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Learn how to make a low sodium healthier version of salt fish from scratch for all your fish based Caribbean and Latino recipes.
If you have been following my blog from the beginning then you may have noticed something. I have yet to post a Caribbean recipe which includes salt fish. There is a very good reason for that which I will explain in full shortly. Like most Caribbean people I grew up eating salt fish, it plays a crucial role in Caribbean/ Latino recipes.
Similar to rice, saltfish is one of those dietary staples that you will find in most Islanders cupboard. Growing up I would search the cupboards in search of snacks and stumble upon copious amounts of packaged salt fish.
What is salt fish
In short salt fish is typically made with cod, flounder, haddock or even pollock. Any of the aforementioned fish is cured and dry salted with white table salt.
The fish would usually be left out in the sunshine for several days to completely dry. The whole concept of this was to increase the flavour and extend the shelf life.
Salt fish is used for savoury foods such as – stews, fritters, fish cakes or cooked up with other foods.
Why salt fish isn’t healthy
I’ve been going back and fourth in my mind. I’ve been wondering do I write this post or don’t I. I know how passionate Caribbean people are about salt fish. I grew up on the stuff myself but……with African Caribbean people leading with some of the highest figures for;
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
The above cardiovascular diseases are in some way or another related to highly refined sodium consumption (think table salt). I think most of us are already aware of the health adversities caused by salt and sugar.
The bodies blood pressure is raised when extra water from sodium is stored. It forces the body to work much harder which results in an extra strain on the heart, kidney and brain.
Thankfully, these diseases are preventable with a bit of awareness and modification to ones diet. Here is an article I wrote about distinguishes between unrefined and refined salt.
In the Caribbean community, we all know someone who has “sugar” (type 2 diabetes) as we refer to it. Unfortunately, we also know someone who has died of complications associated with diabetes or renal failure.
I want my post to open up the idea to change and for you to hopefully explore your options outside of the norm. I know most of us are used to purchasing saltfish because it is the cultural norm, but times are changing, diseases are becoming more prevalent and prevention is better than cure – as the elders would say.
Does soaking and boiling salt fish eliminate the salt?
That’s the million dollar question and one which would probably have people divided. If you examine the process of how salt fish is made – its fish fillets that have been dried in refined processed salt for several days. That’s a long period of time for salt to fully absorb fish in its entirety.
Plus if you look at the quantity of salt used during the curing process it exceeds the daily amount. Therefore the actual processing alone renders it high in sodium.
Soaking and boiling the salt fish doesn’t significantly change the sodium content. According to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service 100g of boiled salt fish contains 400mg of sodium.
Let’s not forget boiling the sodium off is subjective. I can’t tell you the amount of times I eaten at a takeaway or function where my heart is about to explode from the salt content in a salt fish dish. I’m sure this resonates with other people too.
The recommended salt intake is 2300mg or the equivalent to a teaspoon. This is the daily dose for people not afflicted with renal disease/diabetes. It’s even less for people who are afflicted with those diseases.
Making the change – unrefined salt to make saltfish
The good news is you can make your own healthy (as can be) saltfish. Granted too much of anything isn’t good for you…BUT… if there’s an alternative that we can have in moderation then let’s explore this option.
While refined salt isn’t good for you. The body still needs the properties from salt for it’s primary functions.
If you been following most of my recipes, you will know I’m a big fan of himalayan pink salt. It’s pure unrefined (not processed) salt that derives from the himalayan mountains.
Unlike table salt, there are many health benefits
- Contains 84 trace minerals and elements
- Packed with electrolytes – regulate the body’s fluid
- Promotes brain, muscle and nervous system function
- Helps to absorb nutrients
- Improves hydration of minerals
I’m a huge fan of unrefined salt, especially this himalayan pink salt. Since conducting my own research I’ve managed to convince family and friends to hop on the bandwagon and even they prefer the taste of salt pink.
How to make your own salt fish
Now you can make your very own salted fish using unrefined salt and some fish fillets. I make my salt fish with a couple of bags of frozen Pollock that I purchase from the supermarket (Iceland if you live in the UK).
I boil the fish from frozen, it doesn’t take very long to cook . I’ve never been a fan of overly salted fish so the amount of pink salt added is subjective.
Then flake the fish using two forks, I like to add my salt after boiling using a salt mill to evenly distribute the amount I require then hey presto – you just made some DIY salt fish.
Can I cook the salt fish then freeze it?
Yes, if you want to boil the fish in batches to save time, that’s fine. You can thaw out the flaked fish and just use at your leisure.
- The is made using unrefined himalayan pink salt has a healthy alternative to white refined salt
- Suitable paleo/keto and gluten free lifestyle
- Depending on the amount of fish needed double or triple the batch. 600g of fish is suitable for up to 4 servings
- Freezer friendly
Making salt fish (with pictures)
Place the fish fillet in a large enough pot
Add some water to the large pot and bring to the boil for 10 minutes then drain in a colander.
Allow the fish to cool before using two forks to pull it apart then sprinkle on the unrefined salt as desired
How to make salt fish
Learn how to make your very own unrefined salt fish from scratch
600g Fish fillets (cod, pollock, or haddock works too)
himalayan pink salt (according to taste)
Place the fish fillets in a large enough pot and bring to the boil for 10 minutes
Once boiled, allow to cool before straining off the excess water
Use two forks to flake the fish by pulling it apart.
Sprinkle the amount of salt depending on how salty you want your fish
Use the salt fish as needed accordingly.