Albacore tuna can easily be canned and stored to ensure flavorful fish all throughout the year. With that said, canning albacore tuna will be a labor of love. Albacore tuna is a very low acid food, which means it needs to be canned in a pressure canner or pressure pot (the ones with a clamp-down lid w/gauge). You cannot use a water bath canner to properly can albacore tuna like a pro.
The process of canning albacore tuna will take the better part of a day, but it will be well worth your time and effort. If you want to learn how to can albacore tuna-like a true pro, let this article be your guide.
When Canning Fish, Go For Quality
Before we get into the process of actually canning albacore tuna, let’s talk the basics: getting quality fish.
Aside from catching the fish yourself (not possible for all states), visit a local fish market or monger to bulk-order freshly caught albacore tuna that has been cleaned, bled, and prepared in long single-piece loins. Depending on where you live, you should have plenty of options for buying tuna.
You can also plan on buying a whole fish and filleting yourself. Keep in mind, you generally want there to be three-quarters of a pound of whole fish per one half-pint jar of filleted tuna you plan on canning.
During the filleting process, you will experience about 50% wastage, especially if you’re not a skilled knife handler. Still, it will be cheaper overall if you plan on doing the dirty work yourself. If you want to fill about 24 half-pint jars, you’ll probably want to buy a little under 50 lbs of tuna.
Supplies For Canning Albacore Tuna
Once you’ve got your fish sorted out, you’ll need to purchase the proper supplies. As mentioned above, you’re going to need a pressure cooker or pressure canner if you don’t already have one on hand. You cannot do a water bath to can albacore tuna. You can buy these at most hardware stores or box stores like Home Depot. We recommend buying the biggest pressure canner or pot you can find. This will allow you to do more jars at once.
Next, you’re going to want to pick up your desired jars, lids, and rings. For the most part, you’ll want to stick with half-pint or pint-sized glass canning jars. Wide mouth jars will work best as they’ll accommodate the albacore tuna chunks.. Each half-pint or pint-sized jar will hold enough tuna to make several tuna sandwiches or casseroles.
Make sure you go for a reputable jar brand like Ball (link to browse Ball products on Amazon), this can help to alleviate any headaches with cracks or fissures going forward.
Setting Up to Can Albacore Tuna
Before you fillet or chop your fish-loins, have your supplies set up and on the ready. Check every jar you have on hand for chips or cracks. The last thing you want is to get halfway through the process only to have jars filled with tuna breaking in your canner or on countertops. For this reason, we recommend using new jars as it lessens the risk.
As soon as you have your jars at home, wash your jars thoroughly (do not use soap). We recommend using boiling water to sanitize or running the dishwasher on hot (once again, no soap). Lids should be boiled in a saucepan on the stove. Keep lids in the water until you’re ready to use them. Remember, lids cannot be reused after canning. Jars and rings can be used, but lids are single-use only.
As mentioned above, we do recommend using wide-mouth jars for the tuna canning process. Additional supplies you should set up now include:
- A very-sharp non-serrated knife
- A non-porous cutting board
- Food-safe disposable gloves
- Two bowls (large and small), one to hold the tuna and one for scraps.
- Canning salt (optional)
- Tuna loins
Once your supplies are in order, it is time to get to the good stuff: preparing the fish.
Preparing Albacore Tuna For Canning
Place your fish on your non-porous cutting board (avoid wood or you’ll be dealing with some rancid stench) and cut the fish loins into reasonable chunk size pieces. The pieces should be large enough to fill the jar from edge to edge, yet there should be enough space left that there is a 1-inch gap between the top piece of fish and the top of the jar.
Next, get out a small cup and fill it with a little olive oil. Fill a small dish with a reasonable amount of salt. If your jars aren’t already sanitized and lined up in a row, do this now. Once your jars are sanitized and lined up, place olive oil and a piece of albacore into each jar.
Strive to avoid creating any air pockets in the jars by filling any gaps with smaller pieces of fish. Remember, leave a 1-inch space between the top piece of tuna and the rim of the jar. Without this space, your jars will not seal and your fish will not be preserved.
Each jar on your counter should have olive oil and a round chunk of albacore. You may have more than one chunk if you are filling air pockets. Take a solid pinch of salt and put it on top of the fish in each jar.
How to Can Albacore Tuna
With all of the basic preparation out of the way, it is time to actually can your albacore tuna like a total pro. Let’s break down the steps:
- To begin, take a clean towel that is dampened with hot water. Wipe down the rim along every jar to ensure there is no debris from the salt or tuna. Any trace debris will keep your jars from properly sealing.
- Start to place a lid on each jar by removing the sanitized jar lids from your pan of hot water. Screw your rings on loosely, but do not tighten just yet.
- Have your pressure cooker or canner ready on the stove. Add just about two-inches of water to the bottom. You do not want too much water in the cooker. Insert a spacer into the cooker so that jars are not directly touching the bottom. Now you can start placing jars one-by-one.
- Start on the outer edges and place jars in a circle, filling in until there is no more room. Some cookers can accommodate up to 8 jars in a single layer, others will hold far less. Once you have the bottom row established, start stacking more rows on top. Generally, you will be able to get around 3-rows with a larger pressure cooker.
- Now comes the part that can give people a bit of anxiety-placing the lid on the cooker. Pressure cookers and canners all have their own instructions as to how to secure a lid into place. Follow those as closely as you can. Then you’ll want to note the type of cooking gauge on your unit. Weighted gauges will cause the unit to rattle upon reaching ideal pressure. A dial gauge with numbers will show you exactly how many pounds of pressure there currently are. For the most part, you want at least 10 pounds of pressure.
- Once your specific gauge has alerted you to optimal pressure, turn down the heat. The idea is for the pressure within the unit to remain constant. There should not be fluctuations. If you have a weighted gauge, your unit will rock and make a whistle/whooshing noise when ideal pressure has been reached. Now set a timer for 90 minutes. Start that timer once the unit is at ideal pressure, around 10 lbs at sea level.
- Once your timer goes off, turn off the heat completely. The jars within the unit will continue to cook even when the heat is turned off. At this point, do NOT yet remove the lid. The unit will still be very hot and the interior pressure contents could be dangerous. Wait at least 1 hour or more before removing the lid from your unit. We know it’s a long process, but safety first.
- Once your gauge notes that the pressure has dropped to zero, find the release button on the lid of the unit. It should be popped. This indicates that the pressure has been released. Do not remove the lid if this button has not yet popped.
- Using a jar lifter or oven mitts, start to remove the jars from the unit one-by-one. Make sure you already have a towel spread out on a table or countertop for the jars to sit upon. As you place the jars down, make sure they do not come in contact with one another as this can keep them from sealing. The jars will continue to cook on the table.
- Now you play the waiting game. Do not touch or handle the jars until you hear them “pop.” This “popping” sound indicates that the jar has actually sealed. The process can take up to 12 hours. Some jars may seal within a few minutes. While it can be frustrating to wait, do not attempt to force your jars to seal. Some will simply seal faster than others.
- After 24 hours, you can assume that the jars that were going to seal have sealed. This is when you’ll want to perform a seal check. To do so, remove the rings from the jars and pull on the lids with your fingers. If the lids come off with ease, the jar has not sealed. On a sealed jar you will not be able to remove the lids without an opener. A jar that has not sealed completely is not shelf-stable and cannot be stored.
- Once jars are cool and sealed off, store them in whichever manner you choose. They do not need to be refrigerated and can be kept in a pantry or cupboard. Get ready to enjoy some tasty sandwiches, you’ve earned it!
Flavor Variations For Canning Albacore Tuna
Don’t just want a basic salted albacore tuna? Have no fear, there are plenty of diverse options you can do to add more flavor to your fish prior to putting them in the canner or pressure cooker. Feel free to experiment with herbs and spices. Simply place them on top of the tuna before you put the lids on the jars. Anything you put into a jar pre-canning will lend the tuna a unique taste. Options include:
- Lemon herb
- Garlic cloves
- Rosemary sprigs
- Cracked pepper
- Old bay seasoning
- Hot Sauce
- Thyme sprigs
You can even unleash your inner chef and get creative with some fun combinations. Just remember to label your jars with any flavorful additions. You don’t want to be surprised when you craft that epic tuna sandwich!