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DSCN1857On Christmas Eve and on Good Friday there had to be fish in the house at all costs. In wintertime, due to the bad winter weather, it wasn’t easy to secure fish for lunch, so the fish from the Adriatic was replaced by cod, whose scent could be felt in the hallways and the streets. Since the weather conditions are a bit more favourable at the beginning of spring, fresh fish was more likely to be available for the fast on Good Friday, but even on this fast day the call of cod could sometimes not be resisted. However, sometimes even cod could not be easily found. Besides that, the connections between the islands and the mainland were sparse, and it could not be allowed for the lunch of fast day to be so meagre that there isn’t even a piece of dry fish in the house, or for the smell of cod, even fake one, to be missing from the kitchen. All in all, our fishermen dried fish and other seafood, keeping in mind the weather conditions that could prevent them to go out fishing exactly at a time when the fish was needed. They dried the fish that was available and that they knew from experience tasted well. From small pickarels, bogues or mackerels, at times when they were plentiful in the Adriatic, to grey mullets, congers, forkbeards, skates, European hakes, merlings, piper gurnards, catsharks, sharks, rays, octopuses etc. The procedure of drying fish doesn’t differ much from one place to the next, although surely everyone has their own little secret method. In general, the fish should be halved, cleaned and washed well, taking special care to remove all the clotted blood. Soaking the fish in seawater or salted water is especially useful for this purpose. For some fish the spine should be removed. Salt it well with coarse salt and place it under a heavy load (2 – 3 kg) for around three to five days, depending on the size of the fish. The fish should be turned two times a day, spread it out if it shrank and immerse it in brine, so it wouldn’t dry out. Because of the pressure the fish will stick together, so make sure to separate all the individual pieces and enable the brine to reach the areas between the stacked fish. This will get all of the liquid out of the flesh. After three to five days the fish should be put out to dry, and can be first washed with running water. Prepare thin boards, sharpened at both ends, which you will use to spread out the fish. Some will hang it to dry in a windy spoIMG_7551t, some in a shady and windy location, and some in the hood of the fireplace to be smoked. It should not be in a damp place. After this drying procedure is finished, especially if the bura was blowing, the fish will be reduced to a quarter or even a fifth of its initial mass. The fish will stiffen after three to four days, but make sure to leave it to dry for at least a week. If you have the possibility, leave the fish out to dry in fresh air until consumption, otherwise place it in cardboard boxes or paper bags and store in a dry place. The most famous of all dried fish is dried forkbeard, also called the cod of the Adriatic. It is a true delicacy that deserves its own special review, once we stumble upon such an occasion somewhere on Vis, Lastovo or Mljet. We will tell you all about dried (and smoked) grey mullet roe (butarga), a delicacy from Pelješac, or dried octopus (štokalj) from Rab. For now let’s stick to what we have at hand!