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Baccala' and Stoccafisso


Both the stoccafisso and the baccalà are two names for cod and are differentiated by the different ways in which they are preserved. The stoccafisso or stocco is the cod preserved by means of the total drying of the fish by air. This is the ancient method of preserving cod, of which is written in documents dating from the XV century. The name stoccafisso comes from Holland, from the ancient name stokvish, that means fish stick or dried on a stick; from Holland the name spread throughout all of Europe, even if it is not excluded from the Neo-Latin language the term passed through the Spanish estocafis and also thanks to the intensive fishing activity of this population. The cod was infact dried on sticks in the open air on the fishing boats or fixed on sticks embedded into the beach. The stoccafisso before being eaten must be beaten and put into water, which is continuously changed, for two days. The variety considered the best is the sting-bull. The part of the stoccafisso that is cooked is the backbone that is cut into strips and the stomach which is cut into squares. A true delicacy for the gourmet which today is nearly unobtainable, is the triplette or budelline or ventricelli, which is the interior of the cod that is dried inside the fish and that in the places along the Tuscan coast are cooked above all in zimino, which means cooked with garlic, peppers, chard and tomato. A dish that has survived over the centuries because it entered into the culture (born from absolute necessity) to not waste anything and that in these last ten years it has been - together with many others - thrown out of the culture of consumerism and of fast food that is reducing more and more our taste and our capacity to appreciate a large range of foods. The baccalà is a cod which has been decapitated, opened and preserved lying in special small casks with salt. The name baccalà comes from the Spanish name bacalao that at one time came indirectly from the term fiammingo kabeljauw that means stick fish: this definition refers, probably, from the fact that as soon as it is fished, the cod - even when it is not dried - is placed on a stick to be worked. The term baccalà spread because it was the Basque fishermen who from the 1400’s hunted the whale in the open sea off Terranova and became aware that the only way to preserve the precious cod on board was to put it in salt. This method became widely used also in North Europe above all with the Norwegians who already in the 1600’s became the greatest exporters of baccalà. The method of preserving in salt follows the simple drying procedure. Also the baccalà before cooking must be left for a few days under running water to liberate it from the salt. It is cooked in various ways: boiled, fried, in stew and in particular alla livornese.
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