In the late 1800’s, canned fish was primarily sardines. In 1903, due to a combination of over-fishing and poor ocean conditions, the catch of sardines was exceptionally poor. One canner, Albert P. Halfhil, saw that he was going to have lots of empty sardine tins; he had to figure out a way to fill them. He experimented with packing the empty sardine cans with locally caught albacore tuna. It was readily available, providing plenty of fish to fill the empty sardine tins. In his first year Halfhil sold 700 cases and by 1914 he was producing 400,000 cases per year. During the 1920’s canners were also canning skipjack, bluefin, and yellowfin. By 1954 the world’s largest tuna producer and consumer was the United States.
In the United States, 52% of canned tuna is used for sandwiches; 22% for salads; and 15% for casseroles and dried, packaged meal mixes.
In the US, only albacore can be sold in canned form as “white meat tuna”.
Below is a little spin on the wildly popular 1950’s Tuna Casserole Recipe. It was one of my favorite’s as a child, and kid’s still love it today!
1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
¼ Cup Milk
2 TBSP All-Purpose Flour
2 TBSP Onion, minced
1 Small Package Frozen Peas, thawed
2 Cans (6.5 oz. each) Albacore Tuna, drained
1 Jar (2 oz.) Chopped Pimiento
1 ½ Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 9-Inch Pie Crust, Baked
Preheat oven to 425°. Combine soup, milk, flour and onion in a small saucepan; cook, stirring until thickened. Add peas, tuna, and pimiento and heat through. Turn hot filling into baked pie shell. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.