I am obsessed with sardines.
There you go. I said it.
That statement is for everyone I hang out with, work with, my family and the old lady down the street at number 42 for being forced to listen to my constant talk about the next meal I’m going to create with sardines. You may have noticed that I have made no apology, but a statement declaring what these people have known to be true for a while now (It’s kind of like an AA type thing where admitting you have a problem is half the battle). I am not sorry, I am in love. I truly love those little bastards and they really aren’t too far from my thoughts at any given moment of the day. But the local sardine season comes to an end shortly, so how the fuck am I going to fulfill my desires after that??
Preserve them. That’s how.
I have done some reading, looked at a lot of pictures (I like pictures) and had a bit of a play around with a sardine or two. Nothing that would be deemed improper mind you – I’m just your average Joe, looking to satisfy a propensity for the humble sardine.
All the methods of preserving, or “saving the moment” as I shall call it, involved either pickling in vinegar and salt or preserving in oil and herbs. Not being too much of a stickler for doing what things tell me to do, I decided I would combine both methods and create the presickled sardine! I don’ think it’s going to take off with the kids but that’s OK because, as with every faucet of the rest of my life, I do it for my own gratification… mostly.
So now it was just a case of cleaning up 10kg of sardines and getting them into jars, which was not a mission I really fancied doing by myself. Solution; invite a few of your sardine loving friends around for a sardine party! It worked a treat. We sat around like a group of Italian Mammas – everyone was gutting and cleaning sardines, chatting away, drinking whatever it was they deemed correct to be drinking at a sardine party, and then we ate a bang up dinner prepared by my fair lady Jennee! And just to top the whole kickass afternoon off, everyone gets to leave with a cracking party bag of a jar of sardines.
Heaps of smart cultures around the world get shit sorted at a communal table… now it’s your turn.
PRESICKLED SARDINES (per kilo)
1 kg fresh sardines, heads off, gutted and rinsed to remove any scales and extra gut bits. Multiply this recipe by ten if you’re having a sardine party
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ small brown onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed like the special kid’s self esteem
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 bay leaves
1 chilli, hot or mild, however you like it, chopped
Oil to cover the sardines, I like used olive oil, but a blend of olive and a more neutral oil would do the job
Sardine sized jars to pack them in
• Gently toss the sardines with the vinegar, onion, garlic and salt. The vinegar and salt will start to cook the fish and firm it up a little… the onion and garlic are there for their awesome flavour. Marinate sardines for 1 hour, tossing gently every 20 minutes
• Sit down and have yourself a glass of wine
• Have another glass… it helps to be at one with your inner pickle while you are pickling
• Drain the sardines out of the vinegar, lightly pat dry and then pack into jars head to tail with a bay leaf and chopped chilli in the middle. Top the sardines with a bit of the sliced onion from the marinade and then cover with your choice of oil
• Seal the jar with a lid that fits
• Put the jars into a pot that is deeper than the jars are tall. Cover them with water and bring the pot up to the simmer, simmering gently for 20 minutes. This will cook the sardines and also seal the jars so they will have an extended life
• I have stored mine in the fridge but I will do some experimentation and see about their shelf life in the cupboard…
And what do you do with your newfound bounty? These sardies will find themselves a happy and loving home tossed through pasta with some chilli, parsley and olive oil (lash out and get some pangrattato on there if you have the skills), on a pizza, in a sandwich with home made tomato sauce (ketchup), blitzed into a rough pate (peel the meat off the bones first) or on an antipasti platter.