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Canned foods: the new luxury

With a wide range of Spanish and Portuguese brands working hard to deliver top quality canned products, the so-called latas have become the new luxury. It turns out that caviar is not the only canned delicatessen!

By Valeska Idarraga

From the quintessential white tuna in olive oil to fancier sea products such as salt-cured anchovy fillets packed in extra virgin olive oil, buttery Galician mussels in brine or creamy Cantabrian razor clams in a light vinaigrette, preserves are no longer soldier food. With a wide range of Spanish and Portuguese brands working hard to deliver top quality canned foods, the so-called latas have become the new luxury. It turns out that caviar is not the only canned delicatessen!


Photo credits: Up, Conserveira Pinhais & Cia, Lda / Down, Paladar y Tomar

The evolution of preserves

Did you know that food canning was invented in the beginning of the 19th century by Parisian chef Nicolas Appert, who satisfied Napoleon’s wish to come up with a convenient way to feed the French army during the war? Indeed, by sealing cooked foods hermetically in cans and jars, they retained all their nutrients while still being easily transportable.

It was Peter Durand, though, who in 1810 patented the first tin container, becoming a packaging pioneer. Some years later, in 1840, the first conservas arrived in Spain, which would soon become one of the biggest markets of such goods. Since those early days, canning has evolved enormously, to the point where preserves are no longer a survival product nor a pantry staple for lazy cooks but a new sort of gourmet food now used at the world’s top restaurants —partly thanks to the influence of Catalan chef Ferran Adrià.

This is one of the reasons why a new eating concept has emerged in some Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Portugal: the lateo, or eating canned-based tapas paired with vermouth or wine as an appetizer or entrée. We’re thinking of tinned cockles, scallops, sardines, octopus, squid… although the offer of canned treasures is continuously expanding.


Photo credits: Paul Winch-Furness, restaurant Tinca, London / Palacio de Oriente

While the canning industry in Spain and Portugal has always been strong, especially when it comes to seafood, during the last decade the conservas world has been reshaped offering exclusive preserves to satisfy the most discerning palates. So much that the most gourmet brands treat latas and conservas like good wine: carefully selecting the best parts of the ingredients and taking care of their aging process to get the most high quality and flavorful preserves.

Nutritional quality

The best news about canned delicacies? They preserve the ingredients’ proteins, carbs and fats, as well as most minerals and vitamins. Even more, the canning technique improves fish and seafood qualities. Although nothing beats eating fresh produce, preserved foods are still not only a healthy option but a quick and easy way to put a meal together.

Their versatility in the kitchen is outstanding: fish preserves can be part of a fresh salad, they can go in sandwiches, they can be mixed in sauces and pasta dishes, or they can simple be served on top of some tomato bread, just to name a few ideas! 

Vermouth hour is closely associated to canned fish: cockles, pickled mussels, olives and chips are the traditional quartet.

And let’s not forget about the wide range of non-fish canned goods such as beans, vegetables, mushrooms, olives or even jams and marmalades! As canning involves sterilizing the foods, none of them contain preservatives.


The art of branding canned foods

Since the last few years, canning companies understood that nowadays branding plays an important role in marketing latas, so they rolled up their sleeves to reinvent their packaging with eye catching and sleek designs to match the quality of the delicacies they contain. Conserveira de Lisboa, for example, conveys a vintage feel with their colorful old designs, something in the line of what A Poveira and Galician brand Catrineta do too. On the other side, we have companies such as Rosa Lafuente, Artemar and Jose Gourmet, offering a contemporary and refined image that make these products a perfect gift for food lovers.

Looking into some more specific recommendations, in a coming post we will put together a list of preserved fish and sea food products from Spain and Portugal that stand out for their high quality.


Photo credits: Don Bocarte “13 chefs, 13 recipes, FeelingFood Milán 2016”, Spain / Rosa Lafuente, Spain

Doesn’t it sound tempting? Sometimes affordable and sometimes a little pricey, but 100% worth it, if you’ve ever been in Cúrate you know it well. Our expeditions across Portugal and Catalonia & Andalusia are an opportunity to discover that latas can taste gourmet and are deeply rooted in the Mediterranean diet.

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