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July 17, 2012

The Tuna of Tunafish: Ortiz

by Anne Paddock

Until I moved to Spain, I thought of tunafish as a relatively strong-tasting dry fish that needed to be toned down and doctored up with mayonnaise, chopped celery, onion, pickle relish, lemon juice, and mustard to be edible. Most tunafish sold in the US is packed in either vegetable oil or water (which does nothing to enhance the flavor of the fish) although tuna packed in olive oil (which does enhance the flavor) is now available in many markets. Still, most grocery store tunafish is nothing to get excited about. Then I discovered Ortiz Tuna (when I lived in Madrid) which is so unlike the typical grocery store tunafish that it’s hard to believe they come from the same family of fish.

Ortiz is a Spanish company that has been in business for more than 100 years with ownership and management by the same family (currently the 5th generation). Based out of northern Spain in the Basque Country, Ortiz still line fishes to catch their premium bonito tunas in the Sea of Cantabria off the northwestern coast of Spain. Once caught, the fish are hand filleted and preserved in olive oil.

309516_277372028959117_1520218045_nThe company’s product line is diverse but not all of the Ortiz products are available in the US.  The most popular Ortiz products available in the US are listed below:

Tuna Claro (White Tuna)): This tuna is known as “Bonito del Norte” in Spanish which translates to “The Beauty of the North.” The jar is full of large firm chunks of tender  tuna that flake apart with a fork but do not break into tiny mushy pieces when handled. Moist, delicious and packed in olive oil (which can be drained), this tuna is a staple in our home. These jars (about 8 ounces) are available at Whole Foods or Fairway for $10-$11 per jar.

Ventresca (White Fillets): Packed in olive oil, the white belly tuna fillets are the ‘tenderest, most flavorful and smooth textured” cut of a Bonito Tuna. Known as “ventresca,” this tuna is buttery and perfect for a Salad Nicoise.  You may never buy supermarket tuna again after you taste this product. The 110 gram (4 ounces) tin container sells for about $12 at Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or Fairway and can also be found on-line at www.latienda.com (although on-line prices are higher).

Yellow Tuna Fillets: The Yellowfin Tuna is considered the best and Ortiz fillets come from tuna that weigh less than 30 kilograms (about 66 pounds) to ensure the “tenderest, most flavorful and smooth textured” ventresca from the belly cuts of the fish. Also great for a Salad Nicoise or on thin toasted baguette slices with olives, leaf lettuce,or roasted red peppers, this tuna should be enjoyed as is (and not mixed with a binder like mayonnaise ever). This premium tuna is a bit harder to find but is available from www.formaggiokitchen.com for $16 for the 4-ounce tin…expensive but worth it.

bonito-del-norte-grand-ortiz-523544To read more about Ortiz and their full product line, go to the company website:  www.ortiz.es.

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