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Ten Tins to Try, and Why by Dan Waber
A list of ten tins to try, and why, from Dan Waber, the guy who has tasted every tin in the RTG catalog.
- Nuri Spiced Sardines in Olive Oil 3/5, a cult favorite among sardine aficionados and for good reason. On just about every best sardines list I’ve ever seen. Made in Portugal the old way, no mechanization of any kind. Probably the tin I reach for most often when raiding my own inventory. Big sardines done perfectly.
- Ramón Peña Sardines in Olive Oil 30/35, Gold Line, these are in the top five of everyone I know who can credibly put together a top twenty list of sardines. Beautiful when you open the tin, too. You could use these to convert anyone who doesn’t “get” tinned fish. They’re basically perfect.
- Gulf of Maine Conservas Line Caught Bluefin Tuna in Olive Oil, a very special can of tuna. I can tell you the name of the guy who caught the tuna in this can—because the same guy individually catches every fish. Gulf of Maine Conservas is Keper Connell, and he fishes out of Rye, NH. Most of the tuna you see in cans is skipjack or yellowfin (also called Atun Claro) or albacore (also called Bonito del Norte even though it’s not bonito, that’s a completely different fish). Most Bluefin (also called Atun Rojo) is used as sushi, but there are a few conserveries who can it. Keper swims the fish behind the boat for up to an hour to cool them off after the fight, and dispatches them in the Japanese ikijime method. Each tin will vary depending on the cut inside. The leaner cuts will highlight the beefier quality of Bluefin, fattier cuts have a luxurious mouth feel, with a subtle minerality. We eat it straight from the tin on crackers, or flaked onto a salad of baby mustards and mizunas.
- Olasagasti Anchovies a la Basque (Donostiarra), these are not pizza anchovies, though they are the same fish. Pizza anchovies are boneless, skinless fillets that are salt-cured before being packed in oil. These are whole fish processed like sardines, steamed and then packed into the oil and flavorings. There’s a single slice of garlic and a single piri piri pepper and the fish are loosely packed, the theory being that with greater surface area exposed you get better penetration of the olive oil into the flesh. Probably the most re-ordered item I offer.
- Groix & Nature Sardines with Lobster Oil, these are really rich tasting, and the texture of the fish is a bit unlike other sardines out there. It’s as if all the water-based moisture has been driven out and all that’s left is the oil-based moisture. Save the oil to use as a finishing touch on steamed potatoes or vegetables.
- Pollastrini di Anzio Spiced Sardines in Olive Oil 4/6, a little different approach to sardines, these are a little looser in the tin (like the Olasagasti above), which allows for better penetration of the oil into the flesh of the fish. The most common complaint I hear about this product is that everyone wishes there were more fish in the tin–but what they really mean is they wish the tin were bigger, because more fish in the tin would change them into something else.
- Fangst Sprat no. 1 (Heather & Chamomile) Baltic Sea, ranked #55 on the worldbestfish.com overall 101 list, and one of my all-time favorite tins.
- Angelo Parodi Mackerel Filets in Olive Oil with Ginger and Chili Pepper, our current favorite mackerel around here. These make a wicked mackerel salad along the lines of a tuna salad or a potted mackerel. Also great straight from the tin or served atop mixed greens, which is how we mostly eat it, making a vinaigrette from the tin liquid and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- King Oscar Cross-Pack Sardines (Sprats) in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the KO 1-layer products have 8-12 fish per tin. The 2-layer products have 12-22 fish per tin. Most people have never seen these because KO doesn’t do any promotion of them because they’re able to sell out all of the production every season because the smallest fish are also the fewest number caught. These are 22-38 per tin. Tiny and delicious. The first time we tried these my wife’s daughter (our baker here, Helen) said, “The $12 a tin people do not want you to know these exist.” I agreed.
- Ortiz Bonito del Norte (albacore) in Olive Oil, this is one of the first really nice tunas a lot of people experience, and one that many people return to after it leads them on an exploration of other lovely tunas. One of the most well-respected brands in the conservas world, and for good reason.
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