The experience and knowledge of our workers makes Nova Scotian "bacalao" a sought after product. After all, we have been making it here for centuries!
As a result of our geographic proximity to the U.S.A. and the Carribbean, Nova Scotian producers are also able to offer the fastest delivery to these markets.
Today, most fish is dried indoors using modern dryers to permit more consistent control of moisture levels and to allow more regular and cost efficient production. However, fish drying remains somewhat of an art as the raw materials are natural and ever changing. Skilled dryer operators familiar with the unique requirements of different markets are necessary to produce the best finished products. And at this, Nova Scotian companies excel.
Today, Nova Scotian dried salted fish is still in high demand due to its enduring cultural connection with many ethnic groups and its distinctive flavour. Bacalao remains a tasty treat for creative cooks and restauranteurs alike.
A Bit of History
Centuries ago the fish were one of the prime attractions bringing early explorers to our shores from Europe.
In the early days, much of the catch was salted. In the absence of refrigeration, this was the best means of preserving the fish until it could be landed ashore and shipped to market. Salting also permitted consumption throughout the year, at a time when fishing was mostly carried out during the summer months.
Fishing in the Lunenburg area of Nova Scotia commenced as early as 1760, well before Canada was established as a country, with shipments of dried fish to the Caribbean beginning in the latter part of the same century.
Vessels would carry lumber as well as salted and pickled fish to the Caribbean, normally returning with cargoes of molasses, sugar, rum, and salt. But the Lunenburg fishing industry remained small until the mid 1800’s. Boats initially fished mostly in coastal areas of Nova Scotia, going north to Labrador in the summer.
But by the late 1800’s, larger vessels began making regular trips to the rich offshore fishing banks, and landings increased steadily. During the years 1884-1888, approximately 800,000 hundredweight (about 80 million pounds or 36 million kilos) of dried cod were produced in Nova Scotia.
The sailing schooners would go to the fishing banks from March to September, each equipped with 7-10 small wooden boats, called dories, normally with 2 fishermen in each dory. The dories would leave the schooner early in the morning and return later in the day, hopefully loaded with fish. Upon their return to the schooner, the fish would be cleaned, washed, split and then packed into the hold of the vessel with salt, where it was allowed to cure. A few times each summer, the schooners would land their catch and the fish would be removed from the salt, taken onto the shore and washed, and then it would be placed on racks at the seaside, known as flakes, for drying.