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Sardines

fish, french, oil, size, baskets and placed

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SARDINES: are popularly supposed to be little fish that are found only on the coast of France, other products so labeled being merely imitations! This impression is not accurate, as the title—taken from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia—is by com mercial usage applied to the young of divers clupeoid fish caught also in several other countries, including the United States, and exported in especially large quantities from NorWay and Portugal. The high favor in which the best qualities of the real French product are held by connoisseurs, is entirely deserved—but it is not owing to exclusive possession of all the fish! French Sardines, called also celerans, celans, royans, cradeaux and galtices on various parts of the French coast, are the young of the pilchard, a fish nearly allied to the herring, common in the Mediterranean and along part of the West coast of Europe.

The fishing season varies in different sections. In the Mediterranean, it extends over the 'entire year. On the shores of Brittany, the center of the French industry, it is confined chiefly to the months of September and October. The fish frequent the Brittany waters throughout the entire summer—remaining until late in the fall—but when they first arrive they are, thin and poor and unsuitable for canning. As the sea son advances they improve in quality and are fat and in good condition from September on. Those caught earlier are generally salted or consumed fresh.

To attract the little fish to the vicinity of the nets, large quantities of bait are scattered on the water—that chiefly used being the salted eggs of cod, haddock, mackerel, etc., mixed ordinarily with peanut meal or flour to decrease the expense. As many as a hundred thousand have been taken in a single net.

The French fisherman's great aim is to land the catch as speedily as possible to insure their absolute freshness—and asa consequence they are often at the can neries within one or two hours after cap ture. Should the failure, or unfavorable direction, of the wind threaten to delay the arrival of the sailing boats and hence impair the quality of the fish, the crew row back to port.

As soon as the fish reach the tories, their heads and viscera are moved and the dressed bodies are sorted by size into large tubs of strong brine, where they remain for about an hour. They are next placed in small wicker baskets and washed in either fresh or salt water for a few seconds, to remove loose scales, dirt and undissolved salt. Then comes the drying—preferably in the open. For open-air drying, the fish are ranged by hand, one by one, in wire baskets or trays, each holding about one hundred and fifty of medium size, placed on wooden frames or racks. The tive feature of the trays is their division into about seven V-shaped crosswise compartments, in which the fish are placed in regular rows with their tails upward, so as to promote the escape of water from the abdominal cavity. They remain thus for a variable time, depending on their size, the state of the atmosphere, etc., the usual period in favorable weather being one hour.

In damp, foggy or rainy weather, they are dried indoors by artificial heat, less time being then required.

After drying, they are taken in the same wire baskets to the cooking room and immersed in boil ing oil, in open vats of various sizes and construc tion. As much of the oil is taken up in cooking, the vats require close attention and frequent replenishing.

The oil immersion usually lasts about two min utes, but varies with the size of the fish.

The baskets are next removed to a table or platform with an inclined metal top, where the surplus oil is allowed to drain off, and are then taken to the packing room, where they are packed in the tin cans so well known to the consumer.

After the cans are sealed, they are immersed in boiling water for several hours, the object being to complete the cooking of the fish and soften the bones, in addition to the customary canning purpose of sterilization.

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