Canning: Tuna!

Canning tuna? Not so bad. Canned tuna? Delicious.
Let's keep this simple. Slow Food Seattle hosted a tuna canning class and I joined (with my good friend and her 6 month old baby, plus many others) in for the fun.

Lessons learned?
  1. Whole slices partially frozen tuna will turn your hands into blocks of tender ice themselves after a solid morning of slicing the meat from the guts, dark spots, skin and bones. Your numb fingers may have trouble identifying bones, but you will get the hang of it. Soon you'll cut a tuna steak like an amateur.
  2. Save the scraps and trimmings for your cat. He/She will thank you.
  3. Work quickly and with help. If you're going to do this much work you might as well have a friend or two on your side. And each friend or two should have their own pressure canner. And if you work together you will laugh and have fun and then have a shared reason to moan about your tender hands (see #1).
  4. Have someone else take photos. This is messy.
  5. Pack those jars as tightly as you can. And don't skimp (or go overboard) with the olive oil. A small glug will do (a couple-ish tablespoons).
  6. If possible, start the actual pressure canning as early as possible. I'd hate to cut all the fish, pack the jars, and then wait....wait....wait to process it all. Because each batch needs to be processed at a sustained 15 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes it's good to get that part going early and continue through the day-- again, friends are good.
  7. If you think you might want 12 jars, put up 24. Or 36. 48 probably. Maybe more? Seriously, it is delicious and you will regret not having more than you do, especially when someones birthday/holiday/celebration comes along and you can't bring yourself to part with one meager jar because each jar holds 2-3 days worth of happiness (if you are able to resist eating the entire jar once opened).
My favorite tidbit from the leader of the class, fisherman Jeremy Brown, was that raw-packing tuna this way in your own home (or wherever you do it) preserves significantly higher amounts of fatty acids and delicious, healthy fish oils. In large-scale commercial fish plants they cook the fish first and then pack into cans, losing the oils that cooked off the fish in the process. Overall, I was pleased with the experience and found it to be far easier than I expected. Canning has always been approachable, but somehow pressure canning and putting up fish made me a little nervous. It was good to get it done and realize it's not far off from all the other canning I've done. Give it a try! And add a slice of carrot (secret ingredient) to each jar.

Then build a sandwich.

And eat it.


PS. I'm not the only person documenting this experience. Are You My Ghost documents with with great photos, Jim Drohman of Le Pichet entices me with a salad, I even sneaked my way into a Seattle Weekly post! Check 'em out for a different look at the same experience. Oh, edited to add Learn to Preserve's post!

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