted and having it dried and salted preserves it for a very long time, which is a lot to say if you remember there were no refrigerators back then. These two characteristics were of the utmost importance if you were about to embark on a three or four month voyage through unknown seas.
But cod was around for much longer the 15th or 16th centuries. Actually the Vikings back in the 9th centuries were already drying cod and later on in the 11th century the Basques started salting it.
It is said that around the 14th or 15th century Portuguese fishermen were already fishing cod off the coast of Canada. Then, back to Portugal, mainly to the ports surrounding Aveiro area, it was an important trade and it was an important food product for the Portuguese discoveries. It was also a cheap product, back in those days and during centuries after. It was so cheap that everyone could have cod, so people cooked it every way imaginable – the sky was the limit.
So, dried, salted cod fish became a part of a culture, so much so that I don’t remember ever actually seeing a fresh cod ever in my life, apart from photographs.
In Portugal, cod is our very dear friend (now, a quite expensive friend), which we love to eat and cook. It’s part of our Holidays, such as Christmas, it’s part of our celebrations, such a birthday or a dinner with friends and it’s part of our everyday. There are 10 minutes recipes for cod, others that take two hours to cook, it really doesn’t matter, any way you decide to cook it, it will be delicious.
It may sound or seem strange for those of you not used to it. You may frown on the smell. But if you try some of the recipes you will be amazed, delighted and you’ll become a fan also. And, obviously, we can’t forget, it’s healthy, too, so go ahead and try it.
TASTING DRIED, SALTED COD FISH
Cooking this sort of cod is not the same as cooking fresh cod. There are a number of things you should know and a number of things to do first.
Cod must be very dry, the drier, the better. You can check this by its tail, the less it folds, the better. Also, it must be stainless and sort of yellowish in color.
Cods come in different sizes, obviously. The heavier a dried, salted cod is, the more expensive it is and the better it is, because the loins will be higher and the slivers tastier and more succulent, once it’s cooked.
Then, you must know your product, so try a bit of this raw, dried, salted cod. It’s good, it’s salty, but it’s very good.
Obviously we can’t eat a lot of cod that salted, so before it is cooked it needs to be put in fresh water for about 24 to 36 hrs. Now, this is a very important part, there are techniques to do this, it will determine the taste of the cod and consequently the dish. Soaking it in water gives it back the water it was taken away when it was dried and also takes the salt away, but you don’t want to take all the salt away, otherwise it will be bland. Also, you need to change the water from time to time or else you’ll still end up with a very salty cod. Finally, there a few secrets of the trade to make the cod, for instance, to make it smoother, like putting it in milk.
So, a few advices:
- Cut the cod in slices;
- Wash it in cold running water;
- To make sure the water is cold enough to put the cod in, you can store the water in the freezer before putting the cod in;
- Soak the cod in cold water for around 24 to 36 hrs – during that time change the water 8 times and the more water the better;
- To make sure it’s ready to be cooked take one of the slices or loins and try a bit from middle of the slice/loin to see if it is to your liking – remember it’s not supposed to be bland;
- The last time you change the water you can add milk, that way the cod’s flesh will be smoother and more succulent.
Finally, remember: you can’t freeze dried, salted cod, you must put it in water first and only then can you freeze it.
There is also what I like to call the easy way - at least, in Portugal - just buy the slices or loins pre-soaked, it's directly into the pan; imagine the time I save.
As I mentioned before, there are many ways to cook cod, we have an endless number of recipes that can please any taste. There is Bacalhau ( cod) like this, like that, roasted, stewed, boiled, with shrimps, with tomato, Romeo like Bacalhau or rotten Bacalhau (which is not saying much, but I can tell you the name is deceiving), there are cakes of Bacalhau and omelette of Bacalhau.
The idea is: with cod you can do anything...
Personally, I love cod with cream, cod cakes (delicious), roasted cod, rice with cod, omelette of cod and Alentejo's cod "açorda".
An "açorda" - something which you really can't translate - is a dish that has four basic components: bread, garlic, fresh coriander and olive oil. There are several kinds of "açorda", some you just mash the bread and you basically get a purée sort of thing, which is added with other ingredients such as shrimps or shellfish.
The particular type of açorda, which I'm referring to in this case, is from the region of Alentejo in Portugal and is made with slices of home made typically Alentejo's bread and, obviously, cod fish, it is the Açorda de Bacalhau.
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Cod fish Açorda
Ingredients (2 persons)
2 large slices of cod (already soaked)
10 garlic cloves
4 large slices of rustic bread
Water from boiling the cod slices
Boil the cod slices and and poach the eggs. Meanwhile, mix the fresh coriander, the garlic cloves and the salt in a mortar and pestle and add a bit of olive oil to obtain a softer mix. Cut the bread into pieces. Use a terrine and sprinkle the bottom olive oil and a bit of the coriander and garlic mix, then add the bread. Sprinkle the bread with a bit more of olive oil and the rest of the coriander and garlic mix. Place the cod slices and the poached eggs on top of the bread and cover with the water from boiling the cod. Because of the salty nature of this kind of cod, usually it's not necessary to add any more salt, but if you think it's not salty enough, then add salt at taste. Put the terrine lid back on and let it rest for a while, so the water soaks the bread and flavours mix. Usually I let it rest for around 15 minutes. Then, just serve and enjoy.
My roasted cod recipe is extremely easy to do and you end up with a delicious dish that everyone will love.
Ingredients (3 persons)
3 large slices of cod (already soaked)
10 garlic cloves
1 tbsp of wine vinegar
1 tbsp of water
Black pepper at taste
Salt at taste
Pre-heat oven to 410 F (210 degrees C).
Then, take a clay roasting pan and cover the bottom with olive oil, then add the minced garlic cloves, the tbsp of water and the tbsp of your average white wine vinegar. Place the cod slices on top and again more minced garlic cloves on top of them. Sprinkle with a little bit of grained black pepper and add a tbsp of butter onto each of the cod slices. Afterwards just cover them with bread crumbs.
Cook in the oven at 410 F (210 degrees C) for around 30 minutes.
You can side the cod with peeled boiled potatoes and a green pepper and tomato salad. Personally, I usually boil the potatoes and then add them - mid cooking cycle - to the cod in the oven.
But these are just some recipes you can try, there are so many more to find out and always amazing. It's an ingredient that can be used in both simple or complex dishes, as well as quick recipes or long ones, it can be a main dish or a starter. Whatever it is, no matter how you do it, it is the ultimate delicious all-purpose ingredient.
In Portugal, if we have cod in our homes, it doesn't matter who comes to dinner, because in no time you can cook a meal fit for a king.
Long were the days when dried, salted cod fish built a nation, long were the days when it was the poor men dinner. These are the days when we delight ourselves with every cod recipe in the book and then write a new one.
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© Copyright Apr 11 2012 / Algarveview.hubpages.com. To use part or the whole article you must first get written permission from the author. Feel free, nonetheless, to use an intro of the hub with a link to the article here on hubpages for the rest of the article.
© 2012 Joana e Bruno
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