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Posts Tagged ‘tuna’

How to can your own tuna

July 25, 2011 3 comments

It’s been a little while since my last post.  There’s lots of reasons for that, of course, but mainly it’s because we’ve come to the downhill part of the season for food: summer.  This blog is about things that are perceived as difficult, or requiring skills that are no longer commonly possessed by the average eater.  But in the summer, anyone with even a lick of sense can eat like a king.  Summertime is easy time.  Even most summer canning doesn’t rise to the level of advanced.  Without even breaking a sweat, you can put up pickles.  If you can read at a 4th grade level, you are able to can fruits.  6th grade reading will leave you with a pantry full of tomatoes and other vegetables.  So there hasn’t been much to write about here, which is kind of a good thing.

But today I took on a little project that, judging by the response I get when I tell people, is beyond the scope of the usual home cook.  A “lost art”, so to speak.

Today I canned fish.  Yeah, that’s right, I made my own tuna fish.  You could do it with any fish, but we like tuna.  And like most other make-it-yourself projects, the taste of the results bears but a passing resemblance to what you can buy. There are other reasons to can your own, too, of course: 1) lower cost; 2) assurance that you are eating sustainably harvested fish; 3) you want to know where your fish came from, whether it be because you want to eat local, or you’re cautious about mercury levels; 4) you want specific herb/spice flavors added to your fish; and the list goes one.  And finally, when you come right down to it, it’s easy, too.

Results of one of our annual coastal fishing trips. The yellowfin are the fish closest to you. The fish I'm canning in the photos that will follow are line-caught yellowfin.

Before we get into the photo tutorial, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: safety.  People are afraid of home canned fish; most of them don’t know WHY they should be afraid, but there is a deep-rooted fear nonetheless.  Turns out there is actually a reasonable basis for concern: fish can contain Clostridiens, a type of gram positive bacteria responsible for botulism.  Clostridiens, IF they are present, are not killed by normal boiling water.

All is not lost, however!  The answer is a pressure cooker.  Many of you may remember your mothers using a pressure cooker for canning.  For many, if not most home canning tasks, a pressure cooker is great, but it’s overkill.  For meats and fish, however, a pressure cooker is, in fact, a necessity.  The reason is that pressure cooking under high pressure creates superheated steam, i.e., steam that is above the boiling point of water.  At 11 psi, the pressure of most pressure cookers, the steam is about 250F, which is above the 244F required to kill Clostridiens.  Temperature at pressure varies with altitude, so the safest thing to do is use a cooker that can get to 15 psi, which assures that you will reach at least 250F at any altitude you might be cooking at.

If you want to make jams, pickles, or can tomatoes, there is more information on the internet than you can possibly sort, and most of it is actually good.  When it comes to canning fish or meat, however, there are decidedly less references.  I have found a couple worth reading, as well as one video from the University of Alaska, which I consider a must-watch before you get started.  here are the references and the video:

PDF from the government of Manitoba on canning fish
University of Georgia National Center for Home Food Preservation on canning fish, complete with tables of pressure required at various altitudes

And here is the mother of all fish canning videos:

OK, now that you’ve read the primers, and watched the video, let’s go through my photo tutorial.

Cast of characters: about 3lbsof tuna, a bunch of sterile jars and lids, some herbs (I used oregano because it's in the garden), salt, lemon rind, and olive oil (not pictured)

Cut the tuna to fit in the jar. Fill the jar fairly full, but leave some room for oil. Salt each piece a ittle before placing in the jar, add the herbs and a hunk of lemon rind, and leave about an inch at the top.

Here's what the jar looks like when it's ready for oil.

Fill the jar with oil. You could use water, if you prefer, too. Use a chostick or knife to work the air out of the jar by working it around the perimeter, then top off the jar. Leave about 1/2 inch headspace.

Here's what the jar looks like full.

Clean the rim of the jar with a paper towel wetted with a little vinegar. This is necessary to assure the lids can seal. Once all the rims are clean, cap the jars tightly with sterile lids.

Put the jars in your pressure cooker and add 2 or 3 inches of water.

I have an electric pressure cooker, so it's easy: I set it on high (15 psi on mine) and tell it to cook for 99 minutes. Your cooker may vary, but make sure you cook at at least 11 psi for 100 minutes. You do not count the time required for your cooker to come up to pressure; start timing when the desired pressure is achieved.

Once the cooker has cooled sufficiently, remove the jars. Allow them to cool completely. Check the seals by removing the rings and trying to GENTLY pry up the sealed lid. If you CAN pry the lid off, cap the jar, put it in the fridge, and eat it within a few days. If the lids are sealed, you are good to store in the pantry for 1 year!

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Categories: Meat, Preserving, Techniques Tags: , ,

Farmer’s Market Tapas Night

November 1, 2010 5 comments

Tonight was halloween at our house, and with the kids deciding to stay home and hand out candy, I decided to feed them over the course of the evening with some tapas, or small plates.  Tapas are fun because the usual rules of protein, starch, complex carbs that make an entree appealing get loosened up a bit.  And given that yesterday was farmer’s market day, our fridge and counters are loaded up with great ingredients.

Curried sweet potatoes and chard

First tapas: Curried Sweet Potatoes and Chard

Peel and cut two sweet potatoes into 1″ cubes.  Boil in salted water till tender, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop up about 6 large chard leaves.  Wilt them in a pan of hot olive oil for a minute.  In another skillet, heat about 1.5 cups milk, whisk in about 1 TBSP of whatever curry spice you like (there is a spice blend called Garam Masala sold by one of the major spice companies that’s pretty good), a few saffron threads, and a couple tsp of sugar.  Slowly whisk a little flour or cornstarch in the hot, spiced milk to thicken (start with a tsp or two).  Stir together the potatoes, chard and spiced milk.

Peperonata with October Beans & Tuna. It's not a great picture because we all started eating it before I remembered to photograph. Oops.

Second & Third Tapas: Peperonata with October Bean and Tuna

I had intended for this to be two tapas, Peperonata, and then October Bean & Tuna.  But the kids decided they were going to trick-or-treat for the last hour, and I figured their good eating momentum would slow after candy, so I plated these two together.

For the peperonata, coarsely chop two medium bell peppers.  Saute in hot olive oil for a minute, then add a large tomato cubed in 1″ pieces.  Season with salt, pepper, oregano and basil.  Add a couple tsp of red wine vinegar.  Toss until warmed through.  Plate.

For the October Beans & Tuna, cook a cup or two of October Beans, aka Shelly beans or Phaseolus vulgaris.  You can substitute a can of white beans, too ;-).  Plate the hot beans.  Cover with a big forkful of canned tuna.  I’ve been meaning to make my own, as described in this post by Georgia Pellegrini, but haven’t yet gotten around to it, so I do use cans.  Please do not use that lousy white tuna in water, that stuff is the worst.  Go for tuna in oil with sea salt.  Best brand is Cento, but most markets have some version of tuna in oil.  If you use water packed tuna because you’re afraid of fat, rest easy that mayonnaise is not allowed near my tuna, so what you add in fat from the oil pack you more than make up for by lack of mayo.  Some thin sliced red onion would be great on this, too, but I didn’t have any.

Shrimp skewers and marinated shitake skewers

Fourth & Fifth Tapas: NC Shrimp Skewers and Marinated Shitake Skewers

OK, these are both painfully easy.  First, soak your wood skewers in water while you do your prep.

For the shrimp, simply peel and devein, then skewer.  Season as you like with salt, pepper, Zatarain’s, Old Bay, etc.

For the mushrooms, mix up a quarter cup each of soy sauce, mirin and rice wine vinegar.  Add a TBSP of sugar (heat slightly to dissolve sugar).  Throw in about 12-16 shitake caps, stems removed.  Let them marinate for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times.  Skewer the caps.  Reserve the marinade for more shrooms (it’ll keep for weeks in a mason jar in the fridge), or use in a big stir-fry later in the week.

Grill shrimp and shroom skewers for about 4 minutes per side on a medium grill.

All of the ingredients for these tapas came from Western Wake Farmer’s Market this weekend.  While I didn’t do my usual cost breakdown, I estimate all the ingredients came to about $17.  They fed four people, so that’s $4.25 per person for a five plate tapas meal.  Cheaper than a Big Mac combo.

The only downside to tapas night - cleanup makes my house look like a restaurant kitchen.

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