The last large sardine cannery in the United States, the Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor, Maine, closed its doors on April 15, 2010, after 135 years in operation.
What’s a sardine? Good question. Sardine is a generic term to describe around 20 different small, soft-boned, oily fish. In Britain, they are usually pilchards. Sometimes what you get in a sardine can is a herring, sometimes it is a sprat. Sardine and pilchard are common names used to refer to various small, oily fish in the herring family. The term "sardine" was first used in English during the early 15th century and may come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant.
The terms sardine and pilchard are not precise. The United Kingdom's Sea Fish Industry Authority classifies sardines as young pilchards. One criterion suggests fish shorter in length than 6 inches are sardines, and larger fish are pilchards. The standard for canned sardines cites 21 species that may be classed as sardines.
Typically, sardines are caught with encircling nets. The fish are caught mainly at night, when they approach the surface to feed on plankton. After harvesting, they are submerged in brine while they are transported to shore.
Sardines are fished for a variety of uses: bait, immediate consumption, drying, salting or smoking, reduction into fish meal or oil. The chief use of sardines is for human consumption and they are a nutrient-rich fish commonly served in cans, but fresh sardines are often grilled, pickled, or smoked. Sardine oil has many uses, including the manufacture of paint, varnish, and linoleum.
Because they are low in the food chain, sardines are very low in contaminants, such as mercury, relative to other fish commonly eaten by humans. They are canned in many different ways. At the cannery, the fish are washed, their heads are removed, and the fish are then smoked or cooked, either by deep-frying or by steam-cooking, after which they are dried. They are then packed in either olive, sunflower, or soybean oil, water, or in a tomato, chili, or mustard sauce.
Good-quality sardines should have the head and gills removed before packing. They may also be gutted before packing; if not, they should be purged of undigested or partially digested food or feces by holding the live fish in a tank long enough for them to empty their digestive systems.
Sardines are typically tightly packed in a small can which is scored for easy opening, either with a pull tab or with a key attached to the side of the can. Thus, it has the benefit of being an easily portable, nonperishable, self-contained food. The close packing of sardines in the can has led to their metaphorical use of the name in describing any situation where people or objects are crowded together.
Sardine cans and labels are also collectibles. Collecting antique food cans and labels became a widespread hobby in the 1960s, and is still popular today. Many can and label collectors focus on a specific type of product that holds particular meaning or historical significance for them. Those who have regional or family ties to the early fisheries industry often find collecting historic sardine cans. SardineKing prides itself in being home to the Internet's largest collection of vintage sardine can labels specific to California. You can visit their online gallery to view an impressive collection of sardine can labels that represent the California canning industry.
|a $200 sardine pendant|
Decorative food containers and labels of all types can be incorporated into many different styles of home decor. Framed sardine can labels can make an excellent addition to the wall art in your kitchen or dining room. Vintage sardine cans are great for filling in display areas on kitchen shelving units or cupboards. At least that's what one site says.
Historic Sardine Can Labels