Anchovy is a delicate fish that should be handled as little as possible for the best flavor. It should be filleted with few movements, keeping the fillet straight when halved, cleaning the board and knife after each fish.
When pickling fish (anchovies or otherwise) it should preferably be done over a drip tray — a tray dotted with many small holes through which the liquid that the fish draws during the pickling phase drips into a bottom tray, preventing the fish from sitting in its own juices. This will ensure the fish is pickled properly without a fear of spoilage.
- 2.2 lb / 1 kg large anchovy or sardine fillets, skinless and boneless
- 8.8 ounces / 250 grams of coarse salt
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 whole dried Sudanese hot chili pepper (available at specialty spice stores)
- Mild olive oil (to cover)
- Place an anchovy fillet on the cutting board, remove any protruding bones with a knife and cut lengthwise into 2 strips. Remove any remaining bones. If pickling sardines, there is no need to cut the fillets in half. Repeat with the remaining fillets.
- Line a drip tray with half of the salt spread into an even layer. Alternatively, line the bottom of a wide container with an even layer of salt.
- Arrange the fish over the salt in one dense layer without overlaps, and cover with the remaining salt. Cure in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or 1 hour at room temperature.
- Line a work surface with paper towels and fill a wide deep bowl with water.
- Transfer the fillets from the salt to the bowl of water, wash off any excess salt and place in a colander. Spread out the fillets on the work surface and pat dry with additional paper towels.
- Transfer the fish to a jar or container, add the cinnamon sticks and the chili pepper and pour olive oil to cover. The anchovies will keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, the sardines for up to 5 days.