Home Fishing Tips & Advice What is Baccala Fish?

What is Baccala Fish?

Sea-food is one of the most famous cuisines in the world. The primary ingredient used in the dishes consist of raw or cooked types of fish, shellfish, seaweed, or other sea creatures like crab, lobster, and many more. One popular type of fish these days is the ‘Baccala’ fish. So, what is baccala fish, and what makes it special? 

Essentially, baccala is a codfish. There are a number of different names codfish goes by, which depends on its’ preparation process. If it is fresh or frozen, it is called “cod” or merluzzo in Italian. If it is air-cured, then it is called “stockfish” or stoccafisso. When it comes to baccala, it is the cod-type that is preserved or cured, using salt.

The baccala fish in turn gets a unique, and interesting flaky texture, which has a pleasantly bold and intense flavor. Interestingly, its’ flavor is not very fishy, but in a good way.

One could compare the baccala fish to the Spanish bacalao and the Portuguese bacalhau. It has a white color, with a butterfly-split shape. It is usually sold in small sizes after being well-salted and dried. The baccala is ideally in the size 21/30.

History – Tradition of Baccala Fish

Where does the Baccala fish actually originate from? It is seen as an Italian food but this type of codfish was originally brought to Italy from the North. And this cod has a rich history too! Tracing back to the Middle Ages, this cod was first fished by Viking Sailors from the Atlantic seas.

Back then, there was a lot of cod fished this way. The salty and cold winds from the seas also made it easier to preserve and cure the fish. Sailors who were on long journeys also depended on it as it was quite filling and nutritious. 

Baccala fish was first consumed and sold in the Mediterranean. The Portuguese were also one of the first people to try it. It used to Back then, it used to be a cheap and plentiful staple food. Today, the baccala fish is not as abundant as it used to be. This is also one of the reasons for its’ high appeal nowadays. It is used in main dishes as well as appetizers in a variety of ways. According to legend, the baccala fish can be prepared in 365 different ways. 

Who is Baccala fish consumed by?

Baccala fish is famous all over the world. However, it is mostly consumed in the Naples area in southern Italy where it is considered a traditional food for feasts and holidays. 

Baccala is also known as the ‘fish for celebrations’ in Italy. In the weeks before Easter, it is especially eaten on Fridays. Even on Christmas Day, the baccala fish is a main part of the traditional Italian feast. You can create so many versatile dishes using this amazing fish.  

How is Baccala fish prepared?

This salted fish has to be rehydrated before it is cooked. The salt is removed by soaking fish overnight in warm water and then boiling it. However, not all of this salt is removed. The preparation is done by keeping the right amount of salt remaining on the fish to give the perfect taste and prevent it from becoming bland.

The baccala fish is best prepared using fresh codfish. After it arrives at the factory, it is immediately cut into a split open-butterfly shape. This is mostly done mechanically now, although it used to be done manually in the older days. Even today, some regions in Norway and Iceland still use a manual fish cutter to do so. 

The baccala fish is always cleaned thoroughly after splitting it. This ensures that there are no bloodstains remaining on or inside the white meat. Now comes the next step: salting. Different methods of salting can be used, some being more efficient than others. The method of curing also results in a difference in flavor. 

One popular and effective curing method is to put the fish into a bin containing layers of salt- in other words, a natural dry brine. The quality of the baccala fish depends on how well the curing is done, so it is the most important stage. Basically, the moisture of the fish is absorbed by the salt penetrating the meat. 

After this step is completed, the baccala fish is placed and kept on a pallet for several weeks. Now the cure reaches its’ desirable stage. Once completed, it is time to dry the baccala fish. This process is completed using industrial wind tunnels. The temperature and moisture are carefully controlled to get the perfect baccala fish.

Now that the baccala is well-dried, it is ready for packaging and shipment. This is how the baccala makes its way to retails stores where we can find it. 

Baccala Fish Recipes

Baccala fish is a delicacy to be enjoyed. If you’re interested in trying baccala, there are some popular and widely loved recipes you would like. The Baccalà alla Vicentina is a must-try, which consists of a combination of slowly braised onions, milk, and anchovies. Another delicious baccala dish is the  Baccalà Mantecato, which is prepared using extra virgin olive oil, parsley, and lemon, and served with polenta.

You can also try Italian baccala dishes for more interesting flavors. Served in Tuscany, the Baccalà alla Livornese is an irresistible dish with garlic, parsley, tomatoes, and basil. More commonly served in Rome, fried baccala known as Baccalà Fritta is another great choice. 

Different regions serve codfish in different ways. The popular way to eat baccala fish in Naples is by placing the fried fish in a simmering tomato sauce along with capers, pine nuts and olives. This dish is known as Baccalà alla Napoletana.

With Baccala, there are endless ways of creating it. You can serve it with many different vegetables and sauces. And you’ll be pleased with the end result because it goes well with almost everything.

Tips for buying Baccala fish

If you are planning to go shopping for the baccala fish, you could make use of some tips. Both bone-in or boneless baccala works totally fine. However, it is mostly recommended to choose boneless codfish.

Ideally, you should look for baccala with clean, white flesh and avoid the ones with signs of yellowing. 

Baccala has a strong fish odor so you should get the one that is distinctly smelling. However, it should not have a chemical-like smell to it.

We hope this guide helped you learn about the unique and delicious baccala fish and that you try it very soon.

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.