Tuna Tinning With Slow Food Seattle

For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a board member for Slow Food Seattle, our local chapter of the international organization dedicated to, among other things, preserving local food traditions, increasing awareness of and interest in the foods we can grow and enjoy in our own backyard, and promoting the use of good, clean, and fair practices in food production.

Our group puts on several hands-on events each year, and without a doubt my favorite is the annual “Time to Tin A Tuna” workshop, coordinated by SFS’s resident fisherwoman Amy G, and presided over by Bellingham fisherman Jeremy Brown.

Once a year, Jeremy comes down to Seattle with about 1000 pounds of Northwest wild Albacore tuna,  and  guides a group of Slow Food members and friends through the steps of breaking down the fish and processing it into 8-ounce jars. The result is, in my opinion, the best canned tuna you’ll ever have,  and so a few Sundays ago I put on old clothes, picked up my chef’s knife, and headed down to Gourmondo‘s South Seattle catering kitchen to get my tuna on.

Step One: skinning and cutting tuna into boneless chunks.

 

Step Two: trimming tuna chunks and stuffing into jars

After the first team breaks down the tuna into fist-sized chunks, removing large bones and skin, the fish is taken on large trays over to a second station, where a group of us trimmed it into smaller, even pieces and removed the smaller bones and cartilage. Then another group packed it into jars with about a quarter cup of olive oil, pinch of salt, and the secret ingredient – a chunk of carrot. Why carrot? It adds a hint of sweetness and keeps the fish from developing a tinny taste when it’s cooked at high temperatures. 
 
After their rims are wiped clean, the jars are sealed and placed on racks, awaiting their turn in the line of pressure cookers that Gerry and his team man throughout the day. The jars cook for 90 minutes and come out sealed and shelf-stable. 
 

Step Three: Clean rims, seal jars, and place on racks to await cooking

 

Step Four: Cook the heck out of the tuna in a pressuer cooker to make it shelf-stable.

 
Step Five: Check seals, wait for tuna to cool, take home and enjoy!

All in all, the tuna tinning is a great afternoon with a bunch of fun people and, as I mentioned, there really is no comparison between the finished product and the stuff (even the good stuff) you get in a grocery store.

Last year I bought two cases of our Slow Food tuna and gave several away as Christmas gifts. This year, I hope to keep a bit more of it for myself  and use it in healthy, delicious recipes like the one below, which I have made several times for a quick, filling dinner. In the spring, I substitute chopped asparagus for the olives and you could also probably use spinach.

My Slow food buddies are a great group of people and I highly recommend checking out your local chapter. If that chapter happens to be Seattle, I hope you’ll join us for our next event!

Lemony Tuna Pasta

Serves 3-4 with leftovers

Ingredients:

1 lb. penne, bowtie, or rotini pasta

 8 ounce jar or 2 cans tuna fish

juice and zest of 1 lemon OR dice of one preserved lemon

1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped

2 tbs parsley, chopped

2 tbs olive oil

salt

pepper

parmesan cheese

Method:

Bring water to boil in a large pot and cook pasta as directed.

While pasta is cooking, drain tuna and mash with a fork in a bowl with olives, parsley, and lemon zest. Add lemon juice to taste.

When pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot. Add olive oil, tuna mixture, and more lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

 

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