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Hidden Flavor-Bombs: Canned Sardines & Anchovies

a plastic container filled with food

February 23rd, 2024

In every supermarket, from the quaint corner mart to the sprawling big-box store, there exists an aisle that many shoppers tend to pass by without giving it much thought. Nestled among the shelves, a treasure trove of culinary potential awaits discovery: canned fish. This unassuming pantry staple, particularly canned sardines and anchovies, holds a depth of flavor that is often underestimated. These small fish are delicate yet pack an umami-rich flavor bomb, making them one of the culinary world's unsung heroes. Together, we'll embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of some of the most consumed fish in the world, inviting you to explore the rich tastes and versatile uses of canned sardines and anchovies.

Sardines have been caught and preserved for centuries, with their name originating from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, a region historically abundant with these fish. Today, they are mostly caught in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The process of canning sardines began in the 19th century in France, revolutionizing the way these fish were consumed and stored.

When canned, sardines' texture and flavor are preserved. What's inside the can matters, though. While you can also find sardines packed in water, the oil is a better preservative; water-packed products are much less popular and break down faster. Pay attention to where your sardines are packed, too. BELA offers regular canned sardines and in sauces from Portugal, a country with a long seafaring and canning history. Not only is the fishery sustainable, but Portugal has an upper hand on human rights issues regarding fishing and production.

Anchovies, known for their strong flavor, are also primarily harvested in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, with significant catches in the Pacific Ocean. Like sardines, anchovies have been a part of European cuisine for millennia, preserved through traditional methods long before canning was introduced. 

Like sardines, anchovies are a type of small, oily fish. Though there are many different species of anchovies, the anchovies you find in the grocery store are typically cured. "They're usually cured in salt for several months, and then rinsed, filleted, and packed in oil (but never cooked)," This salt curing process gives them that intense salinity and umami flavor, and that texture that dissolves in hot oil. If you're buying canned anchovies in oil, make sure they're packaged in olive oil as it's an essential part of the flavor. Also look for anchovies that are on the larger side. 

A World of Flavors: Types of Canned Sardines and Anchovies

Canned sardines and anchovies come in a variety of flavors and preparations, catering to diverse palates and culinary needs. Here's a glimpse into the array of options available:

  • Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A classic choice that enhances the natural flavors of the fish with the richness of olive oil.
  • Sardines in Tomato Sauce: Perfect for those who prefer a tangy twist, these sardines are great as a quick snack or pasta topping.
  • Sardines in Spicy Oil: For the adventurous eater, these sardines offer a fiery kick, adding zest to any meal.
  • Anchovies in Olive Oil: Preserved in high-quality olive oil, these anchovies melt in your mouth, ideal for adding depth to dishes.
  • Anchovies in Salt: A traditional preservation method that highlights the anchovy's intense flavor, perfect for those who appreciate strong, salty bites.

Culinary Creations with Canned Sardines and Anchovies

Canned sardines and anchovies are incredibly versatile in cooking, able to elevate dishes with their rich flavors. Here are four recipes that showcase their culinary prowess:

  1. Pasta Puttanesca: A robust Italian dish that uses anchovies for its characteristic depth of flavor, combined with tomatoes, olives, and capers.
  2. Sardine and Lemon Bruschetta: Toasted bread topped with sardines, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil, showcasing the simplicity of Mediterranean cuisine.
  3. Caesar Salad: Anchovies are a key ingredient in the classic Caesar dressing, providing a salty umami punch that balances the creamy texture.
  4. Spicy Anchovies Pizza: Top your favorite pizza dough with tomato sauce, anchovies in spicy oil, and a mix of cheeses for a quick, flavorful meal.

Enjoy Straight from the Can

For those who appreciate the pure taste of the sea, canned sardines and anchovies are delicious straight out of the can. Enjoy them as a high-protein snack, or pair them with crackers and cheese for a simple yet satisfying treat.

At Jubilee Marketplace, we pride ourselves on sourcing the finest canned sardines and anchovies, ensuring that every bite brings you the authentic flavors of the sea. Visit us to explore our selection and take your taste buds on a journey with every can you open. 

Bon Appétit, 

The Jubilee Marketplace Team, 145 West St. Brooklyn, NY 11222, @jubileemarketplace, Tiktok