I admit that I had been reluctant to get into the world of fermented meats. After all, it just seemed more hazardous. There is an increased risk of fermenting meat versus vegetables, due mainly to the variety of pathogenic organisms that feed on protein, and also to the lower acidity of most fermented meats versus veggies.
So I decided to begin with a simple fermented fish sauce. I certainly use fish sauce quite often in cooking and when making dishes like kimchi, so I thought, “what kind of Fermenter would I be if I used store-bought fermented sauce?!” I based my first attempt on the simple and short-time recipe in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook (yes, I am one of those kooky WAPF‘ers). Then upon further experimentation, I gradually began making a more traditional Thai or Vietnamese style sauce (fermenting up to a year).
You can use a variety of fresh, whole fish, but due to water pollution, it’s best stick with small marine (oceanic) fish species that are less than 1 foot long. Sardines, anchovies, and mackerel all work well. These “forage fish” species are eaten by larger fish species. They grow quickly, are abundant and are considered very sustainable. They feed on plankton and don’t live very long (so they don’t have a chance to collect toxins like longer-lived fish).
At a minimum, let it ferment one month. I recently made a batch of mackerel sauce that fermented a total of 3 months– two months at room temp, and one month in the fridge.