Preserved albacore tuna, cockles and anchovies from Spain./© ICEX
Spaniards are great fish-eaters, second only to the Japanese who are the world's leading consumers of fish. This taste for fish and seafood has developed out of a number of different factors - geographical, historical, cultural, and even religious.
The Mediterranean peoples have always known how to utilize the food offered by the sea. Fresh and preserved fish and shellfish were not only an important source of proteins for the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, but also figured large in their intense trading activities.
Until the discovery of canning, drying in the sun and salting were the most frequent methods of preserving fish. The first salting plants were set up in Spain by the Phoenicians. In the town of Cádiz in Andalusia, for example, coins have been found bearing the image of a tuna fish, indicating how important tuna fishing and preservation were for the local economy, even in Phoenician times.
Over 2,000 years later, mojama, which is the fillet of tuna salted then dried for several days, is still one of the most typical and popular delicacies, together with other salted fish, of the province of Cádiz and other neighboring parts of Andalusia.
Salt Cod, a Gastronomic Jewel
Advances in sailing techniques between the 15th and 17th centuries, which enabled Christopher Columbus to reach the American continent, for example, also allowed access from the Spanish Atlantic and Cantabrian coasts to fishing grounds in northern Europe, America and Africa. New species entered Spanish diet, amongst them, Gadus Moruha, commonly known as cod and destined to take pride of place.
This highly-prized species comes from the cold northern seas where generations of Spanish fishermen caught it, salted it, then sold it all over Spain. Cod was the prime food for periods of fasting, when Christian doctrine prohibited the consumption of meat.
Although salt cod is eaten in many countries, only in Spain and Portugal is it prepared in so many ways. Most noteworthy are the recipes devised by Basque chefs but there is not a single region of Spain where salt cod has not been converted into an outstanding dish.
Today, the salt cod industry has practically disappeared. Salt cod is becoming increasingly scarce and giving up its place on everyday menus to become a gourmet product. But cod still has a place in the culinary memory of Spaniards and is still a reference for young Spanish cooks keen on innovating without losing track of the past.
Tuna Fish for Keeping
Today, Spain is one of the most outstanding producers of top-quality canned fish. Many Spanish canned products are considered of gourmet quality. Spaniards preserve all sorts of fish and shellfish in cans or glass jars, and often set aside precisely the best parts for canning.
Amongst the many preserves produced are many from the tuna family, such as fillets and belly of Albacore tuna (thunnus alalunga) from the Cantabrian, and fillets of bullet tuna and mackerel that are caught by the trap-net method and today are protected by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Melva and Caballa de Andalucía. The trap-net method (called almadraba in Spanish) used, above all, for catching tuna is a complex set of nets and cables to catch the migratory species of tuna as they passed through the Strait of Gibraltar.
Mussels and Anchovies, the Perfect Aperitif
Along the rich coasts of Galicia, top-quality crustaceans and mollusks are fished and cultivated, many of them for canning, such as clams, oysters, cockles, razor clams and scallops. The mussels reared in Galicia on bateas enjoy special recognition and are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Part of the crop is consumed fresh, and the rest is preserved using different recipes – plain or in a pickle sauce, for example. Another prestigious semi-preserve, one that must be kept refrigerated, are the anchovies that come especially from the Cantabrian coast (northern Spain) and from L’Escala on the Mediterranean coast in Catalonia.
The fish preservation industry is a very dynamic one, and new preparations and specialties are constantly being introduced onto the market. An example is the recent development of sturgeon farming in areas such as Sierra Nevada in Granada (Andalusia), and in the Pyrenees in Navarre and Lleida (Catalonia) for the purpose of canning the caviar.
Fish preserves are normally consumed at room temperature. They are excellent ingredients for salads, and can just as well be served on their own, as an aperitif with a distinctly Spanish flavor.
List of food stores in Spain
List of food stores around the world
- Anchovies from la Escala
- Anchovies from Santoña
- Horse mackerel in marinade
- Mojama (Salted tuna)
- Salt cod
- Mullet roe
- Albacore tuna
- Almadraba tuna
- Caballa de Andalucía PGI
- Melva de Andalucía PGI
- Tuna Belly
6th (Source: FAO)
|Year||Volume (Tons)||Value (thousands of €)|
40.48% (Source: Mercasa)
147 (Source: Mercasa)
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