Lucky me that my parents spend part of their retirement in Spain. Every December they head for Dénia and enjoy three months a year full of Spanish sun. One thing they can always be sure of is that I get the travel bug at least once during their stay in the beautiful port city. Over time, I came to feel increasingly local and adapt to many habits – such as the Spaniards’ obsession with canned food.
Why Spain Is the Conservas Heaven
I’m pretty sure that I can’t get enough of Spanish delicacies in cans because I can easily take them home to preserve the Mediterranean taste back in good (c)old Germany. What makes them so special is that most of them contain gourmet food products. Some conservas are even more expensive than a really good steak. No surprise, after all they’re often labelled with the denominación de origen (DO) status, the Spanish regulatory classification system which recognizes a product’s superior quality and is commonly used for designating wine or ham. Unbelievable, but true: canned specialties from Spain are locked up on the supermarket shelves in many cases.
In Spain, mainly family companies are involved in the conservas business. They invest time and pick only the best ingredients during the canning process. The manufacturers make sure that everything finds its way into the can in the right amount, at the right time and in the right size or number. Of course, the recipes remain well-kept secrets.
Well enough said so far. Finally, here come my three favourite Spanish delicacies:
Whenever I have the sea just steps away, I eat as much fish as possible, first and foremost sardines. In order to relive the vacation mode at home, canned vintage sardines are the perfect choice. Just like wine their canned variant needs time to get its proper flavor and the can makes it possible. They enter it freshly caught after being cleaned, deboned and steamed. Then, they are cured in salt and cold-pressed olive oil. You shouldn’t miss out on buying a can of vintage sardines as a souvenir from your next trip to Spain.
Let’s continue with another fish I prefer fresh from the can: anchovies (now at the latest I must confess that I’m a true fish addict)! I absolutely love their buttery salty and smooth taste which gets even better after curing some time in the can. The best Spanish anchovies generally come from the Cantabrian Sea. Brands such as Don Bocarte really know their craft so that the costs for a can containing twenty of the small fish can quickly add up to around thirty euros.
To be honest: Sangría isn’t a real specialty. But it’s tasty and that’s reason enough for the Spanish drink be on this list. Buying a canned Sangría, taking it to the beach and enjoying it while watching the sunset means holiday to me! At home, I always spice it up with my favourite canned fruits: mango and pineapple. Always keep in mind: ¡Servir muy fría!
Another delicacy everyone is raving about are canned mussels. As a typical Mediterranean food they deserve to be featured in this article much more than Sangría, but I do not like these slimy fellows at all. Sorry. 😉
By the way: It was kind of a coincidence that the first conservas arrived in Spain. Around 1840 a French sailboat loaded with cans shipwrecked and the Spanish discovered this clever invention from their neighbouring country. They just needed one year to build the first fish canning factories shortly after they put the first vegetables in cans. The canned food industry expanded very fast so that today Spain is among the primary producers of canned goods in the world. You see, the southern European country has a really long canning tradition, which is worth to support by always buying some canned souvenirs when travelling there. 🙂
What other canned specialties would you add to this shopping list?