What makes the basque Cantabrian Anchovy so special and appreciated?
The following steps will allow you to know a little more about the cycle which includes the catch, the arrival in port and the processing of our silver queen.
- The traditional fishing methods.
The first shoals appear in April. The arrantzales (Basque fishermen) fish 3 to 4 hours away from our shores but the anchovies are approaching and soon the catch will be carried out more closely.
We use a very selective and environmentally friendly fishing method. The anchovy is caught by means of special nets (purse seine nets). The fishing boats surround the anchovy shoal circling it in a 360º angle. When the task is completed the net is fastened at the lower end and this prevents the anchovy from escaping. This net is hoisted and the fish is collected with a landing net.
It is important to know that the fishing is controlled and sustainable: Every year the biomass is worked out in April; then, the fry (small fishes) is counted in October. The following season fishing quota will be based on the results of that investigation.
- When visiting a harbour, have you ever wondered about the wide range of workers this “world” involves?
The harbour gathers many people and different activities take place. The fishing boats arrive just after the anchovy is caught and dockers have plenty of tasks ahead: men who fold the nets, women who repair the nets by hand, shipping people, cleaners, auctioneers, buyers… who carry out the ancestral work in our small harbours. This keeps our villages busy and lively.
Our purchasers play a vital role. They are in constant contact with the “cofradía” (fishermen association) at each harbour. They get the latest information about the activity of the fishing boats. Once the anchovy reaches the harbour, our purchasers study the samples from each boat. After taking notes, the electronic reverse auction takes place.
- The process
Conservas Dentici-Olasagasti process the anchovy following the traditional methods that il nonno Salvatore Orlando (our grandfather) brought along with him from his Sicily home town in the beginning of XX century: The anchovies are taken fresh to the factory on the same day when they are caught by the Basque fishermen (arrantzales). Immediately the heads and stomach are removed and the fish is salt-cured.
The preparation process is performed entirely by hand, which is what gives them their characteristic texture and aroma. They are classified according to their size. The smallest pieces are put in barrels; the big ones, in tins. In both cases, the anchovies are placed into brine (layers of anchovies separated by salt). Finally, we put a pressing cover on top of each barrel and tin.
The product is subject to a maturation process which lasts for 5 or 6 months. This process is vital to provide the anchovy its excellent flavour and character. During these months, we clean the containers several times with water and salt to allow the elimination of fat. When the period of maturation is over, we remove the cover and add another top layer of brine. The tins are sealed and the barrels stored in a cool place.
The result of the first making produces what we call our Salted Anchovy. These should be rinsed in water or, better, wiped with a dry cloth. When this is done, the tails and back bones are removed and the anchovies are filleted. We can place the fish on a plate, cover it with olive oil and it is ready to taste. Needless to say that this is a delicacy for all experts!! The Olasagasti salted anchovy is sold in 5kg and 10 kg tins.
What happens when the moment has come to open our containers full of anchovies after several months of maturation? Every autumn this is the last step we take before closing a yearly cycle, when we taste our magical Cantabrian anchovies. Read the post.
Enjoy your anchovies!