5 Ways of Drying Fish to Make It Last

Dehydrating food is a great way to stock your pantry. Sure, you’re undoubtedly stopping and freezing a storm, but dry goods are ideal for long-term storage, too. Dried fish can last for several months if stored properly! If you have a good source of fresh fish, check out these ways to dry fish. You’ll be able to store plenty of protein in storage to enjoy during the lean months.

What are the benefits of drying fish?

Well, for starters, it doesn’t have the same spoilage risk as canned or frozen fish. Let’s say you can strain several jars of delicious fish stew. You neatly set these up in your cold cellar and forget about it… but then a shelf breaks or your cat comes downstairs and pops the jar off. All that hard work will be scattered on the floor, the place will stink.

The same goes for frozen fish. Have you ever come home after a few days of camping or foraging to find that the power has gone out? If you have (and I have…), you may have found that most of the stuff in your fridge and freezer has gone bad.

Method #1: Air Drying

This is the method used for the traditional Icelandic harfisker (literally “hard fish”). There, where the winds are very stable around the shore, skinned and peeled fish are hung outside on wooden nets. These winds beautifully dry the fish while keeping insects from accumulating.

Icelanders use haddock, cod and wolffish for this, but you can use any lean fish you have available. Do not choose fatty, as they will spoil and spoil. The key is to make sure the species is large enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Once they are dry, you can flatten them as much as possible with a meat mallet. This is for easy storage and to make them a little easier to eat. The slabs of these dried fish are dry to smell – as they do it in Iceland, usually smeared with a little butter.

Of course, slabs can also be added to soups and stews to rehydrate them as needed.

This is a method that works well if you are in a windy, cool environment. If you are in an area that is windy but also hot and humid, the fish are likely to “shut off” before they dry out.

How to dry fish this way

To perform this method, clean, gut, and fillet either the butterfly or the fish. Be sure to save the heads and bones for soup stock or homemade fish emulsion fertilizer. If the fish you are drying is thick enough, cut through the meat all the way to the skin. This will allow even more drying.

Once this is done, cut a hole in the tail end and thread a thick piece of twine or rope through it. You will use this to tie the fish to a mesh structure outside.

Ideally, you should do this procedure in spring or autumn, depending on where you are. For fish to dry properly, the weather needs to be windy and below 10°C/50°F. Hotter than that, and it is apt to go bad.

On the same note, some people submerge their fish in brine before hanging it to dry. You can do this to enhance its flavor and/or if it is slightly above the stated temperature, as this will help prevent spoilage.

Check the fish regularly over the next few days to mark the drying process. If and when you notice it feels like hard, messy paper, try breaking off a piece in the thickest area. It should dry straight and break easily in your hand. If it is not, leave it there for a day or two.

Once it dries properly, it’s time to whisk it. Aha yes Place the dried fish on a cutting board or table, and place the meat ballet on it. It should flatten nicely or break into flakes. At this point, you can transfer the dried goodness to a plastic zip bag or clean glass jar. Keep these in your pantry, away from any moisture.

Method #2: Sun-dried Fish

Now, if you’re in a hot, dry place, you can use both wind and sunlight to dry your fish snacks. Start this process first thing in the morning, preferably around sunrise.

Gut and gut the fish, and submerge them in the brine. Then spread them out on a mesh rack in a place where they get direct sunlight for as long as possible. Exposure to heat and sunlight will quickly dry out and disinfect the fish. Turn them every two hours for uniform drying on both sides.

Method #3: With Salt

Have you noticed that salt has a shocking drying effect on oh… just about everything it touches? If you don’t live in one of the above climates, salt is another great way to dry fish. Salting fish is one of the most ancient methods. In addition, salted fish – especially cod – has been a staple in North America and Europe for centuries.

As you might assume, fish preserved through this method is incredibly salty. As a result, you will need to soak and rinse it several times before cooking with it. The good news is that salted fish actually lasts a long time, and you can use it to make delicious dishes like bolinhos de bacalhau: Portuguese salt cod dumplings.

For this method, you’ll need coarse-grained salt such as pickling, sea salt, or Himalayan mountain salt. Never use iodized table salt, as it will discolor everything. After you’ve cleaned, eaten, and fished your fish, add about two inches of salt to a large container. Set out a layer of fish, cover with another inch of salt, and repeat.

Once you’ve placed all your fish, cover with a few more inches of salt.

Leave it in a dry place for eight to ten days. If you used larger, thicker pieces of fish, they may take a few more days. Once they’re thoroughly dried, pack them in plastic bags (with the salt still clinging to them) and store them somewhere cool and dry.

Method #4: Using a Dehydrator

If you have an electric dehydrator, you have an excellent tool for drying fish safely and effectively. This is the best method for drying small species like smelts. Alternatively, if you’re drying a larger fish, be sure to cut it into smaller pieces.

Once you have cleaned the fish, gut, bone and skin, thinly slice the pieces. Aim for about 1/4 inch, but if you have a good knife you can go thinner than that.

If you’re marinating your fish for flavor, this is where you put it in a bowl filled with seasonings and put in the fridge overnight. Alternatively, you can use a dry seasoning rub and set everything in a dehydrator right away.

Lay the fish strips evenly on each dehydrator tray, making sure there is enough room for air to circulate.

Set your dehydrator to 63°C/145°F, and dehydrate your fish for 10 hours. Check them after this time. If they still feel a little juicy to you, keep them for another four hours. The fish should be dry and brittle enough to break apart from your hands. Either that or they’ll have a leathery texture: it all depends on the type of fish you’re using.

At this point, you can pack the fish in vacuum-sealed bags, plastic zip bags, or glass mason jars. Store in a dry cool cellar, or freeze it to extend shelf life.

Method #5: Smoking

Smoking fish is a lot like the air dry har airfiskur method mentioned earlier. This time, however, you don’t hang the fish where cross breezes could kill them. Instead, you’ll spread them horizontally on a wire grill or mesh suspended over a low fire for a few days. If you have a smoker you can shorten this process to a few hours.

Take some fish fillets (or make them yourself), and soak them in a brine bath overnight. Then pat them dry with a paper or dish towel, and season them well. Then, grease the wire rack and spread the fish over it.

If you don’t have a wire rack, or want to do it with all local materials, you can also make a lattice out of wood. Watch the video below for some ideas:

In order for the fish to dry completely, it needs to be exposed to continuous smoke for a few days and must be flipped every eight hours. If, conversely, you only want fish that is moderately dry (like smoked salmon on bagels or what have you), you can cut down on drying times significantly. The same thing applies if you like crispy and crunchy dried fish.

Drying Fish Is Both Fun and Wise

Self-reliance isn’t just about making everything yourself. It’s also about celebrating the reward available and trying not to let anything go to waste. Each location has wonderful wild objects that we can preserve for future use, and fish is no exception! Depending on where you are, remember that you can catch a lot of fish in pretty much every season.

When your harvest is plentiful, whether through fishnets, nets, or really lucky lines, set aside half of what you catch. Your future self will thank you for doing so.

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