How to make salt cod? The true ancient techniques revealed! 4

To make salt cod you need to have the best raw material available. How to make salt cod depends on having tools, salt and the finest Norwegian fresh fish.

How to make salt cod or other salted fish requires the use of ancient techniques. Making salt cod has it’s origin and use linked to history. Salting fish makes it very resistant to bacteria and other spoiling agents. In the past where electrical refrigerated systems did not exist, salting food was a way of keeping it fit for human consumption during long periods. How to make salt cod became important to Portuguese sailors a few centuries ago, when they went out to conquer the world. Salt cod was an important part of their diet, not only due to nutrition, but also due to the fact that dried and salted cod was easy to transport and preserve.

Salt cod is made in a similar manner as it was decades ago, the principals remain unchanged.

Anyway, nowadays the world has changed, but how to make salt cod is basically done the same. The fresh fish is delivered directly by fishermen to our docks. The cod is then split and placed in plastic bins, like in the photos. One layer of fish and one layer of salt, the fish has to be totally surrounded by salt for a perfect cure. How to make salt codThese photos have been taken not to long ago at our salt cod facility in Northern Norway.

How to make salt cod fish requires more than just good raw material

As you can see, to make salt cod requires quite a bit of salt! We use much salt in our yearly production. We only use it once, using salt twice, will bring serious problems due to impurities that it may have. So it is always recommended to use fresh new salt in every salt cod production. Used salt can be recycled or sold for use in other industries.

Fresh split cod is gradually placed in the bin and surrounded by salt over and underneath, so the codfish are not in touch with each other. Normally done by layers, one layer of fish, and one layer of salt. This stage of production is important and essential. It’s required if we want to have a fine dry salted fish, and this is the exact way we produce all our products. Many producers avoid this stage, using alternative methods, that are much quickly and less costly, but the final product may not insure as much quality.

Northern Fish. Just wild caught Norwegian whitefish and salt! Nothing else!

The first stage of making a salt cod, is the osmosis phase. After filling up the bins, they are placed in a cool area. A large cold room with  a stable temperature that ranges from 0ºC to +4ºC. During the first week or so, you will notice osmosis in progress. Moisture from the fish will be exchanged for salt content. The moisture (water) leaves the fish meat and salt penetrates deep inside the meat texture. This stage is called the brine. This natural brine, is produced by the reaction between the moisture in the meat and the salt.

This is the real secret behind the question on how to make salt cod.How to salt fish

The salt cod should be in brine at least 3 weeks. However, after a certain period of time, the osmosis effect does stabilize. After the brine stage, the making of fine salt cod, requires a long staging period in salt. The bins are then turned and the fish is set on pallets. The maturing stage, the fish spends several weeks on pallet in a cool environment, where the salt cure is completed. The longer in salt the tastier the final salt cod will be.

After the maturing stage, the fish is then ready to dry, we call this fish in this state, wet salted cod.

How to make salt cod also requires quality raw material and very strict procedures

The wet salted cod is then washed to remove the excess salt on the surface. To make genuine quality salt cod it requires to wash the cod before drying. However many, do not wash the fish, they simply just advance with drying. This may not be optimal for drying and it will creat a crusty salt surface on the fish, which is not good. How to make a great salt cod is sometimes laced together with small details. After washing the fish will be quite wet, so a day or so is required for this dripping stage. Back to the cold room for another day, until most of the water has dripped away.

Now we are ready for the final drying phase, the fish is set up in racks, and placed in giant drying tunnels. It will take between 60 and 100 hours to have the salt cod perfect for sorting and boxing.

How to make salt cod fish, is more or less similar to any other fish or meat product, we make salt fish from several species, saithe, tusk, haddock, the basic salting method is similar to all these fish which we produce.

By now, you have probably already thought of the time-consuming operations described. Yes, a true and traditional salt cod can take up to several months to be ready to pack, however quality insures that nothing is left out. At Northern Fish Iberia, we work with patience to insure that the finest quality is part of our saltfish products. We would like to thank you for reading our post on ” How to make salt cod ” , we hope it was useful.

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4 thoughts on “How to make salt cod? The true ancient techniques revealed!


    Thank you so much! It took a long time to find this method of preparation.
    After wading through other versions where you cover a piece of cod in salt for 24 hours in the fridge, then generally soak it to death the following day before cooking, I finally stumbled across your procedure. I currently have eight nice pieces of butterflied blue cod buried in salt where I plan to leave them for as long as my craving taste buds will allow. I live in New Zealand where accessing ready-salted, dried and matured cod proved to be not worth the effort.
    I have tried, successfully, to prepare my own by burying the cod in salt and forgetting about them for months.
    I then took them out, didn’t rinse like you suggest, but hung them up to dry for a few weeks. I will rinse the next lot.
    I then rescued a piece from the drying rack and my partner and I prepared Bacalhau Gomes de Sa for Christmas dinner. This will now be a tradition with us, just like so many other people in other countries who have done this for years.
    Any further advice from you would be sincerely welcomed.

  • Susan Pamela Martin

    I really enjoyed reading this and was hoping to find a traditional recipe for using salted cod.
    Thank you.

  • Margarita

    Hi! Great information, I have been researching how to make salted cod at home since is difficult to find at the stores. I do have a couple of questions. How long will it take for the fish to mature after it comes out of the brine? What is the temperature of the drying tunnels? Do you use hot or cold air? What is the shelf life of the salted fish without refrigeration? I just started the brine process with 4 pounds of frozen cod. Let’s see how it goes!