Salted codfish have na huge important role in the Portuguese gastronomy. Nowadays each Portuguese eat around 6,5Kg salted codfish a year.
We may cook it in a lot of different ways, so many that we say that we have 1001 salted codfish recipes. What is odd is that we don’t have codfish in our coast so all the cod that we eat is imported.
What makes the cod National Portuguese dish is the technique that we use to preserve it, which consist in dry the codfish with salt.
Then when we want to cook it we need to soak it in water for 2 or 3 days, changing the water twice a day.
But why are we cod addicts? Researchers say state that during the XIV century Portugal establish an authorization with the Denmark kingdom to fish in their waters.
Also important was the deal between D. Afonso IV of Portugal and Edward III of England. Made in 1353 allowed the Portuguese’s to fish in the waters controlled by that king.
Researchers also say that we fish cod since the XV century in Newfoundland on the east Canada cost. During the XVI century we even establish little fisherman’s colonies coming from the north Portugal and Azores island.
At that time a trip between Canada and Portugal took a lot of time. Fisherman’s needed to find a way to preserve the cod during the trip and salt was the answer.
But why did we need so many fish? Because during the medieval period Portugal was obliged by the church to do a meat fasting during 132 an year.
The rich people used to buy church leaflets to be free from this rule but the poor’s didn’t have that option.
During the winter it was impossible to fish due to the violent sea. Codfish appeared as an easy and cheap solution since salting the cod was a way to preserve it.
Salted Codfish on Christmas Season
One of the fasting periods was during the Christmas. Maybe this is the reason why the salted codfish is our Christmas national dish. This tradition have its origins at Minho (north Portuguese coast) where the codfish arrived first.
However the codfish recipes just started to appear on the Portuguese cookbooks during the XIX century.
During this century also the potato became really common in Portugal brought from South America.
Nowadays most of the codfish recipes incorporate them. The other ingredient that we always use with the cod is the olive oil.