I absolutely love canned tuna. Ever since my high school days when our cafeteria at school had these phenomenally large hot pan de sals that they used to fill with a tunafish palaman or spread. In college, I had canned tuna at least twice a week while on a very modest food budget. Despite warnings of potential mercury content, higher income in the years since, I still looked for canned tuna at least twice a month. I once wrote this post on some superb premium quality Century Tuna several years ago that caught the eye of the company that very kindly offered to send me a box of the extremely hard to find stuff, and I agreed, but I insisted on paying for it. Our top local canned tuna is high up there when compared to several European brands, in fact, I understand that several European brands actually can their stuff in General Santos, and have the tiniest reference to the source of Pacific tuna instead of mediterranean fish. However, there are, to this day, incredibly premium bottled and canned tunas in Spain that command prices of up to PHP8,000+ for a bottle roughly the same size as the one above. Are they 20x better tasting or more satisfying than Century? I think not. But are really pricey women’s handbags really worth 39,000 bayongs or market baskets? :)
I decided to try a new recipe for “canned” or “bottled” tuna. The last time I made some, the tuna was poached in olive oil, and it turned a bit harder than I would have liked, see post here. For this version I used a recipe from the cookbook A16, and bought 1 kilo of premium tuna, removed the blood veins and skin, cut this up into large chunks and salted it generously all over and let it rest in the fridge for 3-4 hours, covered. In a pot of water, I added some chopped up fennel bulb, celery, onions, and two cloves of garlic and several fresh/dry bay leaves and a tablespoon of peppercorns. Bring this up to a gentle simmer, add the fish and let this cooke for roughly 8-10 minutes until just pink at the center (check a piece with a knife). Don’t overcook, and don’t leave the centers raw either. Take the tuna out and let it cool to room temperature. Add the tuna to a sterilized bottle and pack tightly and fill with very good olive oil. Make sure all the fish is covered with oil and try to get out any air bubbles. That’s it. Store in fridge for up to a week or so.
This batch turned out utterly delicious. A lot less hard than the last version I made. And the huge flakes make it clear this is a premium homemade version. But the catch? This bottle of roughly 1 kilo of tuna had a total cost of roughly PHP800 because of the fresh tuna, fennel and oil, and six cans of of Century tuna is roughly PHP240 or so, or 1/3rd the price! Was the homemade version 3x better? I’m not sure about that, but it was obviously different, artisanal and delicious! For my next tuna experiment, I will try this Saveur recipe/version now that we have a pressure cooker in the house.
Wondering what to do with the freshly made canned tuna? Try this recipe for a Salade niçoise, deconstructed. Or this terrific Thai tuna salad. Or an Italian tuna and bean salad, here. Or a “Malipayon” salad with Gejo’s wonderful produce, here. Or maybe a tuna fennel and celery salad? Or you can always just make a good old tunafish sandwich. Or tuna melt even. Can you tell I really like my canned tuna? :)