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Anchovies are small fish that live in every ocean, and salted anchovies are cured between layers of coarse salt. There are several species of anchovies, and typically they differ depending on the geographical location. Almost all anchovies may be processed by salting. Cooks from many cultures, including Italian and Oriental, use the salted anchovy in their cuisines.
Commercial food processors use salted anchovies and salted anchovy paste in sauces, such as Worcestershire sauce. Chefs and home cooks use it to flavor Caesar salad dressings and other foods. In some cultures, the salted fish is a condiment as well as a cooking seasoning.
The key to using salted anchovies is to use them sparingly. The fish is oily, and the salted version has a stronger flavor than fresh anchovies. The oil of the anchovy mixes with the cheese in pizza and spreads the salty, fishy taste throughout the pizza. People who enjoy salted anchovies on their pizza say that this is one of the appealing aspects of the fish. Italian cooks often add it to pasta sauces, but generally in only very small amounts.
When working with salted anchovies, a cook should follow the recipe closely. In some dishes, the recipes may call for as little as one-eighth of a salted anchovy. Other dishes advise the cook to soak the salty fish in water and rinse it thoroughly. Soaking the fish for a few minutes to a few hours will help to leach the salt from the fillets. Usually, a person soaks the salted anchovy to partially desalt it before making anchovy paste.
Generally, processors remove the fish scales, but leave the skin on when processing the fish. They fillet the small anchovies and pack the fillets in layers of coarse salt. The fillets are stored in the salt for four to six months before being tinned. Most salted anchovies contain up to 10 to 12 percent salt, and some contain benzoic acid as a preservative. Despite being salted as a preservative, salted anchovies tend to spoil quickly after the tin is opened.
Each year, fishing companies harvest tens of billions of pounds of anchovies globally. Generally, companies sell most of the fish as commercial fishing bait or as food for aqua farms. Anchovy fishing is one of the most environmentally responsible types of fishing. The process typically does not disturb the habitats on the ocean floor and generally does not harm other fish intentionally.