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close this bookSmall-Scale Processing of Fish (ILO - WEP, 1982, 140 p.)
close this folderV. METHODS OF PREPARATION
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View the documentV.1. Dried/salted fish
View the documentV.2. Dried-unsalted fish
View the documentV.3. Dried/salted shark


This section briefly summarises the various steps required to prepare dried and/or salted fish. Three types of fish products are described: dried/salted fish, dried-unsalted fish and dried/salted shark.

V.1. Dried/salted fish

Only fresh fish make a good product. Mackerels, tunas, etc. should be bled at sea and, if possible, all fish should be iced at sea. The drying/salting of fish should be carried out according to the following steps:

- To scale and split the fish in the way described in Section I. To remove the head before splitting unless it increases the retail value of the processed fish.

- To remove all but the tail third of the back bone.

- To clean carefully the fish by removing all guts, liver, gills, membranes, etc.

- To score to skin with care in order to avoid cutting through the flesh.

- To wash the fish by soaking in a 10% brine for half an hour.

- To drain the fish.

- To dry salt the fish in a shallow box, using the appropriate amount of salt, with more salt on the thick parts of fish than on the thin parts; to fill all scores and rub the salt in thoroughly. One part of salt to three parts of fish by weight is recommended for appropriate salting.

- Saturated brine with an excess of salt may be used as an alternative to dry salting. In this procedure, even piles are made by placing the fish skin side down in the salting vat. The top layer should be skin side up. If brine does not cover the fish within 3-4 hours, to add saturated brine. To place a weight on the fish so that they are below the surface of the brine and to cover the vat.

- To leave the fish in salt for about 12 hours. Fish size, market preferences, weather and working conditions will affect the length of the salting period.

- To wash the fish in 10% brine or sea water, in order to remove all salt crystals. To drain and set to dry. If drying conditions are good, it is advisable to dry the fish in the shade instead of the open sun.

- To leave the fish on the drying racks during the first night. Thereafter, to remove and pile up the fish under pressure each night until drying is complete. Greater pressure and longer press times may be used towards the end of the drying period.

- To continue alternative drying and pressing until no further weight is lost. To store and bale the fish.

V.2. Dried-unsalted fish

In general, only very small fish should be dried without first salting as larger fish will spoil before the drying process is complete. The method to be used would be similar to that described in V.1 above except that the salting stages are omitted.

V.3. Dried/salted shark

Shark meat has to be very carefully handled and processed due to the presence of urea in the flesh. The urea can be converted to ammonia by bacterial action and its unpleasant odour can be detected, even at low concentrations. The recommended processing method is as follows:

- It is important that sharks be bled immediately after capture. Small shark are effectively bled by cutting off the caudal fins whilst large sharks can be bled by cutting of the head and putting a water hose into the main vein, thus forcing and washing out the blood. The shark should then be gutted, the belly cavity washed and scrubbed with clean water and iced immediately (if possible).

- Fillets or steaks of the required size are then cut into 2 cm thick pieces from the shark carcase.

- Fillets can be placed in cooled 10% brine solution for 2-6 hours prior to dry salting. Whether the shark meat requires soaking in brine depends on the freshness of the meat and the species of shark. Very fresh shark generally does not require brining, an exception being made for the hammer-head shark which should always be brined. This soaking stage facilitates the removal of ammonia and helps to achieve white dry shark meat. After brining, the fillets are allowed to drain for 10 minutes.

- Each fillet is individually salted by rubbing fine grain salt into the flesh, and cured by either kenching or pickling. The pickle cure is recommended under tropical conditions for the reasons discussed previously. When adequately salted, the meat is briefly washed in water (not soaked) to remove adhering surface salt.

- The salted meat can be dried by either sun drying on sloping racks (and press piling at night) or dried in a mechanical drier. The meat is dried to about 35% water content and, at this stage, it should not be possible to press a thumb mark into it.

In good natural drying conditions, 2 cm thick fillets or steaks should be dry within 3-4 days. If the relative humidity is greater than 75%, then it would be impossible to dry heavily salted shark meat adequately.