Tinned fish, or conservas, is making a comeback. Out are the days of canned, flavorless seafood options. Today’s canned seafood has undergone a makeover, and it’s time for everyone to explore the delicious world of conservas.
History of canned seafood
In the late 1700s, the father of modern canning, Nicolas Appert, began experimenting with seafood preservation by simply boiling jars of fish in water to help feed soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars. Since then, jarred seafood has soared in popularity, and can now be found served in restaurants and bars around the world. Here’s an introductory guide to tinned seafood gems you can find at Harmons.
Choosing the right tin of sardines all starts with the processing technique used in the packing of the fish. Here are the two common processing methods:
Industrial method: Fresh or frozen sardines are packed into a can, sealed, and then cooked and pasteurized in the sealed can.
Raw method: Mostly done in Portugal and Spain, this method includes hand-trimming sardines, placing them in a can, steaming and cooking the sardines while the can is open, then sealing and sterilizing the product.
What’s the difference? Sardines cooked in a sealed can will retain more moisture and a fishy aroma, whereas the sardines that are steamed in an open can and later sealed will generally have a more concentrated flavor.
How to eat them: Serve on a cracker or artisan bread, use as a pizza topping, or add to pasta for a punch of savory goodness.
Products to try: Jose Gourmet’s line of flavored sardines or Espinaler olive oil packed sardines.
Mussels and Bivalves
Choosing the best mussels starts with size. Larger-sized bivalves are considered the premium option. Harvesting bivalves in the winter leads to a greater eating experience due to a higher fat content. Bivalves, such as mussels, require more fat to get through the cold winter months, which means they are larger and more flavorful during this period.
Mussels also have the benefit of having a positive impact on the environment, making them a sustainable seafood choice. Mussels do not require any inputs from farmers, and instead feed off of plankton. As they feed on plankton, they’re filtering the water and simultaneously improving the quality of the surrounding water. Mussels also support other marine species, providing protective shelter through their tight shell clusters.
How to eat them: Add to a fresh tomato pasta salad, sandwich it between a baguette for a po’ boy sandwich, or serve on plain artisan crackers.
Products to try: Patagonia’s line of seasoned mussels and Espinaler mussels.
Another sustainable seafood option, Atlantic mackerel is meaty, mild-tasting, and a delicious staple to include in your pantry. Mackerel is a small schooling fish that is lower on the ocean food chain. Eating more mackerel takes pressure off of the popular predatory fish that are becoming overfished, such as salmon and swordfish. Being lower on the food chain also means they’re a lower mercury seafood option, making them a healthier seafood choice to incorporate into your diet. Check out this chart from the FDA that breaks down the best seafood choices, good alternatives, and seafood options you should avoid or limit.
How to eat them: Use in place of tuna in a Nicoise salad, use in a sandwich for a mackerel melt, or toss in a salad to add a delicious umami flavor.
Products to try: Patagonia’s line of flavored mackerel or Jose Gourmet’s mackerel in olive oil.
The portability and shelf life of tinned seafood makes this a perfect snack to take on road trips, hiking, backpacking, or even planes (remember, if you’re getting the right tinned fish, it won’t be as smelly as you’d think).
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