To Our Customers:
The older I get the faster time goes by. It is now the beginning of fall (almost) and holidays are approaching. Where did the rest of the year go? This newsletter has the remarkable tuna products from Consorcio in Spain, a wonderful oil, and wines to tempt you and to lead into the holidays. Remember, they are right around the corner.
Tuna is an historically famous food. The word tuna itself comes from the Phoenician “than” meaning a big animal. For the Etruscans, it was a symbol of the ability to keep oneself afloat with one’s own strength. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tuna is also the “big fish” which swallowed Jonah in the Old Testament.
For several years, I have tried to import Consorcio, the most highly regarded tuna brand sold in finicky Italy. Finally I have succeeded. Consorcio is Spanish–Consorcio Español Conservero–founded in Santoña, Cantábria, Spain in 1950. Santoña is a village right on the coast of northern Spain facing the Bay of Biscay. Consorcio was the brand of tuna that I would search out in Italy and Spain, load into my suitcase and carry home. I think this is the finest tuna currently available and now available at Corti Brothers.
Corti Brothers has for some time offered the As do Mar brand from the Azores, which, Consorcio not being available, was very good. With our importation of Consorcio, we will continue to offer As do Mar, but those customers who are fond of it should try Consorcio just to taste the difference.
Consorcio's tuna line is much more extensive, varied and of higher caliber than anything I have tasted. And I have tasted all available, both here and in Europe. With our importation of Consorcio, we have not only tuna: Bonito Del Norte white tuna; Atun yellowfin tuna; but Anchoas (anchovies from the bay of Biscay); Sardinillas (tiny sardines); and the Entremes De Bonito, a superb white tuna pâté.
The first appearance of olive oil preserved tuna is noted in Seville, Spain, in the 1400s. It was here that tuna belly, “ventresca,” was preserved in olive oil after first having been boiled in sea water and then let dry. The olive oil enriched the ventresca, keeping it soft and flavorful.
Rudimentary food canning technology began in Europe during the Napoleonic period. Food stuffs were then available for consumption in a state other than just dried or salted. In the USA, tinned food had the nickname of “war babies,” since they were the by-product of wartime. (Remember tinned military rations.) The canning of fish products was a natural extension of food canning, since highly perishable fish could be preserved with flavor characteristics more intact than by drying or salting.
The first tins of canned tuna in oil appear in Genoa, Italy in 1868. Ten years later, Genoese producers had adopted this procedure to all the tuna plants they ran in Spain, Portugal, and Tunisia. It is from this period that quality tuna and Genoa become synonymous. Consorcio tuna is the most highly prized tuna in Genoa and Italy.
Curiously, the first important fish for the canning industry was the sardine. When there was a cyclical shortage of sardines for canning–this industry begins in Nantes, France in 1834–tuna was substituted. In the USA, sardines were first canned in1867 in Eastport, Maine, along with lobster. In California, tuna canning begins in 1907 in San Pedro with 250 cases of product, as a result of a shortage of sardines.
In Spain’s northern Cantábria region, sardines (Sardina pilchardus) are caught during the annual “sardinera,” the spring and summer fishing season. Sardines are pelagic fish, living close to the water’s surface in relatively warm coastal water on the continental shelf. They are found all over the world, a highly complex group of over 300 species.
Caught at the right biological moment when their flesh is fattest and juiciest, Atlantic sardines are preferable to Mediterranean ones from a quality standpoint. Consorcio Sardinillas are unique due to their small size and delicate flavor. Traditionally, sardines in tins were laid down to age, developing finer flavor and texture. The Sardinillas would be excellent candidates for this treatment. Just store in a wine cellar and turn the tins over every six months.
Anchovies are either hated or prized. These small, humble fish are not only an appreciated part of the human diet, but are part of the diet of other commercial fish species such as tuna. When caught in the bay of Biscay, the Cantábrico, during the April to July spring fishing season, they undergo an aging period–el anchoado–lasting several months with the fish layered with salt in containers. During the anchoado, anchovies lose water and fat, incorporate salt and change color, scent, and flavor. They are then washed and filleted, dried, and tinned with olive oil. Consorcio Seleccion Platino, is the highest quality the firm produces. Thick, completely free of any bones or skin, they are a semi-conserve product, not at all like normal tinned anchovies, and they should be stored at cool room temperature, say, like a wine cellar when unopened, refrigerated after opening. In two sizes, 50 or 90 grams, the only question is which to buy.
Consorcio produces two types of tuna: Bonito Del Norte white tuna (Thunnus alalunga) and Atun yellowfin or light tuna (Thunnus albacares.) Bonito Del Norte is only one of the species of the tuna family, but the most prized. It takes its name from its long pectoral fins. With a large head, large round eyes and a brilliant body color–dark blue on its back and lighter gray on its sides, it can only live in waters of moderate temperature since its circulatory system is similar to that of mammals.
The Bonito fishing season in Cantábria is from July to October and fishing is done with rods and hooks. This means that Consorcio Bonito Del Norte is fished one by one, and is dolphin safe. There is no question of unacceptable “by catch.” Bonito del Norte is the most flavorful and soft textured tuna. The meat color is the palest of the tunas and is the only one that can be called “white.” Yellowfin is just slightly darker than bonito and is called “light tuna.” Blue fin tuna (Thunnus thynnus,) caught in the Mediterranean and famous for sashimi, is the darkest.
Bonito Del Norte white tuna is available in several different packs: chunk style, loins and ventresca.