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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Canning: Sardinas/Bangus (Sardines/Milkfish) in Olive Oil

Canned Fish in Olive Oil
Ever since I bought my pressure canner and canned a batch of stew beef cuts, I had been wanting to can sardines or any other small fish "Spanish-style" (I am not sure what that means).

My first taste of this kind of "sardines" was back during med school, when a classmate who hailed from Laguna brought a jar of these, with small bangus (milkfish) as the content, and the label said "Spanish-style."  They were swimming in oil. It was beautiful to look at in the jars. The flavor was so good.  It had a hint of hotness due to the hot chili inside.

Even when I was just getting introduced to canning and did my research on it, I was dreaming of concocting all these canned Filipino goodies in wanting to fill my pantry with such foods, in jars with quantities enough to satisfy my craving when it hits.

Presto pressure canner

Books on Canning
This year (my 6th year of canning), I completed my canning tools finally. With the purchase of pressure canner and more books on canning (I bought the Ball books), I really got myself rolling.

One of the things I finally got to try was canning fish "Spanish-style."  I am not really sure what Spanish style is, because I have seen it as with olive oil, or as with tomato sauce. In any case, what my classmate brought before that I loved was bangus in oil.


I got frozen fish from the Asian store, one bag with 14 pieces of sardines and two bags of small bangus (3 pieces in each bag).   I thawed them, and my Nanay cleaned them before they completely thawed (she said it was easier to keep the flesh intact if done that way. My Nanay's father owned a fishery when she was younger, so she knew how to deal with fish in this manner. But she was not aware of canning practices.)

As for the instructions and recipes, I followed partly that from OverseasPinoyCooking's site. However, for safe canning practices, I followed the instructions from the USDA-approved site.

Basically, after cleaning the fish, I cut them to portions that would fit in the jars I was going to use. I used 8-oz jars for the sardines cut in halves, and I used wide-mouthed pint-jars for the bangus cut in halves as well. I brined them for 30 minutes in salt solution made of 1&1/2 quarts of water with 3/8 cup + 3 tbsp of Morton Kosher salt (based on the table on the basic brine in this article).  Then I drained the fish.

I proceeded with packing the jars tightly.  I was able to fit in 3 sardines per 8-oz jar, and 2 bangus inside a pint jar.  Then I added the pickles, carrot slices, and spices (I used 1/4 tsp whole gourmet peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp dried minced garlic, a slice of pickle, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper for the sardines, and 1/8 tsp mustard seeds. For the pint jars with bangus, I used double the amounts, except that I used dried whole red pepper for each jar instead of the crushed red pepper. I then added extra virgin oil to cover the fish, leaving 1 inch headspace.

I used the bubbler to release trapped gas, and then I wiped the rims and adjusted the lids.  Note that when pressure canning, you do not have to use sterile jars, as the pressure will create enough heat to sterilize the jars during the processing time, which is usually an hour and a half at least.   Click on the photos below to read the instructions that accompany the photos.

I have the Presto pressure canner which is a dial-gauge type, so following the guidelines in the above link, I processed these babies (both pints and 8-oz jars) for 100 minutes at 11 psi. (It is quite a pain to monitor and maintain this pressure. I am still playing with the "maintenance" burner's flame/strength). After processing, I let the pressure get back to zero, then removed the valve, and let the jars stay in there for about two hours before removing. I let the jars rest on a towel on the countertop. After 24 hours, I checked for seal. I had two pint jars that did not seal properly, which were both using the reusable Tattler lids (I am still trying to gauge the right tightness when screwing the band on). All the pint jars with their metal lids sealed very well. Because of this, I had to consume first the ones that did not seal (rather than re-process two jars for 100 minutes again). But I let the flavors meld together first so that I shared one unsealed jar of sardines with my Nanay after three days. The other jar that did not seal is in the fridge, waiting for its glory day. I will get to try the bangus once I am done with these sardines.

Again, to review how to pressure can, this is a wonderful illustration:
An illustration of how to pressure can

Some notes on the principles of canning:
Headspace is necessary to allow for the expansion of the contents (usually liquids or sauce) as they boil during processing.  If they boil over, it is important that the lid is tightly placed enough so that air could escape, and maybe some liquid, but not solids which might hinder proper seal during cooling. (It is quite problematic to have boil overs involving oil, because then, it makes the  rubber seal slippery, and might prevent proper seal.)  Most organisms will thrive if given air, that is why it is important to release trapped bubbles, and the escape of air during processing is also vitally important.  The resulting lack of air is what we call "vacuum, " and upon cooling down, the contents contract in volume and the vacuum sucks in the lid, creating an effective seal.  That lack of air and effective seal that prevents outside air to re-enter is what keeps the good quality of canned foods.  The organism that CAN THRIVE IN LACK OF AIR in such canned foods is Botulinum, which may cause botulism if the food is not processed properly, like contamination with dirt, or not enough temperature and/or time to process such that the spores still thrive after processing. Safe canning process includes re-processing those that did not seal properly, or placing them in the fridge and consumed immediately if not reprocessed.  If you are observing proper canning, you should not open these sealed jars  and add unprocessed contents then seal while hot or even while warm.  Not all canned foods in jars whose lids popped in are safe just because they popped in and had a vacuum.  More important is the clean and sterile technique, from packing to processing that is done in one smooth flow with minimal interruption. If your canned foods had lids that popped in then later on spoiled, most likely the problem was in the non-sterile or unclean method of canning, or not observing proper processing methods and time.

Let the jars cool.  Test for proper seal after 24 hours using the lid-lift test.  If not properly sealed, use new lids and reprocess. Otherwise, keep them in the fridge and consumed within two weeks.  Let at least 3 days pass before consuming for the flavors to infuse the fish well.

The above brining time with a 20% salt solution gave a saltiness that was just right for my taste buds. However, 3 days was not enough for the red pepper flakes to have an effect.  Either that, or I should have used more.

You plan to sell these? Check first with your local town and state laws on how to, and familiarize yourself with safe canning practices as found in the books mentioned above. I would observe by the end of one year how good this canning method is.


  1. WOW! The canned bangus really looks delicious. I can only imagine your pantry so full of yummy goodness!!!

  2. hi manang!pwede po bang herring instead na sardines?thanks po:)

  3. Hi Florissem thanks!

    ella11, you definitely can use herring!

  4. Sarap ng sardinas! Hundi ako mahilig sa canning, gusto ko kainin agad.

    Ang tiaga mo talaga!

  5. Ebie, gusto lang matuto to be self-sufficient... :)

  6. this is the best so far. thanks manang. where can we buy these sardines that you are manufacturing? freddy

  7. Hi Freddy, sorry this is for personal use only because I could not find these items in the Asian stores near me. I am just trying to share here the how-to's for those in the Philippines (or near the shore) that might be interested to make their own.

  8. hi manang,

    so like what happened to the fish bones? how did u remove it?



    1. yara, no need to remove the bones. They get so soft with the pressure cooking, just like in any canned fish that you can buy.

  9. how much does a pressure canner cost? can i try sanitize jar instead?

    1. The pressure-canner that I am using is worth US $74.00. Before you get into canning, learn first the difference between sanitizing and sterilizing; acid-foods versus alkaline-foods; water bath canner versus pressure canner.

      If you don't learn those concepts, you are at risk of food poisoning.

      If you can't get a pressure canner, stick to canning jams and jellies or vinegar-based pickles, using STERILE CONTAINERS. Never try to can any meats or fish without using a pressure canner.

  10. Hi manang! I want to make spanish sardines din kaya lng ang napanuod ko lng sa youtube is ung isasalang lang sa pressure cooker... ung pressure cooker ko kasi walang gauge kaya natatakot ako magtry baka sumabog or mabasag lng mga bote... mga ilang days po ba tatagal ung spanish sardines pag hindi nakabote?

  11. Ellen, Parang ordinary na cooked food lang ang itatagal pag hindi nakabote -- few days sa fridge, 1-2 days at room temp. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang temp na naaabot ng ordinary pressure cooker. Ang pressure na nage-generate sa pressure canner ay para maabot ang certain temperature na papatay sa mikrobyo na na-trap sa bote, para pag-seal ng bote, hindi na sya basta ma-contaminate. Yun ang nagpre-preserve (basta na-expel din yung air sa loob habang pine-pressure can).

  12. Wow nice! gusto talaga makagawa ng spanish sardine or spanish bangus mahilig po kasi nyan. san po kayo nakakabili ng jar? Isa po ko fulltime housewive gusto ko rin tulungan ang mister ko sa mga gastusin namin sana makatulong ako meron po ba kayo schooling na cooking lesson?

  13. Manang, do have to tighten the lid of the jars already when pressure canning or do you just lightly seal the lead then tighten after pressure canning and cooling?

  14. Nag try po ako sa bangus sardine,after 11/2 hrs sa pressure cooker ay nahirapan akong buksan yung takip..nag vacuum po cya..ibig sabihin ito ay ok ?na?,

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Saan po puedeng makabili ng boteng tulad ng sa inyo?

    1. san ba ako maka order ng sardenas 2m po bibilihin ko pamigay sa taong bayan

  17. Dear Sir/ Madam,
    Good day ! I'm Soledad Donoso. I would like to ask a permission to use this photo/photos for educational purposes. I'm making a book that tells about the history of our country , the Philippines. Hoping for your kind consideration on this matter . Thank you .

    (The first picture)

  18. Maam, just saw your post now... I am really interested with your project and would like to try someday...may I ask How much this project would cost?


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