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Barbados and Salt Cod Fish

Updated on July 21, 2013
Salted fish and ackee
Salted fish and ackee

History of Salted Fish

Salted cod has been produced for approximately 500 years or more, since the arrival of the Europeans in the New World.   Codfish was salted and dried as a means of preservation before refrigeration. The drying and salting of fish and meat are ancient techniques.  The British eradicated the slave trade in 1807 but not the tradition itself. Salted fish was originally part of the provisions of slaves in the Caribbean, most had to go without fresh meat or fish.  Various salted fish recipes developed over the years - salted fish and green banana pie, salt fish fritters, ackee and salt-fish, and salt fish stew.

Salted cod is now a pricey delicacy and not readily available. With the collapse of the cod stocks and breaking up of Portuguese bacalhoeiro fleet, salted cod became less affordable, especially at Christmas time, since it's a part of many traditional dishes. Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for dried and salted codfish.  Today salted Pollack is passed off as salted cod.

 Esgarrat, a kind of salad used as a starter, involving strips of peppers and sometimes olives and salted cod.(Italian)
Esgarrat, a kind of salad used as a starter, involving strips of peppers and sometimes olives and salted cod.(Italian)
Pericana (fried dried peppers, garlic, salt and dried cod with oil) typical cuisine of Alcoi
Pericana (fried dried peppers, garlic, salt and dried cod with oil) typical cuisine of Alcoi

Salted Cod Around the World

Salted cod is now a pricey delicacy and not readily available. With the collapse of the cod stocks and breaking up of Portuguese bacalhoeiro fleet, salted cod became less affordable, especially at Christmas time, since it's a part of many traditional dishes. Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for dried and salted codfish.  Today salted Pollack is passed off as salted cod.

Salted cod was imported from the maritime provinces of Canada and could be stored for months.  It was a cheap source of protein.  Fresh cod was caught in cold, northern waters such as those around Newfoundland and Norway.  Salted dried codfish, usually comes from Norway (bacalhau da Noruega ), Iceland (bacalhau da Islândia ) or Newfoundland (bacalhau da Terra Nova ). The fish are immediately filleted and salted onboard the fishing boats and air or sun-dried once on land.  Like other foods in Barbados, salted cod fish dishes are found world-wide. Salting is a traditional way of preserving fish in Greece, and these hard-as-a-rock boards are a favorite in Greek cooking. Baccalà is Italian for salt cod.

Bajan Food

Salted cod fish cakes
Salted cod fish cakes
Fish stew
Fish stew

Bajan Recipes

Salted cod is considered a staple food in many parts of the world including Spain and Portugal. The Portuguese dish, bolinhos de bacalhau , mixes salt cod with potatoes, egg and parsley. The French dish, brandade de morue , is a mixture of salt cod, potatoes, cream, garlic and olive oil that is served with toast points.

A popular Bajan dish is fish cakes. In Barbados, fishcakes are a common food. They are served in rustic rum shops and elegant cocktail parties. Fish cakes are made with salted cod, flour, herbs and pepper then deep fried. Bajan seasoning is a blend of fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, spring onions, onions, garlic, parsley, basil and scotch bonnet pepper with spices such as clove, black pepper, paprika and salt.

Salted cod or Pollack has to have some of the salt removed before being added to recipes. Many techniques include soaking the fish in cold water overnight or boiling for 5 minutes. So far the best technique follows:

Whether boned or boneless salted fish, you need to rinse fish under running cold water for several minutes. Some of the salt will come off right in your hand. Next place fish in a pot of enough cold water to cover. Add half lemon and a bay leaf to the pot. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then replace the water with fresh cold water and boil again. Taste the fish and if it’s still salty, repeat the process.

Salted Cod Fish (Gravy) Stew

Ingredients
½ pound boneless salted cod fish
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly not chopped
2 firm Roma tomato, diced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, fresh or dried
1 sprig of chive or green onion
1 small red sweet pepper, diced
½ teaspoon minced hot pepper (scotch bonnet, habanero, chili, jalapeño, whatever heat you can tolerate)
¼ cup fresh chopped basil ( preferably lemon or Thai basil) Add in batches until you get the taste you like
¼ coarse black pepper to taste
small can no-salt added tomato sauce (6oz)

METHOD
Follow boiling directions, then drain and shred or pull apart by hand. Set aside.
Combine ingredients from onion through peppers. Heat non stick skillet and add extra virgin olive oil. Sauté the onion and peppers for 2 minutes before adding tomato mixture. Cook for 3 minutes. Add shredded salt fish and sauté until blended 2 minutes. Add remaining herbs, black pepper, lime juice. Turn off heat and let flavors combine. Serve over cou cou, potatoes, or rice

Pickled Salted Fish

Ingredients

1 lb salt fish or cod – Whether boned or boneless salted fish, you need to rinse fish under running cold water for several minutes. Some of the salt will come off right in your hand. Next place fish in a pot of enough cold water to cover. Add half lemon and a bay leaf to the pot. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then replace the water with fresh cold water and boil again. Taste the fish and if it’s still salty, repeat the process.

2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves crushed and finely chopped
1 cup sweet peppers, green and red diced
1 lime (squeezed)
1 small hot pepper finely chopped (scotch bonnet, habanero, chili, jalapeño, whatever heat you can tolerate)

1 small bunch of Italian parsley chopped
fresh black pepper

METHOD:
Flake fish into a bowl, removing bones and skin if any (some fish can be purchased boneless) add above ingredients to fish, mix well, taste for adjustment in seasonings, the taste should be tangy. Cover tightly and refrigerate for several hours before use, stirring occasionally so that the flavors blend. Served on plain chips, unsalted crackers or toast.


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