Salt has been sprinkled over food throughout the centuries and Greece is no exception. There are places in the world that derived their wealth from salt mining, and its use in Greece can be traced back to ancient times. It is unclear why and how the ancient peoples throughout the world started mining and using salt.
Back in Ancient Greece, however, salt wasn’t looked at as a common season. It was used sparingly, but over the centuries, its importance grew. By the 5th Century B.C., salt was regularly being used to preserve whole fish, and this is a practice that’s still done. Here’s some more information as to how the Greeks use salt
Salt Was Considered a Luxury
Back in Ancient Greece, salt was considered a luxury item, which is why it wasn’t used as the main seasoning in the cooking back then. It was relatively difficult to obtain it, as most of the salt found in Ancient Greece was mined on the island of Salamis. Although it doesn’t seem like a great distance now, it was considerable during ancient times since it was shipped using boats before distributing it to the rest of Greece.
Salting Whole Fish
One of the earliest uses of salt was to use it to preserve fish. As mentioned above, by the 5th Century B.C., salted fish was becoming a staple food in Greece. In fact, the salted anchovies that were are so familiar with today were served even then! Whether Greeks salt the fish themselves or use canned and salted anchovies that they purchased in the store, these fish aren’t normally eaten as is. They’re usually rinsed with water and then marinated with olive oil, lemon juice, herbs such as parsley, and maybe a sprinkling of red wine vinegar.
Using Salted Cod
Salted cod is another product that can still be found in Greece. Codfish are much larger than anchovies, and salted cod can either be purchased as a whole fish or in smaller pieces. The fact that cod has been overfished is possibly evidence as to how popular it has been, and salting it was a natural way to preserve it. Salted cod can be kept unrefrigerated for long periods of time. When ready to use, moisture was added to it, which served to both reconstitute the fish and to also remove some of the salt. For a time, salted cod was considered a major protein source since meat was often hard to come by. Referred to as bakaliaros, salted cod is still part of the cuisine. Today, it is most often reconstituted in milk or water, breaded, and fried in olive oil.
As you can see, salt has been an important part of Greek cuisine since Ancient Greece. Although it was considered a luxury item back then, salting whole fish became a fairly widespread practice. Salted anchovies and salted cod are two common fishes that have been an integral part of Greek food for centuries and some version of both of these foods can be found all over the world.