There is archaeological evidence that this preservation method of curing ling & cod has been going on at least since 900AD on Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles. The large well-built boats allowed them to catch great quantities from the deep waters off the Scottish coast. They needed to be salted in layers to preserve them until they landed. Back on shore the ling was dried until it was quite hard. This is not to be confused with stockfish – dried salt-cured Ling needed to be salted out at sea, then hung up to dry on these northern isles. This became an important export product in its own right.
The cure remained popular in the Scottish diet well into the first half of the 20th century but has seen a decline since. In the areas where it was traditionally produced, and became a staple part of the diet, it has survived: the curing method handed down from one generation to the next. It is a slightly acquired taste to those not used to it and a delicacy for those who are. Producers are mostly confined to the islands in the North and West and at a few ports on the mainland where there are landings of ling. Available from Thule Ventus & Blyd’O’It Fishshop, Shetland Isles.
photo: Catherine Brown