Tinned Fish Makes a Great Gift, Any Time of Year
By Kendra Vaculin and Wilder Davies
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Unexpected and practical, premium but still affordable, fancy tinned fish makes for the perfect small gift any time of year. These days there's so much variety in terms of brands, styles, and flavors available. And the tins themselves are often so well-designed that you can forget about wrapping paper—just slap a bow on a gorgeous package of sardines and you're ready to go.
Here are a few more reasons you should give tinned fish (in case it seems like a crazy idea):
It's undeniably special. Like a fancy condiment or high-brow candy, luxury tinned fish takes a basic pantry staple and elevates it to treat-yourself status. You're giving the gift of something lovely to put out on the appetizer spread at their next cocktail party—or the treat of a Fancy Snack Dinner they can enjoy all by themselves.
It's instant gratification. If you’ve ever created a conserva-focused spread for yourself for dinner, you know it's one of the greatest small pleasures. Fish packed in good olive oil, maybe with a few flavorful spices, needs little else to shine besides crackers or bread, so you’re really giving the gift of a fancy meal that comes together in seconds. Of course, if you do want to get a little more involved, great quality tinned fish is an optimal starting point for all manner of meals.
It's pretty! Can you honestly look at these decorative tins and tell us they don't look like little metal presents? Some of them are so good-looking we're inclined to keep the boxes as art long after the fish inside is gone. Looks do matter when it comes to gifts, and these brands hit the mark.
It lasts forever (or at least a long time). Stocking up on a bunch of fancy tinned fish means that you’ll always have a present in the pantry ready to go—for the holidays, birthdays, and last-minute host gifts. Conservas make a great item to bring along to a party (just add a box of crackers and jar of olives) if you’re charged with predinner snacks.
Anna Hezel, Epi's senior editor and a bona fide tinned fish expert (preorder her cookbook on the very subject, Tin to Table, here), gave us five tinned fish recommendations, each of which would make great gifts. Below that you'll find some other staff favorites. And scroll to the very bottom of the page for an assortment of tinned fish accoutrements for the die hard fans.
L.A.–based Spanish expats Lucia Flors and Carlos Leiva created Siesta to bring conservas from Galicia to a growing number of US consumers. The graphically designed boxes are enticing on their own, but the contents themselves are rich and delicious.
Favorite can: mackerel in EVOOFlavor profile: meaty mackerel in a fruity, rich olive oilEat it with: crunchy veggies
This tin is a collaboration between Island Creek Oysters in Massachusetts and Mariscadora, a team of women shellfish harvesters in Galicia. These are small-batch, hand-harvested seafood offerings—and that's evident in the quality.
Favorite can: musselsFlavor profile: vinegary, savory, with some light warm spiceEat it with: a sleeve of crackers and call it dinner
Wildfish Cannery is a small family business based in the Pacific Northwest that focuses on sustainably caught wild seafood from the region. Its offerings are rustic and environmentally minded and feature northern Pacific delicacies like salmon, rockfish, and geoduck and some really wild and cool limited releases like gooseneck barnacles.Favorite can: the classic smoked king salmonFlavor profile: really nice soft smoke flavorEat it with: a bowl of freshly steamed rice and some furikake
You might recognize this brand from grocery store shelves. Matiz offers quality conservas at affordable prices. Anna suggests cracking open a tin of brined cockles and pretending you’re on vacation in San Sebastian.
Favorite can: cocklesFlavor profile: briny, delicate, and mineral-yEat it with: potato chips and assorted pickles
Not all anchovies are created equal, and Codesa anchovies are proof of that. For those who find anchovies too fishy for their liking, this is the tin that will change your mind. It's just the thing for pulling off a flawless homemade caesar. Storage tip: Keep them in your refrigerator.
Favorite can: the gold series anchoviesFlavor profile: wildly umami, not fishy at all, almost like a nice prosciuttoEat it with: sourdough and lots of butter
The art on the outside of José Gourmet's seafood boxes is so fun it almost doesn't matter what's inside—though, of course, the fish and shellfish the company sources is excellent. On the menus at beloved tinned fish restaurants like Maiden Lane in New York City and Saltie Girl in Boston, José Gourmet's offerings include "plain" sardines and tuna belly in extra virgin olive oil, and flavorful alternatives like spiced calamari in ragout and codfish with garlic.
Chef-driven Scout calls its flavor-packed tinned fish offerings "seacuterie," but each box really can anchor an entire meal (or mix and match with others to create a conserva spread), thanks to the bright and fun added ingredients. Tuna in herby pesto, mussels in paprika and fennel tomato sauce, even buttery lobster—it's all responsibly sourced in Canada and the United States and ready to eat right out of the tin.
Patagonia's push into the grocery space makes sense when you consider its offerings: environmentally friendly and shelf-stable products that make for delicious hiking and camping meals. But you needn't scale a mountain or sleep outdoors to enjoy smoked Atlantic mackerel in olive oil or savory sofrito mussels from Galicia, Spain. The site details the fishing practices for each species its sell, so you can feel good about your purchase.
This is the black-tie version of tinned fish; the matte black and metallics make each box look like it could contain cigars or fancy chocolate instead of tiny preserved fish. The Spain-based company is known for its artisanal offerings, cooked in seawater and tinned the same day as the catch for ultimate freshness. Aside from sardines, pick up a pretty box or two of razor clams or mussels in escabèche.
Fishwife is the brainchild of Caroline Goldfarb and Becca Millstein, friends with a love for tinned fish and an eye for millennial branding. The pair work with with small boat fisherfolk and microcanneries on the West Coast and in Spain to source their salmon and tuna. They offer this explanation with regard to the name: "The term is a gendered insult for women who are brash, foulmouthed, and brassy. We relate."
It's not surprising that tinned fish and conservas, with their visually striking packaging, are inspiration for all sorts of accessories and objects. Below you'll find a sundry assortment of tinned fish memorabilia and accoutrements, including a conservas apron, some chocolates shaped like sardines, antique sardine forks, and a gorgeous porcelain sardine box.It's undeniably special. It's instant gratification. It's pretty! It lasts forever (or at least a long time). Favorite can: Flavor profile: Eat it with: Favorite can: Flavor profile: Eat it with: Favorite can: Flavor profile: Eat it with: Favorite can: Flavor profile: Eat it with: Favorite can: Flavor profile: Eat it with: