Salt cod may not be a basic in your home, but in many European homes, it is. It can be tossed into your morning eggs, or mixed with potatoes to make a delicious side dish. It can be stuffed into peppers, or fried into small coquettes as a starter. It is a luxury here in the states, and is so expensive. Traditionally it is only found on the tables state side on a special occasion. I decided it was time to learn how to make Homemade Salt Cod, using the lovely Alaska cod I have been buying at the market lately. I am so excited to share with you how I accomplished this Homemade Slat Cod recipe as it will make enjoying salt cod easier.
Bacalhau (Portuguese), bacalao (Spanish), bakailao (Basque), bacalla (Catalan), and morue (French) are just a few of the many names that salt cod goes by. Whichever you want to call it, salt cod is all made the same; salt, cod, and time.
Traditionally it was left outside to dry in the sun. Modern times have it made with the same ingredients, but the drying process is helped along with refrigeration or dryers. The drying of food preserves it, and the drying of fish gave it an added shelf life of many years. The method was cheap and could be done by the fisherman’s family, and the finished product was easy to transport to the neighboring village markets.
My heritage is Basque; unfortunately, I don’t remember ever having salt cod on the table. We ate many other things that some would consider “odd” such as tongue, brains, sweetbreads; you get the picture. I have a feeling salt cod was a bit of a luxury for my family.
The first time I had salt cod was at a Basque restaurant in San Francisco. I loved it. The salted cod was stuffed into roasted piquillo peppers, and finished with a drizzle of good olive oil. I adored it, so much that I contacted the restaurant for the recipe; they never gave it to me.
It wasn’t until I started dating Lenny that I had it again, and this time it was at his family’s home during the Christmas holiday. I could not get enough of those deep fried salt cod fritters. I probably embarrassed myself by eating as many as I did.
After coming back to San Francisco, I searched for salt cod in the markets but every time I found it either the quality was not great or it was terribly expensive. As well I reached for ways to make it at home and most often it the process was over technical and not meant for the home cook. Then I saw Matt’s post about how he makes his own. I immediately got to work.
Don’t be intimidated, making salt cod at home is simple. With a little salt and some planning, you can have fresh salt cod on the table in a few days. The hardest part was finding “true cod”. I would check with my market, once a week, to see if true cod was in. Never! I did not give up, and finally, it arrived. I had the fishmonger pick out two pounds of pure white, and fleshly cod for this curing project. I did not want thin pieces nor did I want any skin on it.
I lined a glass baking dish with kosher salt, and then buried the cod in it; covering the top, and sides until I could not see any fish. Then I put it in the refrigerator and forgot about it. Forty-eight hours later, I gently rinsed the salt off and dried the salted cod with paper towels. Then I wrapped it in cheesecloth, put it back in the refrigerator, and forgot about it until it was firm. This process takes between 7 – 10 days.
After the cod is dried, you can use it right away, or freeze it for another time. The finished product ended up costing me about $10 for a pound. It was flaky as well as very flavorful. I liked having control of the cut of fish, and that it did not have any dark meat, skin, or bones. Just perfectly dried salt cod.
- Have your fish monger pick out very firm and white pieces of true cod. I try to get as little dark flesh or bones as possible.
- Have a big box of Diamond Kosher Salt as the exact measurements depend on the size of your dish as well as the pieces of fish.
- deep glass dish
- small metal rack that will fit in the glass dish
Recipe: Homemade Salt Cod
- 1 pound true cod, rinsed and patted dry, remove any bones
- box of Diamond kosher salt
In a deep glass dish, fill the bottom with kosher salt about 2 – 3 cups depending on the size of you dish.
Lay the cod on top.
Cover the top, and sides of the fish with more kosher salt (about the same measurements as before), until you cannot see any flesh.
Put it in the fridge, and forget it for 48 hours.
Remove the cod from the salt, rinse off with cold water, and pat dry; very dry.
Wrap in a single layer of cheesecloth.
Clean out the same glass dish, and dry well.
Put the small metal rack in the dish, and set the cheesecloth wrapped cod on top of the metal rack.
Return the cod to the fridge, and keep there until the fish is stiff, and dry; about 7 – 10 days depending on how thick the fish is.
When the fish is dry, you can put it into a Ziploc bag, and put into the freezer to use at a later time. To use right away, you will need to soak it in water for 24 hours (very important to soak for 24 hours before cooking with it), changing the water every so often.
Recipes using Salt Cod