Time to Level-Up
When it comes to preparing meals at home, the last area I tend to stock up is canned food. Canned ingredients are seldom prioritized because I prefer to cook with the freshest ingredients, farm fresh being the goal. The same comes to cooking, and I realized that I am lacking this skill in my cooking arsenal when it comes to preparing canned food recipes.
This seems like an essential skill while living on a boat. So, it’s high time to level-up.
What’s in your pantry?
In one of the recent episodes from Sailing Project Atticus , Desiree was providing a tour of the galley, including where she stored provisions and her use of combining canned goods with fresh produce to create meals. Behan from Sailing Totem also offers her strategies for cooking pantry meals as the basis for provisioning.
My pantry currently is stocked with the following:
- coconut milk
- evaporated milk
- grass jelly
- pear juice
- San Marzano whole tomatoes
- Portuguese sardines
That’s it in the canned food category that I replenish with any frequency. The only reason for their existence is to serve as ingredients for identified recipes making: Denise’s ultimate chocolate mochi (1 & 2), Taiwanese summer dessert (3 & 4), Momofuku braised short rib (5), marinara sauce (6), and snacks (7 & 8).
Cooking primarily with canned food is not really in my repertoire, so I have an opportunity to hone in this skill before we move aboard RJ Slocum.
Canned Food Recipes
From a simple google query, I discovered some recipes that I would tackle over the next few weeks. These resources include:
- BBC Good Food – Use up tinned ingredients like tomatoes, beans and tuna with these easy dinners. Or try our simple bakes for a great way to use canned fruit.
- Bon Appetit – 10 pantry staples you should always have as well as pantry 2.0 recommendations.
- Cheapism – 30 cheap and easy recipes from canned foods.
- Epicurious – Cult canned food items and what to do with them. Say hello to canned cheese. Another article features many ways to use whole canned tomatoes.
- Love Canned Food – Find the perfect tinned food recipe using affordable delicious canned food products. Canned food recipes can be made quickly for the family.
- The Modern Proper – What canned good should be in a well-stocked pantry? Which ones can you actually build a healthy, quick meal out of? Here’s the TMP list of canned food must-haves.
- Taste of Home – Have canned goods collecting dust in the back of your pantry? Make the most of th
em with these yummy and straightforward canned food recipes.
Since I already have identified specific uses with most of my pantry canned items, I had another look at what else is currently stocked in the pantry. After taking inventory, I discovered we have one can of baked beans, 3 cans of sockeye salmon and 1 can of pineapple chunks.
A few of these items had expiration dates that had long since passed. When I had volunteered at a food bank, I learned not to be too bothered by this since the cans were in good shape.
If you want to evaluate your pantry, feel free to reference this guideline from FoodPrint.
Sockeye salmon options:
- Creole salmon cakes – uses salmon, panko bread crumbs and spices
- Mediterranean salmon pasta – salmon, dry pasta and other pantry staple items
- Salmon chowder – I like the idea of having a steaming mug of chowder to warm up a chilly day while on passage
Baked beans options
- all-in-one baked breakfast – a twist on a shakshuka
- taste homemade – freshen up a canned version into homemade
- beef and bean meatloaf – a meatloaf that can stretch for days as tasty sandwiches
Pineapple chunks options
- Taiwanese pineapple cake – hoping canned can reasonably substitute for the fresh pineapple called for. Alternate recipe based on canned pineapple. Here is a well-researched comparison of pineapple cake recipes.
- Carrot cake – in cake form, this sweet treat will stretch for days
- Pineapple cocktails – options to try beyond a pina colada
So without further ado, here are our top 5 choices from this experiment to seek out the best canned food recipes.
#5 – Salmon Chowder
Given we continue to observe social distancing and staying safe at home, I had to do a number of substitutions on the salmon chowder since I didn’t have all of the ingredients readily available.
- Pantry – canned salmon
- Fridge – mushrooms, onions, sour cream, bacon drippings
- Freezer – peas, homemade beef broth
You’ll be surprised how chunky and warming this dish came out. Yields 8-10 servings and it goes great with some crusty home-made sourdough bread… yet another culinary adventure!
There are many ways to substitute to make this more pantry-friendly, such as:
- canned mushrooms
- canned peas
- evaporated milk
Okay, next up….
#4 – Beef and Bean Meatloaf
Using this recipe from Food in a Minute as a jumping off point, I took into account what other items we currently have stocked in the house, substituting where applicable and supplementing based on preferences:
- Pantry – baked beans, dried portobello mushrooms, panko bread crumbs, sugar, seasonings, BBQ sauce, zacusca and rice (side dish)
- Fridge – celery, onions, eggs, bacon and homemade pickled carrots
- Freezer – ground beef, garlic and peas (side dish)
Without over-handling, this came together as a fairly wet mixture and in retrospect, I would add more panko bread crumbs and eggs for binding. I pan-fried a teaspoon of the mix and adjusted the seasoning. Then, I turned the mixture into two loaf pans.
This made two loaves, which is enough for 16 servings.
Even though Andrew doesn’t mind eating the same meals over and over again, I prefer to vary things up. So the meatloaf made various incarnations: as a sandwich, quesadilla, fritter or served with rice, french fries or mashed potatoes.
#3 – Caribbean Salmon Cakes
After scanning the pantry and refrigerator. I was missing some ingredients for the creole salmon cakes and had to substitute. This also makes for a completely different recipe, so here is my modified version, now renamed “Caribbean Salmon Cakes”.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
2 7.5 ounce cans salmon, Alaskan, wild caught
1 cup Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie)
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup spring onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Sunny Caribbee Jerk spice seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
extra virgin olive oil
Drain salmon and set aside. In a large bowl add minced vegetables, all the spices, mayonnaise and mustard, mix well. Fold in salmon and panko bread crumbs.
Form into 4 patties or you could make appetizer size if desired.
Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add patties in brown for about 4-5 minutes per side until nice and golden brown.
Finish in the oven 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Served hot with cilantro scallion rice.
#2 – Spicy Pineapple Linzer Cookies
I really wanted to bake a traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake, especially since I’m Taiwanese. It’s the national symbol of Taiwan and of good fortune, as the word “pineapple” in Chinese means “prosperity arrives.” Unfortunately, I really don’t like it because it’s dense and dry.
Carrot cake was another option, except Andrew is generally not a fan. As for pineapple cocktails, I am over fruity drinks having consumed a few watermelon mojitos each day (and every day) for the past couple weeks.
Note: I will recycle and upcycle ingredients until we’ve extracted every last ounce of nutrition. There’s no waste in this household!
So, then I came across an interesting recipe from Saveur magazine. The Spicy Pineapple Linzer Cookie is an elevated cookie served at Te Company in New York City that pays homage to the Taiwanese pineapple cake.
The recipe called for the following ingredients:
- Pantry – pineapple, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, vanilla, hazelnut flour, lime
- Fridge – butter, eggs, yuzu kosho (spicy citrus chili and garlic spread)
- Freezer – rosemary
For this recipe, I made a few modifications, including:
- halved the recipe
- switched pistachio for hazelnut
- modified yuzu kosho paste
- switched Meyer lemon for lime zest
- switched pink Himalayan Salt for Maldon Sea Salt
Otherwise, the recipe is identical and delicious! Yields 3 dozen cookies and the perfect accompaniment with a cup of tea, with its buttery, zesty and spicy bite.
#1 – Condensed Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
The beauty of this recipe for condensed milk chocolate chip cookies is the fact that – perhaps with the exception of butter – everything is shelf-stable. It can also be argued that you can source canned butter, in which case the whole recipe is shelf stable.
Andrew has quite the sweet tooth, so I am pretty pleased that we have an option for baking while underway that doesn’t require eggs or milk. This makes about a dozen 3-4″ cookies, that are soft and chewy, with a tender crumb.
- Pantry – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, corn starch, salt, light brown sugar, condensed milk, vanilla extract, chocolate chips
- Fridge – butter
- Freezer – n/a
Andrew and I work in the same office at home. Most days he is taking conference calls while I quietly type up content for the website or update the bullet journal. The day after these cookies were baked, he brought the Tupperware containing the remaining 8 or 9 of these bad boys and proceeded to eat them one by one.
At one point, I overheard him talking with his mouthful of cookies and I turned and look at him, whispering, “Are you going to eat all of them?”
Deer in headlights.
He nodded and continued his conference call. Suffice it to say, these cookies were a hit. I may add slightly more salt next time to round out the flavor profile. The crumb is certainly tender and stays moist even going into our 3rd day of keeping them at room temperature.
We hope you’ll have a chance to try out these canned food recipes. We had a lot of fun experimenting with them and riffing on the ones published.
Other cruisers have shared their strategies for cooking and provisioning canned food meals. Thanks again to them who have forged a way ahead of us to develop these survival skills while sailing the high seas. These include:
- The Boat Galley – food storage, provisioning, boat-friendly recipes
- Sailing Totem – provisioning, canning on board, old school skills
- Fouled Up Life – provisioning a sailboat for 3 months off the grid
- Galley Pirates – cooking for cruising and living aboard
- The Maiden Factor – galley-inspired cooking
- Sailing Eurybia – eating well
- Blue Water Sailing – food for thought provisioning 101
When we consider provisioning when we move aboard, we may tinker with some of the ingredients suggested by Epicurious to create all-pantry meals , much like the condensed cookie recipe. I am also inspired by Behan from Sailing Totem to experiment with canning meat for long passages because our fishing skills have not yet been tested.
Now that’s a sea foodie challenge.