In a nutshell: Finest-quality fillets of Bonito del Norte (white tuna), individually line-caught in the Bay of Biscay, pickled in a traditional escabeche recipe by a Basque Country family firm.
For centuries, Bonito del Norte – or white albacore tuna – has been fished off the Basque coast of northern Spain.
It was here, in the little port of Bermeo, that Rufino Arroyabe set up a canning business, back in 1898. The firm is still family-owned today and the exceptional white tuna it produces epitomises the ideal of slow food.
First, the fish are caught, one by one, using a rod and line. Not only is this the time-honoured way, it’s the most ecologically responsible, too, as this low-impact method doesn’t disrupt the seabed or inadvertently capture any other marine species, such as dolphins or sea turtles.
Arroyabe’s fishing practices also influence the quality of its product. It only uses fish caught on day boats, meaning the tuna doesn’t need to be frozen to maintain its freshness before it reaches port.
Back on land, each fish is cleaned and prepared by hand and every jar is manually filled by an experienced worker, who carefully chooses the best pieces of tuna to include.
It is preserved in escabeche – a pickle sauce of oil and vinegar that was the traditional method of preserving fish before the advent of sterilisation. Like many food production methods that were borne out of necessity, escabeche is now widely enjoyed throughout Spain for its taste alone.
The result is oceans apart from those woolly-textured, water-packed tins that you’d pick up in the supermarket. It’s a high-quality product that’s taken time to prepare – and which we suggest you take time to savour.
How to use:
- The best-ever salade Niçoise is a vinaigrette-dressed mix of ripe tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, black olives and hard-boiled eggs, crowned with fillets of Arroyabe white tuna.
- Slices of toasted sourdough topped with white tuna fillets make a simple and simply delicious lunch. Soft-boiled eggs and pickles optional.
- Toss through cooked pasta along with strips of flame-grilled and preserved piquillo pepper for supper.
- Serve as part of a tapas seafood spread.
Details: Available in 111g tin.
For centuries, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream have shepherded shoals of tuna to the Bay of Biscay, on the 3,000-mile journey from their spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. And for just as long, they’ve been caught by Basque fisherman during their June-to-November season. For the past 120 years, the best of this catch has been preserved by Arroyabe, a family firm from the fishing port of Bermeo. As well as tuna, they preserve anchovies, cockles and garfish – also known as needlefish, due to their long and pointed snouts.
At each stage of the production process, Arroyabe employs production methods that would be familiar to the firm’s founders. Tuna, for example, is caught the original and best way using rod-and-line, a low-impact method that doesn’t damage the seabed or capture other species, as would happen with trawling.
As you would expect, all its products are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
The fish is then hand-prepared by skilful and experienced workers who carefully select the best pieces to use. Most are packed in olive oil, which enhances the fish’s smooth texture and savoury flavour. Some are packed in water, which brings down the product's calorie count, while some are packed in escabeche – a pickle sauce of oil and vinegar, a traditional method of preserving fish that was used before the advent of sterilisation.
Whichever you choose, you can be sure of the quality. For decades, Arroyabe’s seafood has been widely appreciated in its homeland, where it graces the menus of the Basque Country’s restaurants, txoko clubs and pintxo bars. Now you can enjoy it at home.