Anchovies have a strong fishy smell, which deters many people from eating them, or they associate them with a pizza that was overstuffed with the salty fish. Sadly, people frequently ignore the excellent flavor and nutritional advantages of anchovies, especially when they understandably worry about their high salt content. What makes anchovies so salty, though? Anchovies are naturally salty since they live in salt water, like all fish and other marine life. However, the majority of anchovy preservation techniques also utilised more salt, giving the fish a saltier flavor overall. You can reduce the saltiness of anchovies by soaking them in water, wine, or vinegar.
Are you prepared to try anchovies once more? Or perhaps you’re curious to find out more about the various dishes and methods to enjoy this tasty and healthy fish? Let’s learn everything there is to know about anchovies’ high salt content as well as the healthiest methods to eat them.
What Are Anchovies?
Anchovies are little fish that primarily inhabit the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. They range in size from 1-4 inches and reside in massive shoals with hundreds of other fish. These fish have long, slender bodies with silver scales, similar to a sardine on a smaller size. Anchovies feed mostly on plankton and reside in huge groups for safety. Unfortunately for these tiny fish, this also makes them incredibly simple to catch for fishermen! Unlike many other fish appropriate for human consumption, anchovies are always taken in the wild and do not require farming.
Anchovies can be eaten in a variety of ways, but they are more likely to be found preserved on grocery store shelves than at a fresh fish counter. While fresh anchovies are a delectable treat that everyone should taste, it’s when they’ve been preserved that they really shine! The odd thing about anchovies is that even if you don’t like them, you’ve probably eaten them unknowingly.
This is because they are used to flavor a wide range of regularly consumed foods. This method has been used for hundreds of years, dating back to ancient Roman times! Anchovies are an important ingredient used to flavor sauces such as Worcestershire sauce and fish sauce in modern times. Because they are so little, they look to melt when added to a hot skillet and will easily combine with other components.
So you might have eaten anchovies without even realizing it! The great majority of anchovies are preserved for long-term storage, but you might get lucky and find some on the fresh fish counter. When sold in this manner, the fish are usually intact, including the head, tail, scales, and bones. The flesh of raw fish is a lovely pale pink tint, though this might vary depending on the technique of preservation used.
Anchovies can be preserved and packaged in a variety of ways for sale. Curated anchovy fillets packaged in sunflower or olive oil are the most typical alternative; these anchovies are usually skinned and deboned. Anchovies cured in oil are typically sold in tall jars or horizontal ring-pull tins. The jars are more convenient because you can remove only a few anchovies at a time as needed. If you buy a ring-pull tin, you must use it all at once or move the remainder to another container for storage.
Packing cured anchovies in salt is another less popular method of preserving them. The heads and tails are removed in this method, although the scales and bones may still be present. This is usually not a problem because the bones are soft enough to consume. You can also get marinated anchovies, a Spanish delicacy served as a tapas dish. Anchovies are deboned and marinated in a vinegar, oil, and salt mixture, which turns them a bright white color.
Anchovies packed in brine are also available in some areas. Finally, you might come across a tube of anchovy paste on the grocery store shelves. This has a pâté-like consistency and is produced by combining anchovies, vinegar, spices, sugar, and water.
What Do Anchovies Taste Like?
Anchovies have the unjustified reputation of being excessively salty, pungent, and fishy. As we believe that anchovies have been unfairly criticized, we are here to correct the record! If you’re fortunate enough to find fresh anchovies, they have a somewhat fishy flavor and are rich enough to satiate. They resemble sardines in flavor but are much smaller. However, the flavor significantly alters when anchovies are cured and kept. The rich umami flavor that cured anchovies develop is what makes them so popular in sauces and savory dishes.
The flavor of cured anchovies is difficult to describe because they are so unique to other dishes! They taste strongly like fish, and many people compare them to aged cheese or caramelized meat because of their umami flavor. The flavor and texture of anchovies are also influenced by the preservation technique:
Whole salted anchovies taste sweeter and have a firmer, meatier texture. Anchovies that are preserved in oil have a milder flavor, whereas those that are preserved in vinegar or brine take on the flavor of the seasonings that are added. This method of storage usually results in softer anchovy meat. The strongest flavor of all is found in anchovy paste, which also has a spreadable, silky texture.
Why Are Anchovies So Salty?
Anchovies, like all sea fish, are inherently salty because they absorb the flavor of the saltwater in which they reside. Fresh anchovies, on the other hand, are not always saltier than other forms of sea-caught fish. So, what’s the deal with their salty reputation?
This is because we usually consume anchovies that have been cured and preserved. The most frequent way of curing is to make fresh anchovies and salt cure them for several months. This removes moisture and inhibits bacterial growth, but it also significantly enhances the saltiness of the fish.
To increase the salt content, certain anchovies are then preserved by wrapping them in salt! This is an excellent method for preserving fish because it helps to keep the flesh solid and resulting in a sweeter texture. The disadvantage of this method is that it makes anchovies taste extremely salty.
Are All Anchovies Salty?
Anchovies naturally have a salty taste since they spend the majority of their lives in saltwater. This is consistent with what we would anticipate from any other fish or sea creature. It’s interesting to note that some anchovies may be found in brackish water, which is found between the sea and land and has less salt than seawater. Although you are less likely to locate these anchovies for sale for human food, they will taste less salty than their sea-dwelling siblings.
The method used to preserve anchovies has a significant impact on how salty they are. Anchovies are often found preserved in jars or tins; fresh anchovies are rather uncommon. If you purchase any kind of preserved anchovies, whether it be in oil, vinegar, or brine, it was probably previously cured in salt for a while. They will therefore be significantly saltier than fresh anchovies.
The saltiest anchovies are those that have been wrapped in salt after being cured. Anchovies are traditionally preserved in the Mediterranean region by being marinated in a mixture of oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices. Compared to anchovies kept in salt or brine, these are typically less salty.
Are Anchovies Saltier Than Other Fish?
Anchovies are no saltier than any other sea-caught fish, such as cod, haddock, or sea bream, when eaten fresh. Anchovies will be much saltier than freshwater fish like salmon, trout, or pike. This is because anchovies and other sea-dwelling fish absorb natural saltiness from saltwater – a trait that many people appreciate in seafood since it has the perfect balance of salty and sweet flavors.
Anchovies, on the other hand, are preserved in a way that significantly increases the salt content. This means that anchovies sold in tins, jars, or salt-packed will be more saltier than other forms of fish.
How Many Anchovies Should You Eat?
Anchovies are extremely nutrient-dense and have a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. These support the maintenance of healthy cells and the reduction of inflammation in many bodily systems, especially the neurological and brain systems. A good provider of several other nutrients, including calcium, iron, and zinc, they are also. Anchovies are unfortunately also highly high in salt due to the preservation techniques used. The salt used in the curing process, which increases the sodium levels by up to 30 times, is to blame for this.
Nutritionists warn against consuming excessive amounts of sodium because it can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues. How many anchovies should you consume per day given that we are also advised to eat more oily seafood like anchovies?
Fresh anchovies have a lower salt content than canned ones, so if you can get your hands on them, you can treat yourself to more. To benefit from the health advantages of these tasty marine critters, food officials advise consuming about 3.5 ounces of fresh oily fish each week. The recommended serving sizes for cured anchovies are substantially less because of their high salt content.
A third of your daily salt consumption can be found in only five small anchovies. A serving of cured anchovies really is this small; you read that correctly! As a general rule, you would consume about one can of cured anchovies each week and be well under the advised salt intake.
Fortunately, cured anchovies have a flavor that is so potent that a little goes a long way. Instead of being the primary course of a meal, these little fish are meant to contribute flavor. Just four anchovy fillets can season a whole cup of Caesar salad dressing, and the same quantity can give a pasta sauce a great umami flavor.
Can You Reduce The Saltiness Of Anchovies?
Many individuals believe that the saltiness of anchovies contributes to their appeal. But what if you want to reduce the saltiness? Apart from utilizing additional ingredients that counterbalance the salty flavor, there is little you can do to make fresh anchovies less salty. Any type of acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, would work nicely here. To balance out the saltiness, serve your fresh anchovies with a creamy sauce.
Cured anchovies preserved in oil or marinade should be consumed as is — attempting to remove the saltiness would cause them to dissolve into a mushy mess! To eliminate any brine residue from anchovies preserved in brine, gently rinse them. There are various ways to make anchovies less salty if they are preserved in salt! In fact, this is how they are typically prepared because they are way too salty to eat as is.
The anchovies should always be rinsed under running water after scraping away any extra salt with a knife. Experts recommend doing this for up to 30 minutes, which is a long time when you have a lot of fish to rinse! To remove salt from anchovies, immerse them in water for around 30 minutes. This not only makes them more appealing, but it also makes the fish flesh more supple and meaty.
However, if you find that these ways still leave your anchovies excessively salty, there are a few further tricks you may use to lower the sodium concentration even further. After rinsing or soaking the anchovies in water, marinate them in lukewarm milk for up to 30 minutes. They should be left in milk long enough to become tender but not so mushy that they fall apart.
Alternatively, you can substitute white wine for the milk marinade. This should be done for the same amount of time and will impart a wonderful flavor to your anchovies as well as remove superfluous salt.