Curing Fish: Salted Cod

Cod fish can be sold in several forms, fresh or dried, being very common to get cod salted and dried. Cod like every dry fish can have several types of cure, in truth each cure is separated by the humidity level of the salted cod, commercially the most common are:
- salted and dried cod fish
- semi dry cod fish
- wet salted cod fish

Salted and dried cod fish
Salted and dried cod fish is a common cure in some cultures for cod fish, this type of cure is sometimes called the Portuguese cure, being that the Portuguese culture is one of the main consumers of cod fish in the World. The Portuguese cure is basically the same as a salted and dried cure with 47% humidity level. Salt is used to preserve the cod fish, the salt content should be above 16% to guarantee a proper conservation of the cod fish. As mentioned before the humidity level is what distinguishes the types of cure, being the salted and dried cod fish having a humidity level between 45-47%.
In the past, the splitted cod fish would be dried in the sun. However today, in great part due to production requirements and also some health and safety issues, the cod fish is dried in wind tunnels, being the humidity and temperature levels controlled rigorously.
Salted and dried cod needs a refrigerated environment to preserve it's quality for a longer period, although in some countries it may not be necessary. A 4-7 ºC environment is perfect for this product, increasing it's durability. The less humidity the salted cod has the easier it is to preserve, being the salted and dried cod fish the one that has a better performance of all three types mentioned.

Semi dry cod fish or 3/4 cure
The semi dry cod fish or 3/4 cure requires the cod fish to attain a 48-50% humidity level, being the salt content as mentioned above 16%.
This type of cure is common in some Western European countries, being that it needs a refrigerated environment 4-7ºC to preserve it's quality.

Wet salted cod fish
Wet salted cod fish is very common in some cultures, it's humidity levels are higher than the ones already mentioned, and are normally between 51% and 55%, with a salt content also above 16%. Wet salted cod fish requires a more refrigerated environment being 1-4ºC adequate for this product.

We have mention three types of cure for salted cod fish, being these mentioned as the most common ones found in the market. Although cod fish is very adaptive to clients needs, you may find several differences when comparing producers, so I've provided general guidelines for cod curing.
If you purchase salted cod make sure you correctly soak it, this way you'll guarantee it's wonderful taste and flavour. You can actually read more on how to soak a salted and dried cod fish on one of my previous posts, as I have written about this important part of cod fish cooking.


Cod cooking

Cod cooking may be a challenge for who has no idea about cod and cod processing. In truth cod cooking may need a previous soaking of the salted and dried cod. So how do you soak a salted and dry cod? Besides soaking a salted and dried cod before you do your cod cooking, you may even have other problems that you may not of been aware of, namely you probably bought a whole splitted salted and dried cod fish. How to cut a whole splitted salted and dried cod fish? I plan to answer both these questions on this post making your cod cooking an enjoyable thing for you and you family.
Well you can find several types of cod on the market, but frequently you'll find salted and dried cod, to make it edible it's important that you soak it properly, this means that your cod when ready for cooking will not be too salty or too stale. It's really important to soak your salted and dried cod properly, or you'll never really get a true flavour and taste.

How to cut your whole splitted salted and dried cod fish?

Its really common in some countries to buy whole splitted salted and dried cod fish. This type of conservation was used in the past to preserve food during long ocean voyages. And cod specifically could withstand long periods of time, so it was one of the main food products used in the great voyages all over the world.
The salted and dried cod as you may see in the picture has a triangular format, it's split just before the salting and drying. When you buy it the whole split salted and dried cod is roughly solid, if it bends easily this means that the humidity level may be to high, the common number for humidity level on a salted and dried cod is between 45 and 47%.
The cod will have to be cut into smaller pieces, depending on your intention to cook it, you should ask it to be cut accordingly. Many supermarkets do have cutting facilities for customers who buy cod. I personally buy salted and dried cod frequently, so I always ask for a loin cut, this means that I intend to have as many loins pieces as possible, basically the center area of the fish catching the spinal cord.
So basically we can divide the cod fish into the following common parts:
  • loins
  • napes or wings
  • tail
  • collar bone area

How to soak a salted and dried cod?
Salted and dried cod are a result of ancient methods used still today, they preserves the cod during a long period and maintain all characteristics and nutrients of the fresh fish, improving its flavour and taste.
A correct soaking of the cod will give you a well salt balanced cod ready to cook. In order to achieve a good soaking of your salted and dried cod you will need to cut your whole cod first, just like I explained, the soaking process is done with the cut to size pieces making it easier and more balanced.
First step is to put some cold water into a recipiente, this recipiente will have to be big enough to put every piece in and be totally immersed in the cold water. Cold water is important, especially in the summer or in countries with hot temperatures, it preserves the cod fish during the soaking process. Dip the pieces in with the skin turned to the surface, exchange the water with clean water every 8-12 hours (at least once a day). Depending on the thickness of the cod fish pieces between 60 and 72 hours your cod fish will be ready to be consumed. Exchanging the water is important, as the water is quickly saturated with salt, and clean water will effectively help the soaking of the cod fish pieces.


Codfish, Morue or Kabeljau

Codfish as said in English, morue for the French or kabeljau for the German, truth is that it's an important part of many cuisines, being Europe the hot spot for traditional cod dishes.
Codfish is an Ocean fish, it enjoys cold water, tends to swim in the Northern hemishphere in cold waters just off Canada, Norway, Russia, Iceland  (Northern Atlantic Ocean) .... The true codfish is a Gadus Morhua specie, found in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Although many tend to assotiate cod with Norway, you may find good quality Gadus Morhua codfish in several countries like Russia, Iceland and Canada, they are fished in FAO 27 and FAO 21.
You can also find other codfish species like Gaus Macrocephalus, which is a Pacific codfish, it's fished in the FAO 67 region.
Salted Cod fish became famous among shipping vessels, due to it being long lasting, so it was commonly used in the long historical voyages as a food supply for there crew. A salted cod fish can whithstand a great period of time without getting spoiled.

Traditionally the Portuguese are known to be the ones who promoted salted cod among the world, even today the Portuguese are among the main consumers of this fish. The traditional salted cod has been done on the Portuguese coast for many generations.
The salted cod, besides it historical part as a important part in long range vessel onboard cuisine, it  also gives a special flavour and taste to it, making it an important part of the Portuguese cuisine.
In the industry we will find several types of cure for the cod fish, all are salted, the salt has a chemical effect on the fish protecting and preserving it. Besides salted and dried which has a humidity level of less than 47%, we may find semi dry with a 48-50% humidity level, or a wet salted which will have a higher than 51% humidity level. The cod is fished in the Northern Atlantic or Northern Pacific Ocean and frozen in blocks on board the fishing vessels. The frozen cod arrives at the processing plants to be salted and cured, this process I entend to draw up a detailed post, the salted and cured cod is then sold splitted as a whole fish. It may also be processed into smaller pieces like loins, wings, tails, bits, etc.