Imagen con Anchos de Santoña en tarrina

10 curiosities you didn’t know about anchovies from Santoña

Cantabrian anchovies, especially those from Santoña, are very famous and appreciated for their quality and flavor. Here are some interesting facts about them:

  1. Origin and tradition: Santoña, a town in Cantabria, Spain, is known for its long tradition of fishing and processing anchovies. The fish-canning industry in this region has more than a century of history.
  2. Italian influence: the real boost to the anchovy industry in Santoña came at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century with the arrival of Italian businessmen, who brought with them knowledge in salting conservation techniques. Local families adopted these methods, and the production of salted anchovies became an important economic activity for the region. In particular, the role of the Sicilian Giovanni Vella Scaliota was important. In 1883, he settled in Santoña and invented the preparation of canned anchovy fillets in oil, ready for consumption. The canned preservation that we know today.
  3. The “bocarte”: Santoña anchovies are made from “bocarte”, which is the name given to the anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) when it is fresh. The “bocarte” is fished in the Cantabrian Sea during spring, which is the time when it is considered to be at its best.
  4. Salting and filleting process: one of the distinctive characteristics of Santoña anchovies is the meticulous salting and filleting process that they follow. After the anchovies are caught, their head and entrails are removed. Then, they are placed in brine and left to mature in barrels for a minimum of 12 months. Finally, they are desalted and filleted by hand.
  5. Artisanal quality: hand filleting is one of the reasons for the high quality of these anchovies. The expert hands of Santoña’s filleting women, known as “sobadoras”, are responsible for meticulously removing the skin and bones, resulting in very clean and soft anchovy fillets.
  6. Designation of origin: although they do not have a protected designation of origin, Santoña anchovies are highly valued and recognized for their superior quality. Many canned anchovies carry the Santoña name as a seal of quality.
  7. Unique flavor: Santoña anchovies’ flavor is intense and tasty, with a perfect balance between salinity and umami. This makes them highly appreciated, both for consumption alone and for use in various culinary preparations.
  8. Economic and cultural impact: the anchovy industry is a fundamental part of the economy and culture of Santoña. Fishing and anchovy processing generate employment and keep ancestral traditions alive in the region.
  9. Cantabria Anchovy and Preserve Fair: every year, Santoña holds this fair to pay tribute to its star product. During the event, tastings, workshops, and activities related to anchovies are held.
  10. International reputation: Santoña anchovies are not only appreciated in Spain, but also have an excellent international reputation. They are exported to many countries and are a valued ingredient in haute cuisine around the world.

These curiosities demonstrate why Santoña anchovies are considered an authentic delicacy and a source of pride for the Cantabria region.