Semipreserve of Anchovy

346678206The Cantabrian anchovy is the processed fillets of a fish known in Spain as “anchoa” or “boquerón” according to the Spanish region (Engraulis Encrasicholus). This is a totally natural food and its ingredients are anchovies, olive oil and salt. Their flesh is flexible and firm. Never stiff or wrinkled. Its color varies from reddish brown to a light caramel color, red-pink, sometimes with reddish coloration in the area of the spine. The meat is tender with a strong dry salty taste mixed with the taste of the fish itself. The aromas and flavors of oil and salt should be balanced without masking the taste of the fish. Although the anchovy salting tradition, as with other fish, dates back to the Phoenicians, production as a semi-preservation began in Santoña (Cantabria) and other cities along the Basque coast towards the end of the 19th century. The processing of anchovy fillets for later canning is a delicate job, which usually require female hands. The process begins with the salting and pressing of the fish that is then allowed to cure for several months, until they acquire the reddish color and characteristic aroma. The following steps vary depending on whether the anchovies should be packed in brine or oil. For the preservation of brine, the heads are washed, then the fish are placed in containers (cans or plastic jars), which are topped with salt and sealed. For oil conservation, the fish are peeled, washed and trimmed to the appropriate size. They are then dried and filleted. Finally, place them in containers (cans or glass jars), and cover with olive oil before sealing. The difference between preserves and semi-preserves is that they, as they are not subjected to a sterilization process that would alter their organoleptic qualities, but to a salting, must be kept refrigerated. For this reason, they are treated as semi-preserved and must be stored between 4 and 12ºC, and consumed between six months and one year after production. The anchovy of the north of Spain, in particular of the Bay of Biscay, is considered the best for this semi-preservation process, due to its strong aroma, delicate texture and rosy flesh. This species is captured on the Cantabrian coast in spring, the time of year in which with soft temperatures the species is about to spawn. The process of making this anchovy begins with the curing / ripening that should last a minimum of six months. Afterwards washing, peeling, extraction of the spine and evisceration and filleting of the fish in fillets of between 9 and 12 cm to make a brine and packaging normally in the olive oil. The anchovies of Santoña packaged in olive oil are a traditional product well known for its excellent aroma and flavor. They can be eaten alone or as an ingredient for canapes, salads, pasta, accompanying soft cheese cheeses, etc. In addition to those in Cantabria are also famous within Spain anchovies of L’Escala, a fishing village on the coast of Girona (Catalonia), a town in the heart of the Costa Brava, where there is a great tradition in salting. These anchovies are cured for a shorter period, and are packed in brine or olive or sunflower oil in glass jars. Before salting, the viscera and head are removed, making sure to keep some of the blood. The clean pieces are placed in cans or bottles alternating one layer of anchovies and another layer of salt, and then pressed with a weight. The fish is preserved in brine for at least two months and once with salt, it is packed with olive oil (or sunflower) or marketed in the brine itself. The anchovies of l’Escala usually are commercialized with a size of approximately 9 cm in length. They are associated in Catalan cuisine with raisin bread and tomato tapa. In Murcia, there is also a tradition for salting anchovies that goes back to the Phoenicians. In this case, the process is very simple, just fresh anchovies and salt, ideal for Spanish “tapas”.
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Montse Gonzalez