The Cantabrian Treasure
Although anchovies are prevalent in many different zones, the Cantabria anchovies are the most desired from a gastronomic point of view
Cantabrian Anchovies, specifically from Santona, are one of the most exquisite delicacies of Spanish cuisine. It is an internationally renowned delicatessen product that delights even the most demanding of palates with an intense flavour of the sea, oil and salt.
“Anchoa’’ is the name given to the anchovy that has been salted using a process particular to the Cantabrian region of Spain, There however they differentiate the fish by the way it is prepared “Bocarte’’ if it is eaten fried, “Anchoa” when cured in salt and “Boqueron” when cured in vinegar and then served with a drizzle of Extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and fresh parsley.
Production of this delicious delicacy was halted for five years, having been enforced due to overfishing of stocks. It appears that the fishing grounds of the Cantabrian anchovy have now recovered and the anchoas and boquerones are once again been served as tapas and appetizers in the best bars in the north of Spain.
Although anchovies are prevalent in many different zones, the Cantabrian anchovies are the most desired from a gastronomic point of view, given that they live in colder waters and they have developed a layer of fat which makes there delicate meat much more succulent. However, it is the preparation of this delicacy from the north of Spain that makes the real difference when the “Boquerón” becomes the “anchoa”, and one of the most exquisite snacks in the culinary world. The “Salazon” the name given to this technique of preparing the anchovy has a long history , and was revived at the end of the 19th century by an Italian called Giovani Vella Scaliota that lived in Santona in Cantabria, Valla Scaliota chose to salt the anchovy until it matured and then fillet it in olive oil using a manual procedure, which gave rise today to what we know as the Cantabrian Anchovy.
There is nothing better than an anchovy tasting to discover all these nuances. The senses of sight, smell and taste are put to good use to enjoy the different sensations of this delicatessen fillet.
Sight is up first, the colour will indicate its maturity and how clean it is, and this is also the moment to check for any bones. When it comes to savouring a good anchovy the ideal hue would range from reddish brown to light toffee (salmon coloured, clayey, pinkish, brownish grey and reddish brown.)
Smell is up second, the objective is to check that its smell, although strong doesn’t contain strange smells, the smell of olive oil, salt and fish should be balanced.
Finally the taste and the moment of truth, it is now time to try the anchovy, don’t take such a big piece and try the fish alone, once in the mouth it needs to be moved around between the tongue and palate and then chewed to release the flavours and to feel its flexibility and firm texture leading to the dinner and enjoying a real festival of sensations.