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mcollins07 01-12-2008 04:20 PM

Dried Fish?
Has anyone tried drying or salting fish to preserve it?
We fish when sailing and it seems we can catch more than we can eat right away when the fish are biting. I've considered trying to dry some of the fish and package it for storage. I've heard that native americans dried their fish to preserve it. Perhaps salting it is a possibility too. Anyone tried anything like that with fish? How did it taste?

- Michael

P.S. I moved this from the canned meat in usa thread.

Aasem 01-12-2008 06:29 PM


My father was Norwegian, and I was raised in Alaska. Therefore, my experience is with the cold water fishes and I don't know how the techniques translate to warm water and tropical fishes.

He would salt black cod (sable fish), cod, and herring, and it would keep indefinitely. Rinse it well before cooking, and it's pretty good. He would also smoke salmon, black cod and herring, and it kept very well. He would also pickle herring, salmon, and crab tails.

The natives around us would split salmon and hang them on drying racks. I tried some "salmon jerky" long ago, and it was pretty good. I've never done it myself.

It seems sacrilegious to do any of this to tuna, dorado, ono, etc., but who knows? Smoked yellowtail is good. I prefer my fish raw these days, and you just can't preserve stuff for sashimi or sushi.

Ceviche cures fish, but I wonder how long it keeps?

Sasha_V 01-12-2008 08:13 PM

Just to make it celar, you need to do the drying on land. A boat never ever gets dry enough inside or out to allow proper dessication.

Catch em, gut em, salt em, bring them back to land and dry them.

COLD dry and windy climates are much better then hot ones, but the dry and windy is essential, as humidity will spoli the fish before the moisture can be removed.

In humid climates the preservation method was canning/jarring the fish in oils, pickle brine and other liquids.

choose whether you want to dry the whole fish or just fillets. Fillets are especially good for smoking, and the result takes up less space, but whole fish drying tastes "better" to those that enjoy dried fish (the bones release gelatin during the drying process and this richens the meat taste)

Experiment, but BE SAFE, some areas need insect screening, some have other airbourne contagians that will spoil and harm the result....
finding someone with local knowledge is always a good idea for your area.

Remember, if you are going to try smoking the fish, avoid resinous woods like pine, and be aware that the fish will still need refrigeration after smoking, it will just last much longer in the fridge.

If you are going to dry fish, it makes sense to ge one of those vaccuum sealer systems. They are great for all sorts of things around the boat anyway...and they are a must for keeping atmospheric moisture out of dried meat products. Otherwise one humid day, or someone having an espcially long hot shower at your house can spoil an enitre pantry worth of dried fish by rehydrating it
.It won't technically spoil, you will just have to A) notice it straight away and B) eat the whole supply within a day!


mcollins07 01-12-2008 09:31 PM

I have a couple of those plastic ketchen dehydrating devices used to make jerky; they provide low heat and allow air to rise through several racks. I was thinking of trying one of those in a warm humid climate. If it works well, I might carry one on the boat with a seal-o-matic type vacuum sealer. Another idea was to put them in a plactic bag with a vacuum pulled on the bag and left overnight to dehydrate it. I'd rather not smoke it by fire, too much trouble. One can also vacuum seal food in plastic and radiate it heavily with X-rays, but I think this would be too much trouble. I am looking for the best preservation method, that is convenient.

Aasem 01-12-2008 10:03 PM

Smoking is easy on a boat: Just close the top vents on the Magma grill, and toss in a mesh bag of soaked wood chips. Alder, hickory, mesquite...

Sasha_V 01-13-2008 01:25 AM

You cannot use one of those drier things in too humid an environment, because it will only ever pull out the amount of moisture that is more then the surrounding atmosphere is carrying.
Also, the hot driers such as the one you describe are fast, but rob food of a lot of its flavours and boil off many natural preservative volatile oils/fats, long before all the water goes away. Fruits and vegetables don't have them, so it is no loss, but meats do and you are sacrificing quality for convenience.

Jerky done at room tempreture with a strong airflow is way better then trying to raise the heat to fight the humidity. You end p sort of steaming the food to death, rather then drying it.

The smoing suggestion was excellent, but I like using a small electric hotplate or electric frypan to heat the woodchips...much more control.

General rule of thumb, if you want lots of intense flavour transfer quickly because you are "cooking in smoke" instead of pure smoking, then small wood chips (sawdust) are you friend. If you want to take three days to smoke something then you go for the larger half-fist sized wood chips. You can also do a mix, putting in the large chips and getting them going, and then adding a handfull of sawdust to turbo-boost the smoke (I tend to do this when I open the door and rotate things around on their racks, Because a lot of the smoke gets out while I am doing it, I just toss in a handfull of sawdust into the chips, and five seocnds later...Lots of smoke again)


CrazyRu 01-13-2008 02:40 AM

Dried fish
I'm native Russian. Dried salted fish is a part of a diet. It's best with beer :)

I don't think climate and humidity is a big problem, however it is contributing factor.

If you want to try to make your own dried fish here are some ideas.

Start with smallest fish you can ketch, palm sized are best. If you get big one, cut it in small thin strips. Leave skin on. Normally we dry small fish with intestines intact; they provide some great delicatessen later. However, it's probably better to gut it for the first time.

Prepare the brine.
It is simple. You will need a fresh potato (reusable), salt, water. Dilute salt in a water until the potato floats. A soon as potato starts floating in the brine it is right concentration of salt in water.

Soak a fish in the brine for three days. Fish must be submerged.

Then hang fishes on open air, preferably in the shadow. Sailing is ideal conditions for drying a fish constant breeze is a best. Just tread fishes on a whine and hand them somewhere. Make sure all liquids in a fish can drain easily, hang it by the tail.

Three days later you will have a delicatessen. Or little piece of poison. It depends.

It was simplest recipe for salted fish.
Later we can talk about cold smoked fish, hot smoked fish, pickled fish, and caviar. :)

Sasha_V 01-13-2008 03:04 AM

You don't use any acid (vinegar) at all in your brine?
I like salt, bit of sugar and some vinegar...the vinegar is a powerful bacteria killer during the drying porcess and adds a little zingy tang to the taste.
sugar aids evaporation once the salt has drawn moisture to the surface. It doe snot take very much, but salt crystals that have sugar near them go all porcupinish and have much more surface area, thus they are better at wicking away and evaporating moisture.
As anyone that has had clothes soaked in seawater knows, salt water actually keeps cloth moist for longer...You can thus aid your salt water laundry practices on board by adding a 1/4cup of sugar (or better yet using sugar soap) with the salt water rinse. Clothes will dry faster and feel nicer. (Once dried, the clothes can be shaken out breifly, the very spindly nature of the effected crystals means that all those little spines snap off very easily, leaving behond much less salty clothes!

There you go, fish preservation and laundry tips all in one!

By the way. I also have a Russian background, having been born in Odessa. Somehow the idea of crusing along with 200 little fish hanging to dry from your topping lift as you sail along fits better in the Black Sea then it does in most other places.


CrazyRu 01-13-2008 03:12 AM

Pickled fish
As soon as you add sugar and vinegar, it is pickled fish :)

Aasem 01-13-2008 01:52 PM


Originally Posted by CrazyRu (Post 249418)
As soon as you add sugar and vinegar, it is pickled fish :)

Might as well throw in the onions and spices, too.

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