Ten Tins to Try, and Why by Helen Kaucher


Helen is one of the owners and operators of RTG and a general maker of things. She made almost all the pottery in these photos and the stuff in the Hels’ Bells Handmade category and the author of Eat From the Tin Like a Heathen, or Try Tinned Fish with Something.

  1. Ocean’s Smoked Mackerel with Juniper and Coriander, If you’re in a salty mood, this is a good choice. It’s a smoky fish with a good chew. To cut through the saltiness I like to add something fatty like a whole milk plain yogurt, cream cheese, or butter and then something acidic. Onion, cucumber or something crunchy will shine it up a bit. Throwing the base notes of coriander and juniper to play with high notes like lemon is a little like watching two dancers attempt to lead the tango, a struggle for power that morphs into chaos on the tongue. It feels overly complicated and excessive, but sometimes we need the opportunity to create that environment in a controlled space. That’s when I reach for this tin. Pictured with cucumbers marinated in citrus vinegar and fresh basil, turmeric pickled onions, and plain yogurt.
  2. Nuri Spiced Mackerel Fillets in Olive Oil, This mackerel is a delight. Soft, tender, and easily paired. I often reach for a crisp cracker, pickled cucumber, and a homemade whole grain mustard. You can throw all of the above between two slices of bread, too. Craving a tuna melt? Try a mackerel melt with these babies. Pictured with pickles and homemade whole grain mustard.
  3. Conservas de Cambados Fried Mussels in Escabeche 8/12, When lightly heated with aromatics like garlic, fresh thyme, and minced shallot, these lush mussels render themselves a sensual companion to a crusty loaf of baguette or a plate of homemade pasta. Or nothing. They don’t necessarily need anything more than what’s provided in the tin. They’re meaty and firm and hold up well to heating. No need to long-simmer these bad boys, up to 5 mins on the lowest setting will do just fine. Pictured with sauteed garlic, shallots, fresh thyme, and chili flake.
  4.  Ortiz Ria de Arosa Mussels in Escabeche 10/14, Slightly more oceanic and acidic in flavor than the Conservas de Cambados 8/12s, this round tin of carefully arranged mussels encircles a surprise of allspice and sliver of bay leaf. Serve them the traditional way by emulsifying the escabeche into a dressing, pouring it over the mussels, and serving it with some grilled bread or potato chips. Pictured in the tin with grilled multigrain bread.
  5. Ortiz Sweet Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with White Tuna (Bonito del Norte), This tin is a delightful meal on its own but is easily spruced up with a sprinkling of fresh basil. We know how well tinned fish and tomatoes match up over here at RTG. This is a great tin to reach for when you want to impress people and show them what a good housekeeping recipe from the 60s would look like if it were packed in a tin. There’s a perfect amount of sauce for souping up the tuna and there’s a little extra for dipping bread afterwards. A triumph. Pictured warmed with fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  6. Marusa Shirasu Whitebait (“Anchovies”) with Yuzu Kosho, If you’re squeamish about fish bones and skin, these are a perfect and possibly a more adventurous deviation from skinless and boneless sardines. Whitebait includes a variety of fish types, determined by where they are caught. The variety of fry that are “whitebait” could include but isn’t limited to herring, anchovies, and sardines. So, basically, it’s a “grab bag” tin of babies. They’re tender and versatile, but I often mix them in with a pasta or rice dish. They blend in and disguise themselves well in those foods and don’t overpower them. Pictured in a bowl of rotini, dulse, shallot, black pepper, rice wine vinegar, chili flake, fresh basil, and lemon zest.
  7. Ferrigno La Bonne Mer Sardines with Butter and Thyme de Provence, Butter and thyme? Count me in. I prepare these alongside carrots. I peel and cut the carrots lengthwise, add fresh thyme, throw it into a pan and cover them on medium heat to soften. Then I add the sardines, making sure to scrape all the butter bits from the tin into the pan. I like to split the sardines in half and fry each side in thyme butter before plating and enjoying. It’s one of my favorite chilly weather meals. Pictured bisected with fresh thyme and carrots.
  8. Riga Gold Cod Liver, Do I love cod liver because of its high nutritional content or because I actually enjoy the taste? I’m unsure, so I keep it within my meal rotation to examine my ideals. It has been referred to as the “foie gras of the sea”, with which I would agree. It’s easily spreadable, so I treat it as one would a spreadable cheese or a dip. Grill or toast a slice of your favorite bread, mix the cod liver with mustard, onion, and chives, then top it all with pickles. Done. You have created a quick and nutritious meal. Gold stars. Pictured on toast with mustard, pickles, onion, and chives.
  9. Jose Gourmet Small Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I made a roasted red pepper spread with fresh oregano, garlic, toasted walnuts, and balsamic vinegar. The sweetness of the peppers pairs well with the fattiness of the fish. The sardines are arranged horizontally down the length of the tin, a unique presentation worthy of mention. Topped with too much fresh oregano because the herb window boxes have been prolific this year. Pictured on top of a roasted red pepper spread and garnished with oregano.
  10. Porto-Muiños Mussels with Sweet Kombu and Salva Brava, These mussels are sweet, but only in the way a tomato is sweet. The flavor profile and contents of the tin would be a welcome topping to a hot bowl of ramen, pairing well with Asian flavor profiles, yet creating a space for creating a “fusion” pairing because of the mild tomato flavor in the tin. This time, I sliced a daikon radish into rounds and roasted them for 15 minutes. I plated those and topped them with the warmed mussels and a sprinkle of dulse. Pictured on roasted daikon medallions and garnished with dulse.

Comes with a jar of Barnacle Foods Alaskan Kelp Pow for garnishing.

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