4. A FEW RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PACKING AND STORAGE OF THE SMOKED FISH
The fish should be left to cool before it is packed. Otherwise, it will rehydrate by absorbing the steam that is formed in the package and will spoil as a result. If the fish cools off adequately, it can be packed for transportation to the market and storage.
The hand-woven basket is the best type of package. Its hard exterior well protects the fragile contents.
Prior to loading the basket with fish, cover the inside with unsoiled paper (generally dust free cement bags) or failing that, banana leaves passed over a flame beforehand. This will keep the dust out.
Handle medium size fishes and above carefully, and arrange them one after the other in the basket to avoid breakage. Above all, do not fill the basket up. You can thus avoid breakage when the baskets are superposed. Close the basket with overhanging ends of the leaf.
In Ghana, women have a very convenient technique for the transport and storage of smoked fish. Every two baskets are linked together, which enables you to superpose many baskets with only a few risks of breakage. We can recommend this method.
Thanks to storage you can keep the fish until when it sells at the best price. There are a few pre-requisites to adequate storage:
- The storage area should be dry and aired
- The storage area should possess a waterproof shelter; if rain water leaks through into the package, fungi and mould will develop and damage the product.
- Packages should not be in direct contact with the soil, to eliminate risks of transfer of moisture to the product
- Finally, keep away predators by closing the door to the storage room.
Apart from the bag and the basket, smoked fish can also be stored in storage trays which are made in the same way as the smoking trays. They are different in that they are hollower and can contain a larger quantity of fish.
How is the fish then stored and what are the advantages of this method?
The fish-loaded trays are piled up one on top of the other on an abandoned smoker. In such conditions they are ready for further smoking if the need arises. The risk of breakage is reduced as there is no need to move them elsewhere. If there is no smoker, bricks can be utilised to keep the trays at a good distance from the soil.
Each pile of trays is first covered with, for instance, a sheet of plywood and the whole is kept under a plastic cover that is to be maintained by a weight.
The product is thus protected against rain. In such conditions, a well smoked fish can be kept for several months.
Whatever the length of storage period, you have to control the quality of the product once a week in order to detect mould, fungi, insects, or bad smells that might develop. To perform this control, pick up a sample from each tray or basket. If this looks heavy, it means it has absorbed moisture and, as a result, can spoil.
What to do if any of these signs appear?
You have to unpack all the product and smoke again. The fish that is not stored in the tray should be transferred into the smoking trays for further smoking on a smoker; the fire should remain fairly hot for about an hour to destroy mould, fungi, and insects. On the whole you need 3 or 4 hours to further smoke the product.
Works to consult:
We would like to draw your attention to the existence of a video on the chorkor produced by FAO in collaboration with the Food Research Institute in Accra. Information is available at the Fisheries Department of FAO, Rome.
For further information on the chorkor smoker, we suggest the following documents:
Brownell B, J Lopez, 1985, the chorkor fish smoking method : a truly appropriate technology. In : proceedings of the FAO expert consultation on fish technology in Africa (p. 114 – 119), Lusaka, Jan. 1985. FAO
O.I.T., 1985, technologies for rural women – Ghana technical Manual n° 3 : Fish smoking ILO, Geneva
O.I.T., 1987 Control and Management of technology by rural women of Ghana, ILO Geneva
Wentholt W., 1987, the acceptability of the chorkor smoker : an assessment of the acceptability of this innovation for different categories of fish processors in West Africa. IDAF, FAO, Cotonou.
Zannou L., 1988, Etudes technico-économiques des fours améliorées pour le fumage de poisson en République Populaire du Bénin, FAO, Cotonou.
Zinsou, J.F. 1985, Observations sur le fonctionnement des fours “chorkor”. In : Proceedings of FAO expert consultation on fish technology in Africa (p. 121 – 126), Lusaka ; Jan. 1985, FAO.