Preserved Fish - Romania
Batog de sturion
Batog de sturion is a dried or smoked fish product made mainly from the various sturgeon species (beluga, Danube sturgeon, stellate sturgeon) on the Danube Delta, in the area around the Black Sea Coast. It can also be prepared out of catfish or large carp. The fish needs to be as fresh as possible. It hung facing downwards, cut and eviscerated. The back of the sturgeon is used, cut into thick fillets, which are salted and kept in trays with ice and brine and pressed with slabs of rock for up to ten days. The fillets are then rinsed and air-dried. Optionally, they can then be subsequently smoked.
At the beginning of the 20th century, sturgeon batog was the most widespread of all types of dried and smoked fish preserves available locally in shops. Today, drying fish itself is a rare food preservation practice in the Danube Delta, as the locals have developed a preference for the more convenient preservation by freezing of the catch when more valuable fish are in season. As Delta villages became increasingly electrified during the Communist regime, domestic refrigeration became more pervasive and thus the salting, drying and smoking procedure is recalled mostly by those who had experienced work in the small fish factories operating in the area during the Communist regime.
Currently there is a full prohibition on fishing for any species of sturgeon (including the highly valued Beluga) over a period of ten years (2006-2016), decided by a national order from the Ministry of Environment. The order does not affect neighbouring countries, Bulgaria and Ukraine, where sturgeon fishing is still permitted. This was a massive shock for the livelihoods of the fishermen communities of the Danube Delta, who used the fish as a main source of income. Though the process could be applied to other species of fish, a decrease in the active number of fishermen has led to a fading knowledge of this tradition among younger generations, especially in a general context of other fishing prohibitions and bureaucratic barriers to practicing the trade.