On World Day for Cultural Diversity, we’re celebrating canned sardines. Yes, you read that right: we’re celebrating canned sardines. Stay with us here, canned sardines are just one delicious product of the rich contributions of cultural diversity on our food, our society, and our lives. Let us explain.
As is true for most seafood, sardines should be cooked and consumed shortly after they’re caught. Since sardines are caught in certain parts of the world, we wouldn’t all be able to enjoy them if it weren’t for different food preservation methods the diverse cultures of the world have developed over centuries. The most popular ways sardines are preserved today are pickled, smoked and canned.
Originating in the Middle East, pickling is an effective preservation using vinegar brine. In the case of sardines, vinegar enhances their flavour while maintaining their firm texture. Today, pickled sardines are popular throughout Europe, though different regions enjoy them in different ways.
An even older tradition, smoking dates back to cave dwellers who discovered this effective preservation method when hanging food in caves where they used fire for warmth and light. While preserving food, smoking also lends a complex flavour to foods. Not surprisingly, smoking meat and fish remained popular in many different cultures, most prominently in Native American cultures who used the method to preserve meat and fish.
Though pickling and smoking remain popular, canning sardines has become the most common way to preserve them.
Early in the 19th century, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte offered a cash prize to anyone who could develop a method to preserve food that would make it possible to keep his armies fed. A confectioner, Nicolas Alpert, rose to the occasion and developed the canning process claiming the cash prize. Alpert’s method was simple: heating, boiling, and sealing food in glass jars. Today, we also use tin cans to can food and sometimes add spices or herbs for flavouring. This method preserves food without chemicals or additives while maintaining its natural flavour and texture.
Canned sardines are popular all over the world but especially in parts of Europe where traditions of artisanal production of these tasty little fish continues in countries like Portugal, France, and the United Kingdom.
Drawing on these European traditions, we’ve been proud to bring premium quality canned sardines to Canadians since 1908. Slightly smoked and hand packed, our sardines are the delicious product of the cultural diversity that makes it possible for all of us to discover new foods, experiences, and ways of life.