Millésime: The Art of Aging Canned Fish | Le Gourmet Central - LE GOURMET CENTRAL
Millésime: The Art of Aging Canned Fish | Le Gourmet Central

Millésime: The Art of Aging Canned Fish | Le Gourmet Central

Published by Le Gourmet Central on 13th Jun 2023

When it comes to gastronomy, we know that many things only get better with age, like red wine, cheese, and whiskey. In some corners of Spain, preserved fish are now a part of that list. These aged canned fish are known as millésime and are becoming more and more popular.
What makes a great millésime in the canned fish world and how can you choose the best varieties?
Read our guide to learn more about the benefits of vintage fish and how to choose the best variety.

What is Millésime?

The French term millésime literally translates to “a great vintage”. It’s most commonly used to refer to good years, or vintages, in wine and champagne. Canned fish aficionados have adopted its use for classifying the vintage of gourmet preserves.

The millésime indicates important data, such as its year of capture while emphasizing that the fish used in the preparation of the preserve is of exceptional quality, with a unique texture and flavor.

The label should tell you a lot about the fish you are about to enjoy, including the date of capture and the methods of processing used to preserve the fish. Different seasons are known as a guarantee of a unique flavor and texture. Some brands even include the name of the boat, area, and fishing gear.

The award-winning Bonito del Norte Fillets Tuna Belly in Sunflower Oil is a great introduction to the world of aged canned fish. It has a wonderfully delicate flavor profile that tastes great with a little bit of bread and fresh greens. Sprinkle some lemon over your fish to make the taste pop.

Photo credit: Conservas El Capricho

How Does Aging the Fish Help?

So, does canned fish really get better with age? Yes, as long as the fish is preserved correctly and is a good quality fish.

In order to make cans intended for a vintage, the fish are captured at their fattest. Then they are canned artisanally with low amounts of salt and with using the best quality oil, like EVOO.

Now the waiting game begins. As the millésime slowly matures inside the can, the fish acquires a more intense and authentic flavor. Although it is not an exact science, experts say that it can take sardines as long as 10 years to reach their best and most complex flavor.

The most popular aged preserves are sardines, but other canned oily fish such as tuna, white tuna, or mackerel are also popular.

Photo credit: Conservas Ramón Peña

Benefits of Eating Preserved Fish

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world, with inhabitants boasting long life expectancies. Canned fish is an essential part of the cuisine and is a versatile superfood.

Fish contains plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids that help improve your cardiovascular health. Depending on the fish variety, they also contain vitamin D, vitamin B12, choline, iron, calcium, and iodine.

Some preserves use cheap chunk fish and overload the can with cheap vegetable oils and tons of salt. Avoid these and instead choose a fish preserved in high-quality oils and minimal salt. This Bonito del Norte, captured in the traditional way from Ortiz, is an excellent choice for a healthy, top-quality white tuna preserve.

Photo credit: Conservas Ortiz

Is it Safe to Eat Old Fish?

Properly canned fish will last for years and can be eaten safely. Check older cans for bulging, dents, rust, or anything else that seems out of the ordinary. If something seems off, don’t risk it. Keep your cans in a cool, dry, and dark place to maximize their length of freshness.

Canning works by sealing the food completely and then cooking it. The heat sterilizes the contents, which kills off any bacteria. If the can remains undamaged, new bacteria cannot reach the food, so the fish will never spoil.

Cheaper fish like chunk white tuna will start to degrade in quality after about 3 years but remain safe to eat. Higher-quality fish can continue maturing and improving its flavor profiles for years.

Photo credit: Conservas Ramón Peña

How to Choose a Quality Canned Fish

A good quality preserved fish will tell a story through its packaging. Pay special attention to the sea where the fish was captured, the oil, and the type of fish used. Fillets or even whole fish will always be of higher quality than chunked fish.

Enjoy these delicious Anchovy Fillets in Extra Virgin Olive Oil by El Capricho in a Gilda, on crusty bread, or with fresh salted potato chips. Filleted by hand, these anchovies have a complex umami flavor.

Photo credit: Conservas El Capricho

Pour some dry white wine and try these whole gourmet sardines in olive oil by Ramon Peña. They taste great alone, on salads, or on a cracker. These sardines are specially caught only during the season between May to October when the fish are guaranteed to be the best quality.

Once you start trying different canned fish, you will expand your palate and discover what your favorite varieties are. When you find a particularly good vintage of fish, save it for a special occasion or whenever you want an indulgent treat.

Bon appetit!

1 item added to your cart

Your Cart: item(s)

Order Subtotal:

Customers also viewed