Why are canned sardines from Portugal the best and how to choose them?
★ The Phoenicians were already eating sardines.
★ Not all sardines are sardines
The real sardine is the "Sardina pilchardus" which lives off the coast, in sometimes very compact schools, between 10 and 50m below the surface. The "Sardina pilchardus" can be found in the Mediterranean Sea, but especially in the whole North Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to the Azores via France, Portugal and Morocco.
★ Sardines are excellent for your health.
Protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. First of all, sardines are a very good source of protein, a source of energy essential for the human body to function. It also contains 10 to 12% lipids but with a very high proportion of Omega-3 fatty acids, which effectively restores the proportion between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids and thus reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Essential vitamins and nutrients. Sardines also contain nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus or selenium with their antioxidant properties. In addition, it contains vitamin D and B group vitamins, including vitamin B3, which regulates cholesterol and triglycerides.
A fish little affected by pollution. Sardines are caught young (1 to 2 years old), which does not give them time to accumulate mercury. Moreover, it is a small fish that is at the very beginning of the food chain and does not concentrate various pollutants. It is said to be a non-bioaccumulative fish.
★ Canned sardines
★ Portuguese sardine canning: a tradition of excellence.
A clear origin. The constraint today for these canneries, which have maintained a tradition of excellence, is the rarefaction of the "pilchardus" species and the consequent drop in fishing quotas. Sardina pilchardus must be fished between the beginning of May and the end of October. Before and after these dates, the fish are not fat enough or are in the breeding season. These canneries are therefore 100% dependent on Portuguese fishing grounds and refuse to source their supplies elsewhere at the risk of reducing the quality of their production.
Methods that are still artisanal. As soon as the boats return, the fresh sardines are peeled, gutted and then pre-cooked in oil rather than steamed. They are then manually put back in their cans after having been selected. The cans are then filled with quality olive oil, the can is then crimped before being canned. All these operations are manual, which guarantees perfectly selected sardines, prepared and stored in their tins.
★ My advice for choosing your canned sardines.
Sardines are prepared before cooking. Their heads are removed, they are gutted and the fins are removed. All these operations are manual and repeated, after cooking, before final canning. This means that the skin and bones are preserved. According to some, this is essential because the taste of the sardine is better preserved and the calcium intake is higher. After a few months, the skin and bones almost disappear and melt into the flesh.
However, others find the presence of skin and bones unpleasant. In this case, there are canned sardine fillets without skin and bones. These are a little more expensive because they require a lot more handling, but this is the guarantee of a can containing only the flesh of the sardine fillets.
The cans generally contain 4 sardines. These are therefore calibrated to fill a can completely. I encourage you to discover the Portuguese "petingas". These are smaller sardines in rows of 6 in a can. It's all a question of taste, but for me, they are tastier and more tender.
The legislation in force obviously applies to canned sardines and no trader is allowed to sell canned sardines whose use-by date has passed. This deadline is generally 2 years after canning for sardines.
The so-called "vintage" sardines are a pure marketing invention. In fact it simply means that the sardines put in tins are from the same fishing campaign. This is the case of all canned sardines in Portugal. On the other hand, an industrialist who uses frozen sardines from Morocco, all from the same fishing campaign (i.e. frozen at the same time) can call his production "vintage sardines", which is an absolute paradox!
Will canned sardines become a rare product? Consumers don't always realize when they open a can of sardines that it may soon become a luxury item.