Anchovies are tiny silver fish, about 3 to 8 inches (7.5 to 20 cm) long, from the Mediterranean, especially the Basque area of Spain. Their lower jaw is shorter than their upper jaw.
The fish are washed in a brine solution, then packed whole, heads and all, into large barrels and salted. They are allowed to cure like this for 6 to 8 months at room temperature, which develops the taste.
Most Anchovies used to be sold at this stage, as Salted Anchovies, and some Anchovy fans say this is still the best to buy them, packed in the salt they were cured in. These dried whole ones are a bit more work in the kitchen, as you will want to remove any obvious bones. You can still buy these jarred or tinned, or loose at some delis.
Some Anchovies are allowed to continue maturing past the 6 to 8 months, until they become soft and liquidy and are sold to makers of sauces such as Worcestershire sauces and Asian fish sauces. Most, however, at the end of these months of curing in salt, are refrigerated to stop the maturing process. They are washed in water, the skins are rubbed off, and the head and tails removed. After another wash in brine, then they are hand-filleted (do you see now why your mother told you to stay in school?) Each fish produces two small fillets. The fillets are layered into tins with oil, cleaned and boned and ready to use. This labour-intensive process accounts for how expensive a little tin can seem.
On cooking, Anchovies melt away and blend into whatever you are cooking them with. They don't leave a fishy taste, just a salty one. Some say that the taste anchovies give to dishes can be classed as "umami."
The Ortiz brand of anchovies is rated highly by some people; the fish used come from the Cantabrian coast on the north of Spain, and the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain.
Some will tell you to discard the packing oil as it is too salty and fishy, but that is balderdash. If you didn't like the taste of Anchovies, you won't be opening a tin in the first place. Secondly, there are many dead-simple pasta sauce recipes that can make use of this oil.
Others will tell you to rinse Anchovies in water to help get rid of some of their taste. You can save time by just buying tofu instead.
2 oz Anchovy fillets in oil = 50g = 8 to 12 Anchovies in oil = 12 drained
1 1/2oz Anchovies, drained = 40g = 8 to 10 Anchovies
1/2 teaspoon Anchovy paste = 1 Anchovy fillet
You can substitute capers for Anchovies at the rate of 1 1/2 tbsp capers (rinsed if they were in a vinegary solution) for every 6 Anchovy fillets the recipe calls for.
Elizabethan gourmands would keep a barrel of salted Anchovies in their cellars.
Commercial sauces which use Anchovies: Harveys, Burgess's Anchovy Essence, Gentleman's Relish, Worcestershire sauce (invented 1838).
AnchovyAnchovy and Caper Salad Dressing Recipe; Anchovy Butter Recipe; Anchovy Butter; Anchovy Paste; Anchovy Powder; Anchovy & Walnut Stuffed Peppers Recipe; Anchovy; Boquerones; Niboshi
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