Not long ago I moved into new digs and was given a challenge of doing something with 2kg of sardines!! Err, OK!? It’s the only way I could get any freezer space!! 2 kilos of frozen sardines takes up a lot of freezer space! Specially when they’re pointing in all sorts of different directions!!
I’ve been getting into my curing recently, so I saw the perfect opportunity to test what I’d learnt. Here’s how they came out!
ingredients (makes ~1kg)
for the salted sardines
1 tbsp smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
apparatus / equipment
2 tupperware boxes with lids
One that fits inside the other - usually buy them like that!!
Need the box from the larger and the lid from the smaller.
scale & fillet: You can get the fishmonger to do this, make sure he’s thorough they’re a bit fiddly to scale once they’ve been filleted.
If you’re doing it yourself use a fish scaler. Or, if you haven’t got one of those, the back of the knife to scrape them off. Rinse the fish and feel using your knife to see if there are any left.
layer in salt: Mix the salt, paprika and garlic together and put a layer of the mix in the bottom of the larger box. About 1mm thick is fine. Put the first layer of fillets in skin side down. Then give them a generous dusting of salt, remember, you want to use all the salt mix up by the time all the fillets are in the box. Put the next layer of fillets in, and do the same again. Press them down with your hands to make sure they are tightly packed (without damaging them of course). Keep going until all the fillets are packed in, and the final layer of salt goes on the top. Cover with cling film.
press: Place smaller tupperware box lid on top of the fish inside the box. The lid will even the pressure of whatever you use as a weight.
cover with foil & fridge: Cover the whole thing in foil to keep things tidy and place in fridge with weight on top. The weight will keep the fish submerged, as the sardine fillets give up water. Leave them like that for 4-5weeks.
cover with oil: After the curing period unwrap the box, drain the brine that will have built up and replace it completely with oil. The oil acts as a seal, keeping the air (an oxidant) away from the fish and preserving them, in combination with the reduced water content.
They take 4-5wks. So what every you plan to do with them, think at least a month in advance! Good thing is, done properly they’ll last 12months!
what could go wrong? (notes)
“Ooooh, there’s the odd really hard transparent disc thingy, chewy little thing sticks to the inside of my mouth!!”
I see you weren’t listening when I said make sure you scale them properly! I wasn’t kidding about this. When you think you’ve finished scaling, rinse the sardine, and stroke the blade of you knife over the fish. It will be smooth and silent unless it runs over a scale, where it sort of rasps audibly.
Remove the little blighter!
Remove a sardine or 2 from oil, pat dry and chop up, or leave whole. Serve with sliced tomatoes, chives and olive oil and chunk of bread or naan (for a bit of a culture remix).
Curing. The aim of this process is to reduce the water content to a level that is inhospitable for nasties (bacteria). The salt draws water from the fish doing exactly that. The oil inhibits oxidation.
These are very much like giant anchovies, the difference being that anchovy are £30/kg and these are more like £10/kg! Great with a salad nicoise for example or in and sardine mayo.