Drying Fish With Sea Brine





Introduction: Drying Fish With Sea Brine

I was camping and caught a fish that was a bit too big for the cool box (I'm ever the modest fisherman). The weather was cool and dry so I dried some using concentrated sea water as I didn't have enough salt for the job.

Fish low in oil are better for drying - for example the famous Spanish dried salt cod, baccalao. Oily fish will end up quite smelly, although some asian dishes do call for this particular "ripe" flavour. 

Step 1: Make Brine by Boiling Sea Water

Boil sea water until its really salty. How salty? I'd stop just as crystals start to form so its basically saturated. Professional salt makers when drying sea water keep the crystals that initially form but don't completely dry it, rather stopping and discarding the last little bit of liquid  because it contains bitter salts like calcium chloride. In this recipe I just went for the "full taste of the ocean" salt profile. I ended with enough concentrated brine to just cover the fish fillets. 

Step 2: Skin and Cut Fish Into Strips

I used the tail section for drying because it is less oily and better for cuffing into long strips.
Skin the fillets by sliding the knife under.  

Step 3: Soak Fish in Brine Then Hang to Dry

I soaked the strips for about 15 minutes. Longer will help draw more moisture out of the fish but it will get much saltier. I hung them on a sharp stick that was flame "sterilized" by running through the stove burner. If it ended up too salty it will preserve even better but you would have to soak it in fresh water first before eating, like salt cod. 

Step 4: Defend Your Protein!

Flies were a big problem so I made a tent with cloth. This dark colored sarong has a loose weave that allowed good airflow and also captured a lot of heat from the sun. I had to whack the marauding campsite goannas with a stick to keep them away.  Within a couple of hours the fish formed a hard plastic-like skin. Once it's safely sealed like this it can be move to wherever conditions look favourable for further drying. Try the roof racks of your car? 

How did it turn out? a couple of days later its almost dried right through. It's pretty salty and a tasty chew with a cold beer. You'd have to be a fan of really strong fish flavor. The very mild bitterness from not using pure sodium chloride was not unpleasant. It's also is a good addition finely shredded to Thai style dishes that call for fish sauce - which is all about super salty fish flavour!



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    14 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Slices are much to thick for drying or smoking for long term storage.

    mmm fish jerky!! gonna do this! one question tho, how many spoon of salt to add if im gonna do this at home?

    "Modest Fisherman" (is there such an animal?) your fish was not too big for your cool box.


    a) you hadn't drunk enough of the beer OUT of the Cool box.


    b) you didn't have a monster beer swallowing tardis of a cool box in the first place.

    either way it's not the fish's fault.


    Seriously though

    That's really interesting. Not sure I trust the local Sea water, even though they supposedly pump less raw sewage into it nowadays.

    I see no reason this technique couldn't be used for other meat too. Am I missing something?

    1 reply

    Dried meat/ "biltong" essentially works the same,but given the choice I'd use a salty marinade to kick of the drying consisting of salt, bit of sugar, soy sauce, herbs and spices.

    I rarely fish (or go outside, for that matter), but I totally want to do this!

    greggg, Australian salmon need to be 'bleed' before they're eaten. ..cheers mate

    Very good idea.

    I don't understand the paragraph "You'd have to be a fan of really strong fish flavor, although it didn't taste off at all". Is the flavor strong or weak?

    Please consider that I speak Spanish, not English.

    2 replies

    Ola! thanks for the comment. It tastes very fishy. "off" means rotten or bad in this context. "off like a bucket of prawns in the sun" is a popular Australian expression!

    Thanks for the explanation, I am learning English while reading Instructables.

    Maybe the fishy taste is due to the sort of fish, not to your procedure. Some fishes are very smelly, i.e. jurel (mackerel?) . Years ago I bought some canned jurel, but finally all the cans where eaten by my cat Heidi.

    Awesome 'ible. I like learning new ways of preserving food, especially fish. Thank you for sharing.

    Its an Australian Salmon (Arripis trutta). The name tends to cause confusion because its not a real salmon and the flesh is a bit coarse, bloody and not generally considered good eating.