I try to marinate fresh Anchovies often because it is an easy recipe, it lasts a long time, and whenever I want some to accompany my favorite legumes, I can always find it in my fridge!
You are probably familiar with anchovies in a can which are salt-cured and canned in oil but I would suggest you try this recipe too as it is very tasty and if you store it correctly it can last a long time in your fridge.
This is a recipe exactly how my mother is marinating anchovy for many years now and the only thing I have changed is the addition of red horn pepper slices (Florina pepper) and red chili flakes.
Red Chili flakes called “Bukovo” in Greek is very spicy and I only add a little on the plate just before I serve it.
Anchovy season and its nutritional value
Anchovy is one of the richest fish in omega-3 fats. It is also rich in phosphorus, which contributes to good bone health and is an excellent source of iron, helping to strengthen the body’s defenses and antioxidant capacity.
Anchovies like to swim in warm seas with their flock and they are usually being fished in spring and summer. In winter they remain at the bottom of the sea at a depth of 100-200 meters, and fishing during this period is limited.
How to choose fresh Anchovy
Anchovy is a fish that can be easily identified whether it is fresh or not even from a distance without getting too close to the counter of a fish market, supermarket, or farmer’s market.
Fresh Anchovy (of the same day) should have shiny eyes and shiny skin color without redness on its body. It should also have a pleasant neutral smell of the sea and not a fishy smell. If you notice red skin on the Anchovy’s body, they should be under its head in his gills, and the more intense the red marks, the staler the Anchovy is.
Keep in mind though, that they turn red really fast especially if you do not store them properly on your fridge.
How to store Fresh Anchovies
Anchovy can’t last a long time in the refrigerator. We can only put it in the freezer if we want to store it for a long time. I personally do not store Anchovies in the fridge for more than 2 days but the fishermen claim that it’s good for 3 days.
If we intend to store Anchovies in the refrigerator to be eaten raw or to cook them at a later time, then we must first clean it by removing the head and entrails and then wipe it thoroughly with a kitchen towel or kitchen paper.
The more water they have, the faster it stagnates and there is a greater risk of spoiling it. You can store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days at most or put it in the freezer for 1 month in an airtight bag.
How to clean and fillet the Anchovy
Anchovy is very easy to clean because it has very soft scales. Put a bowl with a large strainer on top and add the anchovies. Wash them well under running water and then strain them. Their scales will also be removed with washing and you do not need to do anything else.
The fastest way to clean it is by lightly pinching its head with our hands and pull it down. Sometimes in this way, the entrails are removed as well but if they are not, then with the index finger of our hand we pull from the head to the tail and we remove them as well. Watch the relevant video below to see the entire procedure and also the filleting of the Anchovies.
Instructions for Fresh Marinated Anchovy
The size of the anchovy
The following recipe is for anchovies about the size of a female finger (7-9 cm) which we first fillet and then leave to marinate for 5 hours. If you make this recipe with larger anchovies, then it would be wise to let it marinate 2 more extra hours.
I first fillet the Anchovies and then I marinate them but if you prefer you can reverse the procedure by marinating them first and debone them later. If you choose to do so you will have to double the marinating time to 10 hours.
In winter we can let them marinate on the kitchen counter but in the summertime, we must place them in the fridge wrapped in film.
What salt to use for Marinate
You can use either thick (Coarse) or thin salt but the thick salt will require more time to dissolve in the vinegar and thus it will need more time to marinate.
I prefer to use thin salt because it takes less time to dissolve and provides a smoother marinate.
One more downside of the thick salt is that by the time it will take for it to dissolve some parts of the anchovies where the salt touch their skin will be a little more marinated than the others.
Coarse salt is good when making salt-cured anchovies because it does not melt easily and lasts all the time that is needed to pasteurize anchovies.
Storing it after marinating it
We do not marinate the anchovies for a lot longer time than it’s needed because they start to melt and the taste changes.
After marinating, rinse the anchovies well and wipe them with a kitchen towel or kitchen paper before putting them in a glass container to store in your refrigerator. A glass container filled with oil is the best choice to store the anchovies but if you do not have one, then you can also use plastic as long as it has a lid that closes.
Olive oil vs vegetable oil for storing the marinated anchovies
You can use both oils for storing the marinated anchovies but each oil type has its pros and cons. After reading about it below you can choose which oil is better for you.
Olive oil is a quality oil that will enhance the flavor of the anchovies because it will absorb a little oil from its surroundings and that will impact its flavor. The downside is that thickens and coagulates when you put it in the fridge and you will have to do a little digging to catch the anchovies. It is also much more expensive than sunflower oil or vegetable oil.
Sunflower oil is low quality and tasteless oil that adds nothing, taste-wise, to the marinated anchovies. It is much cheaper than olive oil and does not coagulate in the refrigerator.
I prefer to soak them in olive oil because it is tastier and a healthier option than sunflower oil. Don’t forget that olive oil in Greece is rather cheap so we can go wild with it!
Nevertheless, for those living outside of Greece, I have a possible solution on how to utilize both oils. First, you can sprinkle a couple of Tbsps Olive oil and let it sit there with the anchovies for 10 min. The anchovies will suck as much olive oil they can handle to develop the taste and later on you can fill the jar with sunflower oil to store them in your fridge.
With this method, you kill two birds with one stone. You get the taste from the olive oil and you the great storing capability of the sunflower oil.
Spices and herbs that go well with marinated anchovy
What goes with marinated anchovies
Marinated anchovies go extremely well with legumes and especially with the Greek traditional soups such as Lentil soup (Fakes), White bean soup (Fasolada), yellow split peas soup aka (Fava in Greek). It is also a very tasty Meze (Tapas) to accompany Raki, Tsipouro or Ouzo.
Raw anchovies, filleted, become a very nice Carpaccio which is an Italian dish with raw fish or meat accompanied by olive oil and lemon.
Also raw, filleted, we can make Sashimi a Japanese sushi dish, very popular throughout Asia, consisting of thin slices of raw fish. In Sashimi they usually use tuna or salmon and serve it as an appetizer accompanied by black soy sauce, ginger and hot wasabi.
- Wash, clean, and fillet the anchovies according to the instructions above.
- Put it in a shallow container or pyrex and add salt spreading it in layers.
- Add enough vinegar to cover the anchovies.
- Let it marinate with the vinegar and salt for 5 hours.
- Anchovy is ready when its flesh has turned white.
- When it’s ready, rinse well under running water, drain it, wipe it with a towel or kitchen paper and store it in a glass (preferably) container covering it with oil and red horn pepper slices in between.
- Store in the refrigerator for 1 month.