THE FRENCH SARDINE INDUSTRY. 553
upward of a quarter of a million of fish daily. The yearly output of individual establishments is from 300,000 to 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 boxes. No complete statistics for the canning indvistry are available, but over 100 factories are operated and not less than 15,000 persons are employed therein. Concarneau and Douarnenez have more fac- tories than any other localities, the number operated in 1900 being 29 and 25, respectively. A large number of the canning establish- ments are owned or leased by companies having headquarters at Bordeaux and Nantes.
The various processes to which the sardines are subjected in the course of canning may now briefly be noticed. As soon as the fish reach the factories, their heads and viscera are removed by women, who perform their work with great rapidity. The fish are then sorted by size into large tubs of strong brine, where they remain for about an hour. They are then 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.
Drying, the next step, is done preferably in the open air, and a large part of the product is so treated. For open-air drying the fish are ar- ranged by hand, one by one, in wire baskets or trays, holding about 150 fish of medium size, placed on wooden frames or flakes. The distinctive feature of the trays is their division into about 7 V-shaped crosswise compartments, in which the sardines are placed in regular rows, with their tails upward, so as to promote the escape of water from the abdominal cavity. The sardines remain out for a variable time, depending on their size, the state of the atmosphere, etc. The usual time in favorable weather is one hour. In damp, foggy or rainy weather the sardines must be dried indoors by artificial heat, and dry- ing ensues much sooner than in the open air. Some factories, not being provided with driers, are unable to operate ifi such weather. In most of the factories, especially those more recently constructed, arti- ficial heat is supplied in a special drying chamber by means of steam pipes.
From the drying fiakes the fish are taken in the same wire baskets to the cooking room and immersed in boiling oil, in open vats of various sizes and construction. As the fish are quite dry, much of the oil is taken up in cooking and has to be replaced from time to time by fresh oil. The immersion in oil usually lasts about two minutes, but varies with the size of the fish and is best gauged by experience. The baskets are first removed to a table or platform with an inclined metal top, where the surplus oil is allowed to drain from the fish, and then taken to the packing room. There the sardines are carefully placed in tin cans. After the cans are sealed, they are immersed in boiling water for several hours ; this accomplishes a fourfold purpose : ( 1 ) The