The story behind our anchovy
More than four generations ago; in 1800, the family began to conquer the sea with traps and small nets. And now they sail the sea with their steel vessels in search of tuna, anchovy and mackerel. Yet they continue to call themselves the "craftsmen of the sea" because, despite technology and research, they do not give in to industrialisation.
Nevertheless, Pippo Testa, the last representative of the old generation, believes that the future belongs to the oily fish. Oily fish such as anchovies and mackerel are among the main ingredients of Italian cuisine. However, it is still far too often seen as inferior or by-catch fish.
Anchovies from sustainable fishing
The anchovy season runs from June to September, and the main activity is in the waters near Portopalo di Capo Passero.The ship "Futura Prima" is located in that port to be as close as possible to the fishing area and the processing plant in Portopalo. After all, the time needed to process the anchovies is a crucial factor that determines the quality. Once caught, some twenty to thirty km off the coast of Portopalo, it takes three to twelve hours, depending on the amount of fish to be processed.
When the anchovies enter the Portopalo factory, they have 4 degrees and are taken to the processing room in the cellar at the same temperature. Here, the first step is to remove the head and intestines. They slide the gills of each anchovy between their thumb and forefinger. In this way, they remove the head and insides and leave a semi-circular slit. The perfect slit, in the shape of a moon, shows excellent craft. The anchovies are then salted and packed in plastic containers known as "cugni" (once made of wood). The fish are placed next to each other in a circular motion, and each layer overlaps the previous one in a north-south, east-west pattern.
The amount of time it takes to keep the anchovies in salt depends on the weather and humidity. The "cugni" are transferred into 70 kg trays and pressurised to remove the remaining moisture. Once the anchovies are ready, they are wrapped in perforated cloths and spun at a rate of 700 cycles per minute for about five minutes to remove any remaining moisture.
After deboning, it is time to put them into jars filled with organic olive oil. Craftsmanship is vital here. The trick is to lean each fillet against the previous one to form a continuous wall around the entire circumference of the jar.
At the end of the whole process, it is as if the anchovies are in a treasure chest, small but invaluable, to be enjoyed little by little.
Want to reserve your own treasure chest? As long as stocks last, you can find them in our mercato.