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Last US sardine cans being packed in Maine
April 14, 2010 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Last US sardine cans being packed in Maine. The Stinson Seafood Plant in Prospect Harbor, Maine was the last sardine cannery in the US, packaging Beach Cliff brand sardines (the "world standard for excellence in sardines"). The cannery shuts down this week. Of course this received a fair amount of coverage in Maine, including hopes that a new owner might buy the cannery as recent as a week ago. There's an interview with one of the long-time employees as well as a time-lapse video of the canning process.

Some blame the closing on the general unpopularity of canned sardines and sardines in general. Mike Sutton, Director of Center for the Future of the Oceans at Monterey Bay Aquarium (known for their Seafood Watch Guide for making ecological fish/seafood choices) is a Sardinista, promoting fresh sardines as a healthy, ecological, and delicious fish option.

Of course, canned (or "tinned") sardines are still available from other countries (most notably Portugal and Spain) and have their own fan club. For those who still plan on eating canned sardines, you can read up on which canned sardines taste the best.
posted by Deathalicious (57 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
For posterity, the review for the Beach Cliff brand:
These were the biggest sardines with only three snuggled in the can. They didn’t look pretty either with some of the skin scraped off. Yet the flavor was good. The soybean oil was nicely neutral giving a nice mouth feel. They held their shape well also. They lose a few points in prettiness which is made up for in taste.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:17 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine went to the cannery only last week to take pictures. What a shame, really. I think I'll have a tin of Beach Cliff sardines for lunch.

(still, you couldn't bribe me with gold doubloons to work in the seafood processing industry.)
posted by dunkadunc at 9:18 AM on April 14, 2010


eh, what the hey: here's the flickr set.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:25 AM on April 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Zoidberg craves anchovies, not sardines, but still, this our future, people.
posted by amethysts at 9:28 AM on April 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love canned sardines. Bah.
posted by ifjuly at 9:33 AM on April 14, 2010


Bah, I came in here to make the Zoidberg ref and find a PEDANT has blocked me.
posted by DU at 9:33 AM on April 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


...the plant would close because of steep cuts in the amount of herring fishermen are allowed to catch in the Northeast...

/Hefts jar of pickled herring above head

From my cold dead hands, commies!
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 9:33 AM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only time I ever tried Beach Cliff sardines I gagged and felt like vomiting.
posted by grouse at 9:39 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


This town is gonna have economic problems...this is what happens to sardine towns. What they need to do is build a theme park. Or maybe some sort of food-generation device...now THAT would attract tourists, maybe make it rain hamburgers or something.
posted by circular at 9:41 AM on April 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm much more a fan of their Fish Steaks (especially the Louisiana Hot Sauce flavor). Still. Bah.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:43 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was little I always imagined the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk eating people whole, bones and all. Trying sardines for the first time reminded me of that.
posted by shinyshiny at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Under preview window:

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What? So long, sanity!
posted by Skot at 10:15 AM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I usually buy the King Oscar sardines - but Beach Cliff was always there as a standby.

I'll miss them.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:17 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


... maybe make it rain hamburgers or something.

They could just call the park Chewandswallow. I'm sure absolutely no problems could arise from that.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:20 AM on April 14, 2010


This is sad news for me. When I was much younger my father would take me fishing and the typical lunch on those outings was sardines (almost always the Beach Cliff brand, as that is widely available here; also typically the ones in mustard or hot sauce) on saltine crackers. I never could bring myself to eat them, so I got vienna suasages. Anyway, whenever I see a can of sardines it reminds me of those good times in my past, so I will miss them.
posted by TedW at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd never had sardines before, but after reading this I ran to the corner store to try some. I even got Beach Cliff brand (which actually say "Product of Canada", interestingly). I also ran out of chocolate syrup last night, so my two cans of sardines and bottle of Hershey syrup got a nice quizzical stare from the checkout lady.

I have to say, they're oddly delicious. Not too far from canned tuna, albeit a bit more fishy. Maybe I'm more in touch with my inner Zoidberg than I'd thought.
posted by bjrubble at 10:46 AM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is really the cannery in the coal mine.
posted by klangklangston at 10:56 AM on April 14, 2010 [13 favorites]


READ THAT INGREDIANT LIST !!!...chowhound
posted by kitchenrat at 11:00 AM on April 14, 2010


Make mine kipper snacks...
posted by jim in austin at 11:02 AM on April 14, 2010


I decided a few years ago that I was going to learn how to like sardines. I don't remember which came out the best, but I remember Beach Cliff being soft and weird.
posted by rhizome at 11:06 AM on April 14, 2010


I love sardines in tomato sauce on toast. I've never developed a taste for any other flavor, and the ones packed in oil just seem greasy to me.

(Mental note: buy some sardines.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:26 AM on April 14, 2010


I, too, love sardines.

.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:28 AM on April 14, 2010


I can hear the anguished cries of broke college students from where I now sit. In unison they cry out from basement apartments and on soiled couches: "What shall we eat now when we lack even the motivation to make ramen? Who will grace our store-brand crackers? What will cure our pounding hangovers and make us whole?" and in response the void only sighed to itself and shifted silently.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:38 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


broke college student here: I eat my Beach Cliff sardines on cheap rye bread with hannaford swiss cheese, thank you very much.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


This town is gonna have economic problems...this is what happens to sardine towns.

They could go the Monterey, CA, route and get in touch with the Bubba Gump company....
posted by mudpuppie at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2010


Ray's Mustard Mill in Eastport also needs a related shout out!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:45 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is really the cannery in the coal mine.

*slaps forehead* OY!
posted by cavalier at 11:49 AM on April 14, 2010


Sustainable fishing sites regularly list sardines as one the best choices for pescophorians. (That is, their population is easily replaced, unlike, say, bluefin tuna.) Plus, sardinezisgood.
posted by kozad at 11:50 AM on April 14, 2010


I knew a guy that used to work there in the 60s, long before the FDA ever thought of regulating the seafood industry. He told me once or twice that they would pack sardines in spring water on the first day, oil on the second. By the third day, they would break out the tomato sauce, and on the last few days they would pack in mustard.

The point was that fresh, uncleaned sardines last not much more than 3 days before the enzymes in their bellies start to rot them out. The other point was to never ever eat canned seafood packed in anything other than water or oil.

But, I still love sardines and eat them often. I've never seen them packed in mustard but if I did I would buy them for the laugh.

.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:52 AM on April 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


As for sardines themselves, my grandfather used to eat them right out of the can, and if he was feeling fancy, he'd slather them with horseradish and coleslaw or sauerkraut. I tend to think this was one of the factors in my mother's going vegetarian, the sheer number of weird-ass things my grandpa would eat.
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 AM on April 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


on lack of preview: Pollomacho, enjoy them herrings!
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2010


I like sardines despite the way they look and the whole overall vibe of them. I don't each much meat and they're a good protein source , plus no mercury and they're not overfished unlike every other fish.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:01 PM on April 14, 2010


A tragedy, what are prisoners gonna use to buy favors with?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:18 PM on April 14, 2010


Peter Colson grew up in my home town, Southwest Harbor...where my Mom packed sardines for his dad up until they closed the factory. Now it's a marina.
posted by lobstah at 12:28 PM on April 14, 2010


Dang, I have four or five kinds of tinned fish on hand right now! Healthy, sustainable, delicious food? Unprofitable?? Say it ain't so. But, alas, I really do prefer the upmarket kippers and oysters to the cheapest sardines. The Brisling thing, so far, I don't get. Mushy. I personally, secretly judge people as grownup only when then can stop eating their sardines mashed.

Oh, and look! A cookbook I has! So legit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:30 PM on April 14, 2010


I like all of the varieties of sardines but due to hypertension can only eat the low salt variety nowadays. Truly revolting.
posted by digsrus at 12:32 PM on April 14, 2010


> They could go the Monterey, CA, route and get in touch with the Bubba Gump company....

Um, I get that you're joking, but that's kind of cold considering the real tourist draws Monterey has, the largest of which may be the world class aquarium built on a cannery site, cited above, and the others which are nothing to sniff at, nartural beauty, and American literary history. If Stinson was lucky enough to develop a wonderful oceanography institute and learning center, and a cache as classy as Monterey's, I wouldn't really begrudge them a cheesy chain resto and taffy shack or two.

Also, in case you ain't heaaarrd: Trader Joe's is shaping wrt fishes.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:43 PM on April 14, 2010


digsrus > I like all of the varieties of sardines but due to hypertension can only eat the low salt variety nowadays. Truly revolting.

Try them with a generous squeeze of lemon or lime on each one, the sour makes up for some of the salt lack.

I buy a lot of sardines, but I never liked Beach Cliff. Still, sad to see another American industry come to an end.
posted by hat at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2010


What? So long, sanity!

They're all tagged Maine.

It's an interesting place!
posted by Miko at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2010


I am stunned to learn they pack those sardines *by hand*. Holy crap!

Also thank you kuujjuarapik for the skinny on flavored sardines and how the fresh water ones are the freshest.
posted by storybored at 1:29 PM on April 14, 2010


Um, I get that you're joking, but that's kind of cold....

Pipe down, woman! Monterey's my favorite place in the world.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:33 PM on April 14, 2010


.

Farewell Beach Cliff. Now I'll have to make a sardine run this evening. The mexican sardines on the next isle are way cheaper, but they're all packed in tomato sauce.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 1:42 PM on April 14, 2010


Sardines in egg salad with green olives....yummy, yummy....
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:58 PM on April 14, 2010


They're all tagged Maine.

Ah.

In related news, one of my fantasy league pitchers, John Maine of the storied New York Mets, may miss his next scheduled start due to the fact that he stinks. The "fantasy" part of this seems to be dreaming that I'm a competent manager.
posted by Skot at 2:09 PM on April 14, 2010


..:: CLUB DES MILLIONNAIRES ::..
boneless
 skinless
  canned in spring water
   sardines
    eaten with a fork straight from the can over the kitchen sink
are all you need.
 &nbspthank you
posted by scruss at 4:21 PM on April 14, 2010


Unfortunately geography is working against the Stinson employees pulling a Monterey; the latter is only about two hours outside San Jose (that's from Google; I assume that's without any traffic), so it's not unreasonable for people in SF to make a day trip down there. But Boston to Prospect Harbor is at least 5 hours; figure a stop for something to eat and it's a good half-day's drive. You're not going to do that, see anything, and drive back; that makes it a much tougher sell — and again because of New England's size, you're competing with a lot in the same driving-time radius.

It's pretty close to Bar Harbor and that area has done very well for decades during the summer on tourism, but even there I'm not sure they'd be able to sustain a big year-round aquarium. And on the academic/research side, there's already the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, associated with UMaine.

I'm sure they probably have the natural beauty down though, as Downeast Maine is just generally a spectacular place,* but I really don't know what they'll do in terms of finding a replacement industry.

* During black fly season it's potentially in the sense of "spectacularly miserable," at least until you get bitten enough times to not swell up anymore, but hey, it just makes your trip that much more unique.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:40 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


You go past Bar Harbor and there's nothing. Absolutely nothing.

(well, in truth there's a giant blueberry, a long string of failing seasonal businesses, and some very rough-looking guys with neck tattoos.)
posted by dunkadunc at 4:50 PM on April 14, 2010


I stashed away 5 cans of Beach Cliff sardines back when everything was going to hell from the bird flu pandemic. Now my financial advisor says I should hold onto them, but I don’t trust him. I tried that with Billy Beer and it ate holes in the cans.
posted by Huplescat at 4:55 PM on April 14, 2010


You go past Bar Harbor and there's nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Well, there is Canada.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:29 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


kuujjuarapik: Well, there is Canada.

I think he covered that; it was right after "failing seasonal businesses."

hamburger
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:43 PM on April 14, 2010


I've been on an anchovy kick lately. I just got back from the market where I nearly bought sardines instead. Was even at the checkout lane with a can of Beach Cliff in my basket. Had I known it was about the be a collectors item I wouldn't have trudged back to the canned meat aisle to swap it out. Bugger.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:08 PM on April 14, 2010


Well, there is Canada.

Civilization starts up again once you cross the border, it seems. I think the low point is somewhere between Machias and Cherryfield.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:12 PM on April 14, 2010


Dey took owr chubs!!
posted by Iron Rat at 9:25 PM on April 14, 2010


If only Alton Brown's sustainable sardine and avocado "diet" sandwich had become a food fad, they might have survived.
posted by kgander at 9:50 PM on April 14, 2010


The fresh sardines grilled over a wood fire with a squeeze of lemon they sell in Brittany are a revelation.
posted by Wolof at 12:14 AM on April 15, 2010


Sure and I still can't locate an old-school sardine (or anchovy) tin with a lid that rolls back around a key.
posted by jamaro at 4:35 PM on April 15, 2010


We gave up tuna for sardines in our household. Just seemed the wise thing to do. I've always liked them plenty anyway. I actually like them in mustard sauce. In tomato sauce, I find them disgusting. Oil is fine, but I don't recall seeing sardines packed in water. But I'll admit, "fishy" is not a bad thing to say about a flavor, for my taste.
posted by Goofyy at 11:35 PM on April 15, 2010


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