Skip to main content

What is Conserva and Why Canned Seafood is Perfect for Quarantine

It could be argued that conserva was unintentionally built for the quarantine. The Old World cuisine, focused on preserved fare often packed into tins for lengthy storage and transit, is precisely the kind of tough-to-perish grub we need right now.

Prior to the pandemic, the food style was already coming back to life. Like White Zin or Merlot, conserva was something that had been out of fashion long enough that its renaissance was only a matter of time. Suddenly, tins of sardines in red sauce and trout in olive oil started showing up in wine bars and restaurants throughout the country. There was something cool about the category’s military-esque efficiency — like rations for the foodie.

can of fish
Dusty Pixel/Getty Images

Conserva is still cool, if not even more so now, and we hope always will be. In coastal European countries like Spain, France, and Portugal, the genre has been big for a long, long time. It’s essentially fish in a can, but way, way better than the bulk bottom-shelf tuna we’re accustomed to here in the U.S. Conserva is built around staples of the sea such as mackerel, octopus, tuna fillets, and hake. It’s casual for certain, but tasty.

So much more ends up in the tin. Conserva is known to include sea urchin caviar, scallops, cockles, baby eels, and sea bass. Some specialty shops even include rillettes and pâtés in their conserva collections, set in a tin and, again, ideal with bread and wine. Just sampling through a few tins or jars will have you envisioning new ways of using vinegars, pasta sauces, and your favorite oils. 

Most of the time, the fish is preserved in sauce or olive oil, meaning an abundance of dipping opportunities. Translation: A good baguette is conserva’s best friend. An edible sponge of sorts, the mini loaf of bread can sop up all of the deliciousness at the bottom of the tin. Conserva’s other best friend? Wine, of course. Given the briny, seafaring qualities of the food — not to mention its Old World origins — we suggest racy whites like Albariño or Muscadet. That, or bone-dry rosés or light and lively reds like Gamay Noir or the sea-kissed reds grown near volcanoes.

Caputo’s in Salt Lake City has one of the best selections and can ship all over the country. The store boasts conservas from eleven producers from all over, including a Patagonia collaboration (that’s also a B-Corp). One of the most eye-catching and delicious is JOSÉ, with its vast selection and gorgeous art-filled packaging. If you’re stocking up your pantry and want to do so in style, with a little European flair, this is the way to go. 

Obviously, if you like seafood there’s plenty to adore with conserva. But there’s also added draw in the fact that the food is so dialed-in. The protein is generally harvested fresh, packed in some tasty liquid, and placed into a small and recyclable container. There’s hardly any excess plastic or waste from individually wrapping everything.

Better still, it’s a fuss-free way to dine well. Crack open a few tins, pull out some bread, and pop a bottle of wine. It’s a great lunch of afternoon snack and can be made into a full-on supper with little more than some added pasta, or complementary items like olives and cheese, a simple salad, or a few vegetable options (ones that also dip well, like asparagus, bell pepper, and other crudités). Have a lemon or two on hand just to be safe, as a splash of fresh citrus can bring some of the simpler fish options to life.

You’ll be left with very few dirty dishes and the sense that you just dined on a sun-drenched beach in Mallorca, Nice, or Lagos. Conservas is food for the soul anytime, and all the more so now as summer approaches and we get the itch to travel, but can really only safely do so in our heads.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
You can now get Buffalo Trace and Chris Stapleton’s new whiskey, and it’s perfect for winter
Will you be a lucky one to get this limited-quantity expression?
Traveller Whiskey with a glass of it next to the bottle

If you’re a fan of whiskey, you know all about the name Buffalo Trace. The iconic Kentucky distillery makes some of the most well-known whiskeys (specifically bourbon whiskey) on the market. We’re talking about names like Weller, Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, and others.

If you’re a fan of blues, rock, country, and soulful music, you’re well aware of Chris Stapleton. The singer is clearly a fan of whiskey, with multiple songs about whiskey (including his hit Tennessee Whiskey), and has even partnered with Buffalo Trace in the past to collaborate on a special E.H. Taylor expression. It was only a matter of time before he got a whiskey of his own.

Read more
Why are eggs so expensive? What pasture raised eggs, cage-free eggs, and organic eggs mean
All the egg marketing terms, explained
Eggs in a carton

Marketing terms can be tricky to understand, but understanding marketing terms in the egg section at the grocery store is a whole new level of confusion. Claims made on packages such as "cage-free" and "organic" can confuse many of us. Aren't all eggs just eggs? As much as we'd like the answer to be yes, several differences exist in the eggs in your grocery store. Beyond the considerable range of prices for eggs, each of the classifications of eggs holds a different meaning.

Shopping for eggs, however, doesn't have to be confusing forever. Once you understand what each term means, you'll find it easier to choose the best eggs in any grocery store you frequent. If you've ever wondered why one carton of eggs is more than double the price of the one sitting beside it, here's why.

Read more
What is saffron and why is it so expensive?
What saffron is, and how to use it
saffron flowers

Many people know saffron as one of the most expensive spices in the world - but few know why. Saffron has many uses, including its use as a flavorful spice in Moroccan, Indian, and Iranian cuisines. Some people also use this precious spice for its health benefits, such as its cancer-fighting properties and even boosting mood in individuals with anxiety or depression. So, what's in saffron that makes it so unique?

If you've been curious about this special spice, this guide is for you. Here, we'll break down where saffron comes from, how it is used, and what makes it one of the most expensive spices in the world.

Read more