JP McMa­hon on salted ling

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

Though not as fa­mous as its coun­ter­part ( salted cod), salted ling has long been a sta­ple of ru­ral Ir­ish fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties. In his 1948 es­say The Ling in Ir­ish Com­merce, pub­lished by the Jour­nal of the Royal So­ci­ety of An­ti­quar­ies of Ire­land, Arthur EJ Went cites ex­am­ples from 1364 ( Bal­ly­cot­ton, Co Cork) and later in 1537 ( Dun­gar­ven, Co Water­ford) of the im­por­tance of this fish. Dur­ing the 17th cen­tury, ling was ex­ported from Gal­way to Eng­land and Spain. The ling is, ac­cord­ing to Went, “an an­cient Ir­ish food” and “is part of the Ir­ish her­itage”. Salted fish was most likely in­tro­duced by the Vik­ings, who also in­tro­duced it to the Span­ish.

Salted fish is as old as salt it­self. As with cod, ling was pre­served by salt­ing and dry­ing the fil­lets. In this way, it kept for a long time. Though the prac­tice of salt­ing ling has all but died away due to re­frig­er­at­ing and freez­ing, it is still some­times sold in Cork. If you can­not find your own salted ling, it is easy to make. Sim­ple lib­er­ally salt the fil­lets and leave for five days in the fridge. Drain off the brine as it col­lects at the bot­tom of the con­tainer. Rinse the fil­let and then hang to dry in a cool place. Once hard it will last in­def­i­nitely. How­ever, the harder the fil­let the longer it will take to de­sali­nate.

Of­ten, I just leave them in the fridge ( skip the dry­ing phase) and place them in fresh wa­ter overnight at room tem­per­a­ture the day be­fore I need them. We do this ev­ery week in Cava Bodega as salted fish cakes are one of the most pop­u­lar things on the menu. They’re a sim­ple com­bi­na­tion of mashed potato, fried onion, salted fish and pars­ley.

Of course, the fact that they’re deep- fried and served with le­mon may­on­naise makes them more de­sir­able. Poached salted ling in milk also pairs beau­ti­fully with the salty bit­ter­ness of fresh sam­phire, which is sea­son in Au­gust. Gen­tly poach the fish in warm milk for two- three min­utes and serve with some fresh sam­phire and le­mon.

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