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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010 Tuna Put-Up + Gluten Free Thai Fish Cakes

Albacore Tuna in the Ocean
For health reasons, I am increasing our family's weekly consumption of seafood. We can't afford quality, sustainably caught fish at retail prices, so I have been organizing bulk purchases with our buying club and working directly with fishermen whenever I can. This summer, we purchased 22 pounds of sockeye salmon fillets through Iliamna Fish Company's CSA and my husband caught two chinook salmon on the Willamette. He may fish for salmon again this fall. Recently, I ordered ten pounds of Marine Stewardship Certified halibut fillets from Azure Standard. I would like to stock up on other fish and seafood as well. Dungeness crab are high on my list, as are Oregon pink shrimp and Pacific sardines, but this week, it's all about tuna.

Albacore Tuna in Jars Before Processing
Last year I made my first foray into canning tuna at home. I bought three whole, flash-frozen fish (each about ten pounds) from an Astoria fisherman. The canned tuna was marvelous--even my husband, who has always insisted he does not like canned tuna, liked Chez Musser brand tuna. As so many have said, once you've canned your own, you'll never go back to the pet food sold in grocery stores. (By the way, don't feed your cat canned tuna, it has too much sodium. Offer occasional raw or cooked tuna. My cat prefers raw tuna and I only offer him what I would eat myself.) While I was determined to can my own again, I did not relish the process and mess of filleting several tuna at home. Also, while many people in our buying club were interested in stocking up on tuna, they didn't know how or didn't want to fillet their own.

Albacore Tuna in Sealed Jars
I was still unsure about what to do when I met someone who mentioned off-hand that she and her friends bought tuna pre-filleted by the fishermen who caught it. Well, Hello! Why hadn't I thought of that? Google led me to Oregon Tuna, a family owned operation that fishes off the Pacific and docks in Warrenton. Our buying club ordered 150 pounds of filleted tuna from them altogether, which I picked up at the dock on Wednesday, filling four coolers to their brims.

I appreciate tuna because it's local, abundant, and versatile. Because we're buying smaller fish than those caught for commercial canneries, I worry less about mercury contamination, but still limit our tuna consumption to no more than one serving a week. The 42 pounds I canned and froze this week will provide my family of four just that for most of the year.

Before I begin a big preservation project always have a plan for what I'm going to do. Most frequently, I follow a divide and conquer approach. I decide on several ways to preserve and figure out ways that I can keep some of what I have on hold while I process the rest. In this case, I wanted 48-50 half-pints of canned tuna, which would require about approximately 20 pounds of loins, and that I would have scraps and loin ends leftover from canning, as well as some whole loins. 

We now have
  • 50 half-pints, canned
  • ten 1-lb packs of loins for sushi, searing, or smoking, frozen
  • four 1-lb packs of loin ends for fish cakes, frozen
  • three tail pieces (about two pounds) for smoking, frozen
  • one 3-lb pack of loins for November canning class, frozen
  • one pound of scraps leftover from canning for Thai fish cakes.
Albacore Tuna in the Freezer
I adapted the Thai Fish Cake recipe from Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. These were simply delicious served with a quick pickle of cucumbers made with rice wine vinegar, though I might have made a relish with cucumbers, lime juice, fish sauce, chile sauce, and sesame oil if I were serving guests. Also, I realized while we were eating that lemongrass would have made a wonderful addition to these fish cakes...probably just a tablespoon finely minced would be perfect.

1 pound fresh tuna, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients except coconut oil. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Form mixture into 2-inch patties, they will be quite moist. Gently place each patty into the pan as you form them. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes on each side until golden brown, turning carefully (I used two spatulas to turn mine). Drain on a cooling rack.


  1. I'm digging your website! Our family has recently desired to go into fishing as a way to increase of self sufficiency and know where much of our meat comes from. The problem comes in that I don't really know what is going on with the fish thing. I'm totally clueless about fish.

    However, I'm highly excited about canning our own tuna. We live close to you all and my family has a beach house in Long Beach, Washington we inherited. I'm highly familiar with Warrenton and would love to support the local families. However, I have almost no idea about what a loin is, what really is involved in a "tail end" or such. Could you possibly help me out here? Is a loin basically a fillet?

    I checked out the website and it said they would do the loining for 6 dollars a fish...is that filleting? Any help here would be great!

  2. Ooh, canning at the beach house would be awesome! I drove out from PDX to Warrenton and back with our haul and didn't get to start canning until the next day. If you have a cook stove, you can do it outside and not have your house reek of fish for days.

    Yep, the loin is the fillet and loining is filleting. The loin is a big, long boneless piece of meat, tapered at each end. There are four loins per tuna. When canning, you can just cut the loin into 2" thick pieces and they fit perfectly into a half-pint wide mouth canning jar. The "tail pieces" I'm referring to are the tapered ends. Due to their shape, they don't fit well in a jar, so I save them for smoking later. The $6/per fish loining is totally worth it IMO. They do a nice job--way neater than we can--and you don't have to deal with fish guts (though our chickens would love to have them as a treat).

  3. You are awesome! Thank you so much for all the info. I'm going to call/email them tomorrow to find out prices and a good time to pick everything up. This is SO great!

  4. Yer welcome. That post should have gone up last September. Something went wrong at some point. Anyway. Oregon tuna season is mid-August thru mid- to late-September. You could comfort yourself with some Dungeness crab...