For all of you who don’t know, Chef Gabe spends as much time as he can out on his boat fishing and showing his kids how to catch and prepare local loot from the sea. His father grew up fishing off the coast of southern Italy near Naples and Gabe wants his kids to grow up with that same understanding, passion, and appreciation for the sea.
This week Gabe and his son decided to do more than freeze the abundant amount of tuna from last weekend’s catch. They decided to can it. Why you ask? Well, for starters, Gabe caught a 65 lb Yellowfin out in Dana Point - his largest to date. Copious amounts of beautiful fish filet aside, canning the tuna allows them to eat locally all year long. It means they will be able to enjoy the flavors of summer in the middle of January and it gives them complete control over the preservatives added to their food. Now if you grew up in an Italian household, you are familiar with a good Tonnato Sauce and using Italian style tuna- usually preserved in a jar with oil. The stuff is solid gold.
Even today, the finest canned tuna comes from Italy and Spain, these folks know what they are doing. That said, here are a couple of things to consider before you get started:
Cooked Tuna vs Raw Tuna Method
You can do it either way. Chef Gabe’s recipe will be for canning raw tuna and the reason is simple – for flavor and Omega-3 oils. You see, tuna has lots of natural oil, much like salmon and when you cook the fish and drain it, those oils are removed. Big commercial canning companies cook the tuna twice- once before canning and again once it is canned, loosing most of those natural oils. With our recipe today, the natural juices and oils in Chef Gabe’s tuna only add to the flavor and nutritional value.
Types of Tuna
First off, lets consider sustainability. Big Bluefin is the largest and most endangered but slowly making a comeback, however there are plenty of options for your canned tuna; Skipjack, Bluefin, Albacore and Yellowfin (also known as Ahi) are all sustainable species of tuna. Albacore, which is white Tuna, is considered more desirable owing to its milder taste and is consequently more expensive. Bluefin flesh is dark red, almost like meat and is said to be better for barbequing, as it has more fat. Skipjack is the Tuna that you usually find canned. Yellowfin live in the Pacific Ocean, have a pale pink flesh and stronger taste.
Chef Gabe’s Canning Tuna 101
1. Catch more tuna than you can possibly eat raw within 3 days. :)
2. Wash canning jars and lids in hot water and allow to drip dry while preparing fish.
3. Cut tuna into 1” chunks.
4. Put tuna into clean jars and press out all of the air bubbles in between the tuna. Fill all jars and leave a 1” space on the top.
5. Sprinkle ½ tsp of Sea Salt per 6 wt. oz. of tuna into each jar.
6. Use towel with a little white vinegar water to wipe the glass jar rims free of any juice.
7. Place the lids on each jar.
8. Place the tighten rings on each jar. BE SURE TO LIGHTLY TIGHTEN. Do not overtighten the lids.
9. Place jars into a pressure canner with water to cover the jars by 1”. Add 2 T. of white distilled vinegar to the water. The vinegar help keeps the jar clean from water/sodium stains.
10. Read manufacturers suggestions on your pressure canner. A pressure canner is not the same as a pressure cooker. A pressure canner is required for preserving proteins and uses greater amounts of pressure than a cooker. For this project we will be using 10 lbs. of weight.
11. Place lid on the pressure canner. Turn heat to high and wait until steam begins to flow out of the pressure valve. Allow to steam out for 5 minutes and then place the 10 lbs. onto the pressure valve.
12. Set the timer for 100 minutes.
13. After 100 minutes turn the heat off and DO NOT OPEN THE LID. Set timer for one more hour.
14. After an hour all of the pressure valves should be down, meaning there is no more pressure inside. Again review your manufacturer info for this step.
15. Remove the lid. Use tongs to remove the jars. Check the tops after cooking. Any that still pop or are loose should be discarded.
16. Label with the date and store in a cool dark pantry at room temperature. This product will have a one year shelf life.
Father-son/daughter time aside, the awesome part about this whole process is that Gabe knows where the tuna is coming from. He caught the fish himself, locally - and it can’t get any fresher than that.
Disclaimer: Once you try this at home, it will be difficult to go back to store-bought tuna.
Words: R.Simms // Photography + Canning Instructions: Chef Gabe