Today, salting continues to be one of the most highly valued traditional conservation methods. With this method we manage to dehydrate, reinforce the flavour and prevent the proliferation of certain bacteria.
Historically, the consumption of fish and shellfish is evidenced by the remains of shells and thorns found in pre-Roman sites (between the 8th and 1st centuries B.C.), which already speak of an important exploitation of the sea by the people of the coast, and the mobility that is supposed to these communities would surely require the use of food conservation systems such as smoking and drying.
During the Roman period there was a greater development of fishing, as well as an increase in marketing and conservation techniques such as salting, among the species highlighted the sardine. Fishing and fish conservation techniques developed progressively over the centuries, techniques that remained with very few changes until the 18th century with the invention of preserves.
The passage from salting to fish canning factories on the peninsula is due to the sardine shortage of the French who invented the method of preservation by sterilisation in 1810.
The great sardine crisis that plagued the French coast in 1880-1887 marked the start of the fish canning industry in the Iberian Peninsula, although salting continued until the 1970s. With the arrival of refrigeration and preserves in the 19th century, salting was relegated to very exclusive uses in meat and fish, such as cod.
As for the salting of other species of fish such as herring, cod, or whale was an innovation in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and led to overseas expansion, providing boats with food necessary for long voyages. The star products of deep-sea fishing then preserved in salt were cod and whale.
Photo by comercializadorasecos.cl
The first fishing incursions beyond the skyline have been documented since the 14th century and had as their first destination the waters of Ireland. From some Asturian ports, such as Llanes, fishermen set sail in April, after wintering, in search of hake, sea bream and other bottom fish.
It should not be thought that men entered the Atlantic on board large ships. The pinnacles and tall chalupas, manned by between 6 and 15 men, were barely more than 10 meters long and lacked a deck. They were equipped with two masts and two square sails, which later evolved into the “third” rigs of the late nineteenth century. On board, they had to bring food and water for several weeks, salted sardines for the bait and baskets with the longline gear.
In the seventeenth century Spain was an excellent market for seafood products and northern European fishing companies had the greatest interest in selling their star products, such as cod, to consumers in the Catholic countries of the south.
From this perspective, it is not surprising that Spanish fishing vessels working in the North Atlantic fishing grounds were under constant attack. Already during the reign of Philip II, the ships that came to Newfoundland in search of whales or cod had to be artillery or protected by warships.
England and Holland should think that the house of Austria already had enough to dominate the Mediterranean and the central and southern Atlantic, as to try to extend its influence to the north. The expulsion of the Spanish fishermen from the North Atlantic was definitively sentenced by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and until the 20th century cod fishing was resumed.