Why does our canned albacore taste different than industrial tuna?
It's different fish. We handle it differently on the boat. And it's handled and cooked differently at the cannery. Here's how we catch and prepare our fish.
Our jig-caught albacore are younger fish caught one at a time, near the surface of cold waters in the central and north Pacific. (Just where depends on the season.) They are rich in Omega3s (the fats said to be good for all sorts of ailments including arthritis) because they feed on krill.
Once on the boat, the tuna land on a cushioned platform. First thing we do is bleed them (open their veins to let the blood out), something essential for sushi. We also brain-stun them, an important and painless step that stabilizes their body temperature and so they won't bruise. Decay is the enemy, especially for a mild-flavored soft texture fish like albacore. So we monitor how long they are on deck. We rinse the fish. And then, because the texture ultimately depends on how fast it freezes and the stability of the temperature in the holding room, we make sure they are frozen to the core in 12 hours or less.
At the cannery, our albacore are thawed in the open air, a slow process that takes about 16 hours. Next, the fish are filleted - the same way you would do it at home if you caught the fish yourself. Anything bruised, discolored or bloody is eliminated. "If it ain't white, it ain't right," we like to say.
The fillets are then cut into steaks. The steaks are put in cans, weights checked (pieces mixed and matched if necessary), and the cans sealed. The raw fish is cooked just once in a retort, or pressure canner. This process, called cold-packed canning, is substantially different than the hot-packed canning methods used by Big Tuna.
What about mercury?
Results from an Oregon State University study indicate that young (and therefore jig-caught) albacore are substantially lower in mercury. Our own tests (conducted by Food Quality Labs, in Portland, Oregon) corroborate this.
St. Jude Albacore Salad Niçoise. Photo by Diane Padys
Seared St. Jude Albacore Tuna. Photo by Diane Padys