Kochi: Fresh fish in brine is here to stay. When we have whole mangoes, gooseberry and lime swimming in salt, who’s stopping the fish? Here’s something “fishtarians” can say cheers to.
The art of pickling anything and everything edible was perfected ages ago, with veg and non-veg items salted, dried and pickled at home.
Sardine, mackerel, and anchovy preserved in salt solution are the favorites among such pickles. The “fattier” the fish, the tastier they turn! Fish can be salted and preserved for as long as one likes, says K. Shiny, research scholar at KUFOS (Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies). She is into perfecting the science of preserving fish in salt solution.
Fish, however fresh it is, acquires its trademark fishy smell when the fat in it comes into contact with the atmospheric air around it. But this stench disappears when it’s preserved in salt. This sort of preservation helps fish retain its nutrients and freshness. Clean, cut, salt. Once the fish undergoes this surgical procedure, the stench just disappears. Fish, preserved thus, if refrigerated, stays fresh for up to a year, says Shiny.
How the solution is made
Three glasses of water to one glass of salt is the ideal mix. It’s always better to go for table salt. The salt is mixed with water, boiled and cooled. The salt has to melt as much as it can. If 2 kg of fish is to be preserved, the measure of salt would be 30 to 40 per cent of the fish weight, which is then mixed with water, thrice the measure of salt.
Everything depends on the kind of fish one needs to preserve. If the fish is small, only the intestines and gills need to be pulled out. On the contrary, if it’s big, apart from cleaning, it has to be diced into small bits. Scales, if any, are to be scraped off. The fish thus cleaned should be immersed in the salt solution that’s already been prepared.
Once the fish gets bottled or jarred, it’s vital that they lie totally immersed in the salt solution. To aid this, small stones or pieces of wood are placed on the surface of the vessel to ensure that the fish lies submerged in man-made salt water. The fish can be served in two days. This scientific method of preservation ensures that fish, fresh from the river, is at hand all through the year. Salting and drying is another way of preserving fish, though the fresh tag cannot be attached to it.
Tips when buying fish
How to go for fish that’s fresh and tasty? Fishmongers always capitalize on consumer ignorance. All one needs is a wee bit of insight and a quick eye to detect what’s truly dead. This can be gauged in many ways.
The color change in the gills and the eyes give away its status. Loss of sheen on the skin, smelly fluids which ooze out of its pores, color change of flesh, loss of elasticity and flaky nature of the meat are but a few tell-tale signs of fish that’s not too fresh. Instead of the natural smell it’s endowed with, un-fresh fish emits a stench.
Bathed in chemicals
Along with the catch come ammonia and formalin, used in markets today to preserve the fish for days in a bid to retain its freshness. Most of the chemicals used are carcinogenic. If you smell something fishy about the way fish is preserved, please call the District Food Safety Department and register your plaint.
Call 0484 2784807 and toll-free number 18004251125.