Last week I was lucky to be able to live an experience that not many people have gone through: I was able to participate in the cod fishing skrei in Norway and I would like to tell you the whole process to explain why this short season product has the quality it has when we find it in the market between the months of February and April.
Further north of the Arctic Circle, the skrei cod makes a migration from the Barents Sea towards the areas of Lofoten, Finmmark and the island of Senya in Norway, on the occasion of the call of the nature that forces him to spawn. It is then, when the fish is physically at its best and after a long trip through those cold waters, it is caught. This cod has a white and very smooth meat, with some flakes that come off very easily.
The cod route
The trip to see how skrei cod fishing is developed, is a four-day hard trip, which begins each day around 4 in the morning, with a temperature below ten negative degrees, and includes a transfer to those latitudes that involves more than 20 hours of travel with three plane and one bus routes on tracks completely covered with snow and ice.
Once on the island of Senya, exhausted and very cold, it was time to embark. So I had the opportunity to see the whole process live, traveling in a fishing boat, while the fishermen were placing and collecting the nets and seeing how the fish that was caught was stored in metal boxes in the helmet. Fishing is done very close to the processing areas, less than two hours of navigation, which causes the fish to pass in a short time from the sea to its subsequent processing.
Later, I could see how it discharge the fish and moves to the work chain where it process, eviscerate and classify the different fish to make the selection in which only the best specimens become qualified as skrei, if they have no defects in appearance or quality.
It is a very interesting work in which the whole local society participates that mostly lives in large, sparsely populated areas where all inhabitants live directly or indirectly of fishing for this magnificent type of nomadic cod.
There is even a tradition for which school girls, when they are between twelve and fourteen years old, they are responsible for cutting the cod cocochas, this being even a paid activity for them, to which they dedicate 3 hours a day every week, for 3 months.
With the fish selected, continue a labeling, identification and transfer work reviewed by a special inspection department, which performs its control both in Norway and in the countries of destination and is known as the SkreiPatrol. The inspection is bidirectional, since if they notice any defect, in addition to requesting that this item be withdrawn from the market, they inform the Norwegian producer where the fish came from what they would have found, so that the corresponding distribution or labeling process can be improved. .
After, the best cod is the one that is packaged as skrei and those that do not reach that level, are those that are destined to other forms of production and commercialization such as salted cod, dehydrated and other presentations that the country of destination may require.
Characteristics of skrei cod
The cod skrei, when arriving from the port is subjected to a immediate process in which the head is cut off, -to which the cocochas and then used to dry it and sell it in Africa-, the viscera are removed, - taking advantage of the liver and the roe- and the meat is cleaned, sorting by size and leaving the fish ready for sale.
As for its appearance, the outer skin of skrei cod it can be greenish or darker, even almost black. The skin design seems to have "tabby" spots and some irregularly shaped longitudinal stripes. The meat, especially what is seen in the cut of the head is very white, without blood or yellowish areas.
In the packaging does not put ice on the fish but on its sides and sides so that the ice does not affect the brightness of the skin, one of its main characteristics. Other distinctive features are the clean blood fins and an identification tag located next to the lateral fin near the head.
Cook with cod skrei
Although being As we are in the middle of the season, my companions and I will surely publish some recipes with this fishIt is good to note that skrei cod is suitable for making most of the usual recipes we make with desalted cod, taking into account that being fresh fish we will not need to let it soak beforehand.
It is possible that being accustomed to the other type of cod, we find the most bland skrei, but it is because the other, however desalted, always retains that saline touch. On the other hand, the skrei flakes are great, smooth and tight, and they come off right away, after a slight cooking so the fish is very juicy from even very short cooking.
With skrei we can make classic Portuguese recipes such as golden cod or Bràs, Gómez de Sa and many other preparations. Also we can prepare potatoes with cod, cod with tomato or use this ingredient to make a cod in Biscay sauce, or use it to make a Murcian jam or some crusty soldiers from Pavia with its special batter.
Some local recipes cooked with cod skrei in Norway
The national dish is a stew called "Mollie", in which the cod cut in tacos is cooked for a long time in water with salt and vinegar, while on the other hand the eggs, the liver and some vegetables (potatoes and carrots) are cooked as garnish. Then it is served together and it is a tasty stew that is light since all the ingredients are boiled.
We also tried a dish in which the Grilled cod on a cream of parsley and chives and covered with a sauce made with sour cream and chive oil, decorating with sprouts and pickled onion, which was the proposal of the young chef Halvar, Norwegian cook of the year with 23 years, who was in charge of teaching us some tricks to cook this fish.
In any case, despite the cold and the early rises I found it very interesting to see how the cold chain is maintained at all times, how the fish is killed and cleaned in less than two hours from its capture and how it is taken to port to be available in less than two or three days anywhere in the world. The freshness of this fish that unfortunately we can only enjoy a few months a year, it is impressive.