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Salted and dried cod – how is it made?

Salted and dried cod, bacalhau or clipfish: different names for the same product. But how is it made?

Clipfish is a preservation method where the fish is salted before drying. As with most ancient methods of curing, creating clipfish used to be a simple process. ‘Klippfisk’ literally means ‘rockfish’, a name derived from the traditional process of leaving the cod to dry out on flat rocks by the seaside. Since the 1950´s the production is more complicated and today the fish is dried indoors using modern techniques.

The unsalted stockfish has been produced in Norway for about one thousand years, while the production of clipfish started in the mid-18th century.

There fish must be cut in a specific way; the head and backbone are removed, and the fish is folded out like a triangle. There are different ways that fish can be salted – dry salting, brining or pickling. The fish is usually salted for 3-4 weeks to create its unique flavor.

Once the fish has been salted, it is put onto pallets and left to dry indoors. In Norway they use specially designed drying tunnels in which temperatures are around 20°C.

The length of time it takes for the fish to dry depends on its size and how it was salted, somewhere between 2-7 days. The producer must keep a watchful eye on the fish to make sure that it doesn’t dry out too much, or too quickly. The fish is ready when it has a water content of around 40-50%. It is then stored at a low temperature, between 0-5°C.

The last step before transport to the markets is sorting the clipfish by size and quality – the highest of which is “Superior/Primeira”. The biggest markets for clipfish today are Portugal and Brazil, but the fish is also exported to several other countries.

Clipfish is highly appreciated by chefs all over the world because of its versatility, wonderful texture and distinct taste.

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