Traditionally Dried Catfish

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Hertur steinbítur o steinbítsrikklingur

Traditionally dried catfish (Anarhichas lupus), called hertur steinbítur or steinbítsrikklingur in Icelandic, is a stockfish-like product that is dried outdoors at low temperatures. Ocean catfish for drying is predominantly caught by longline. It is usually filleted before drying. To speed up the process, the flesh is divided into 3-4 cm wide strips, taking care not to cut through the skin. The fillets are dipped into weak brine before being hung up on wooden dowels for wind drying. Climatic conditions are very important for the drying. Freezing temperature and wind at the start of the drying period give the best results. Outdoor drying takes 6-7 weeks. Catfish is not suited for indoor cabinet drying. The product is not soaked or cooked before consumption like other types of dried fish, but is instead beaten with a mallet to soften it and then eaten raw. Traditionally dried catfish is consumed as a snack, plain or with butter on top. It is popular with all segments of the Icelandic population. It can be eaten throughout the year, but consumption peaks during summer and during the traditional Icelandic food festivals from late January to late February. Like traditionally dried haddock, the dried ocean catfish can be considered a health product, as it is almost pure protein with a favorable sodium to potassium ratio. Dried fish was a staple food of Icelandic society throughout history, where it was used similarly to bread to accompany most meals. It is first mentioned in Icelandic records from 1200, and for centuries stockfish was the most valuable export product of Iceland. Next to haddock, ocean catfish is the most common dried fish consumed in Iceland. Traditionally dried ocean catfish, however, is produced by only a few small companies in the Westfjords, in northwestern Iceland, where the climatic conditions are optimal. The production technique may vary slightly from one producer to the other, but has been used for centuries. While catfish is not suitable for indoor drying, it still faces competition on the market from dried fish products, which cost less and are inferior in taste. Compared to the popular haddock, catfish contains more fat and is more sensitive to oxidation. It is difficult to store and preserve, and so most shops and supermarkets do not offer traditionally dried catfish, preferring to offer less expensive dried fish.

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Fish, sea food and fish products

Nominated by:Dominique Plédel Jónsson