Cook the Book: Canned Tuna

I love a good tuna sandwich, and I make them at home all of the time. I always buy the fanciest imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil, usually the one that comes in the best looking can. Some mayo, chopped capers, and olives and it’s done and delicious. I never spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the process in which the tuna gets from the ocean and into a can.

Truthfully, I never really thought that canned tuna was something that you could make at home. Eugenia Bone, home-canner extraordinaire, and author of Well-Preserved cans her own tuna and uses it to make great warm-weather dishes, such as pasta salads and Vitello Tonnato. The canned tuna needs to rest for 3 to 6 months in order for its flavor to mellow. After this period of rest, your tuna takes on a delicate flavor that has not the slightest fishiness.

If you’re going do a lot of preserving at home, it’s a good idea to invest in a pressure canner, which will bring your preserves up to a temperature high enough to kill off any bacteria that might have sneaked into your cans.

  • 3 1/2 pounds very fresh tuna, with skin, bones, and any stringy blood vessels removed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Italian olive oil (not extra virgin)
  1. Have ready 6 scalded half-pint jars and their bands. (To scald, simply dip the jars in boiling water. You don’t need to sterilize the jars, as you will process them for over 10 minutes.) Simmer new lids in a small pan of hot water to soften the rubberized flange.

  2. Cut the tuna into chunks as close to the size of the jars as you can manage. Stuff the chunks of tuna into the jar and fill the gaps in the jars with small bits of tuna, still leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. Do not overfill the jars or your seals will fail.

  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the top of each jar and pour enough olive oil to cover the fish, leaving 3/4 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Using a butter knife, press the tuna away from the sides of the jar so the oil can fill any air pockets between the chunks of tuna.

  4. Wipe the rims, set on the lids, and screw on the bands fingertip tight. (If you put a dab of white vinegar on the cloth you use to wipe the rims, the oil will clean off better.)

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