By Stephanie Dayle
Living within a day’s drive of the pacific northwest coast does have it advantages. Since I was a kid, once a year my family would take a road trip over to the Washington coast where we would buy a couple hundred pounds of tuna right off the boat. This practice continues on to today. We pack the fish into coolers with ice, then turn around, drive home and can it all. Depending on fish prices one can usually get a fairly good deal on quality tuna fish this way, however, this isn’t a money saving venture. Between the processing time, the fuel used and cost of the fish store bought tuna is still cheaper – but home processed tuna tastes a lot better and you know exactly what goes into it.
We purchase albacore (high quality white meat tuna) because we like to get it home and raw pack it. In order to raw pack tuna, the fish needs to be top quality. Albacore this year was running between $2 -$3 a pound, this price is for the whole fish. If you’d like to save some money you can purchase Yellow Fin Tuna for a lower cost per pound, but you’ll need to pre-cook and drain some of the oil from it for a hot pack. The end product will still be far better than anything at the store, but it does add some additional work in the process.
For an additional cost per pound you can ask the skipper to quarter and fillet the fish for you, although you still have to pay for the whole fish. The advantages of doing this is that means less work for you, and it means less time that the nice albacore meat will be sitting with it’s skin and guts and other undesirable parts of the tuna. The disadvantages to having someone else quarter and fillet the tuna is that you will miss out on the parts of the fish that are still very eatable and some other parts that make great pet food. We are very picky and want to use every part of the fish that we can (after all you pay for it) so we usually take home the whole fish.
Video: How to Carve an Albacore
The process we use is nearly identical to this video with the exception that we save the bloodline for dog food, we salvage the collar meat (around the gills and head) for tuna burgers, and the fatty tuna (around the lower belly) for sushi and grilling.
Canning Raw Pack Tuna*
- Cutting Boards
- Sharp Kitchen Knives
- Light Olive Oil
- Canning Jars – Half Pint or Pints
- Pressure Canner
There is no magic number of pounds of fish to jars it all depends on how you trim and how you pack the jars. We just start with as much fish as we have and then can it all until it’s gone. Here is the process we use to can our own fish. Tuna has plenty of natural oils, much like salmon, some people cook those oils out by pre-cooking the fish and draining it. I think the natural oils in top quality tuna only add to the favor that is why we raw pack our Albacore.
We start the process by trimming the fillets that come off the whole fish. These trimmings have many other uses, the belly fat (or fatty tuna) may not can well, but it makes world quality sushi. Keeping everything clean you can serve chunks of fatty tuna also known as toro on top of a bed of sticky rice with a small dab of wasabi underneath and it will literally melt in your mouth. You can also lightly grill the fatty tuna on either side and serve it up as dinner. Either way it’s wonderful. Other trimmings such as the blood line can make great pet food for your dog or cat if you make your own pet food.
Start with sterilized pint or half pint jars. A half pint jar is going to be like a small can of tuna you can buy at the store. A pint of tuna will be double that and works better if you are feeding a large family.
Pack the raw tuna in the jars as efficiently as possible without getting them too full. Depending on how much fatty tuna there is I have found that I can a chunk or two in the jar without it effecting the end product at all.
Next add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each half pint jar. One teaspoon of salt for pint jars.
Top off each jar with high quality light olive oil leaving one inch of head space. We have tried water and several other types of oils, light olive oil works the best and tastes the best. Take care not to get any oil on the rim of the jar, which would prevent the jar from sealing.
Remove air bubbles and then add your hot sterilized lids, secure with rings. Next process the tuna in a pressure canner for 100 minutes (some universities are now recommending 110 minutes, do your own research as to which processing time you need to use) at 10 lbs of pressure and remember to adjust for your altitude.
If you too live near the coast perhaps you’d like to give this a try – or maybe you’d like to give this a try with some fish you can buy at your local market on a smaller scale?
*This recipe and process is approved and tested to be safe but ALWAYS cross reference online canning instructions with trusted sources…(click here for the source)
What About Radiation in Pacific Tuna?
Click here to read a well researched article about the radiation found in California tuna from Natural News.
In this article it states that the radiation they found in the California tuna was not much higher that what is naturally found in all fish (everything has some radiation to it) the only reason why it was identified as coming from Fukushima was because of a specific isotope they found which only occurs from man made radiation. That being said, I support the efforts for more testing and do not judge anyone for wanting to avoid the fish. For some people any additional radiation is too much.