You know how in movies someone always comes home and opens up a carton of milk, smells it, and then says to their significant other, “Does this smell bad to you?” I can’t handle it. I’m completely paranoid about that sort of thing. If it’s in my power to determine if the food is bad, it’s bad by default. If the milk is past its date, don’t even bother to smell it. Just dump it out. If the meat is over a week old, throw it out. The sell by date is equivalent to the use by date. And because of this I’ve become a great fan of canned and frozen food. The date is stamped right on there. All this fresh and local food that celebrity chefs on TV keep blathering on about is not for me. If I pick the fruit right off the tree, then I’ll eat it. If not, it better be in a can. This is the first of hopefully many articles I write for Flavourgasmic about canned and frozen food.
For my first article I’ve chosen to write about King Oscar sardines. I chose King Oscar sardines for a few reasons. The company has a semi-long history that goes on for over 100 years. Also, I have a bizarre fascination with European royalty. And the most important reason of all is that fairly recently I’ve gotten into seafood. For most of my life, I haven’t really eaten fish, and I still don’t eat it in abundance (unless you count being lied to by my parents and their “chicken fish”, but that’s another story). But one of the first for me was King Oscar sardines. Hit the link for more.
First we’ll cover some information about the company itself. The present company (Norway Foods) is an amalgamation of several companies, the first being the Stavanger Canning Company which started in 1873. But they didn’t start canning sardines until 1880. So right there you know that there’s a long history to this product. In 1893, they introduced their sardines to the US at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago = Awesome! In 1902, King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden granted the Christian Bjelland Company (another one) permission to use his name and portrait on their sardines. In 1920 the portrait of the king was finalized and is still being used today. And in 1950 the company was declared Kosher, which I wouldn’t mention but their website makes such a deal out of it. Another thing their website goes on and on about is that sardines are supposedly the greatest food on the planet. No mercury and lots of Omega-3. They won’t shut up about it.
Next I’d like to say a little about King Oscar himself. He lived from 1829 to 1907. He became king of Norway and Sweden after the death of his brother in 1872. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), he seemed like a nice guy. When the kingdoms of Norway and Sweden split, it went pretty peacefully because he went along with it. After that he was no longer the king of Norway but only King of Sweden (only the King of Sweden = hilarious). His great-great grandson is Carl XVI Gustaf, current King of Sweden. And Carl16’s daughter is Crown Princess Victoria, who would look much better on the current cans of sardines. Let’s see what that would look like, using my elite photoshop skills.
Now to the food (finally). I did a taste test on 8 different flavours of King Oscar sardines. I’m pretty sure I had tried about half the flavours before I did the test. I went through and ate 2 or 3 from each flavour writing down my thoughts, and then went back a second time and had around 2 more from each. I’ve rated each flavour on 3 important scales, each with a 1 to 5 rating.
- The flavour itself. This is very important.
- How fishy-gross it tastes. Remember, I don’t exactly like fish.
- The chance that I’ll pour fish juice on the floor or furniture and piss off my wife. Because that smell never comes out.
I’ve also included a description of the look & taste. I ordered the flavours in what I perceived (before trying them) as blandest to most intense flavour. I thought that this way the flavour from a previous one wouldn’t screw up the next one. And I used water to “wash out” the taste between tastings. And of course I ate them right out of the can. The King Oscar website has many suggestions for eating them, but as with most things, right out of the can is the best.
Pure Spring Water: Flavour(1)/Pour(4)/Fishy(4) It was sort of boring as one would expect since it’s simply in spring water. There’s really no flavour here other than a boring fish. It needs more salt. I like salt. To be honest, the first one I tasted was perfect – fresh and everything. But the second…blech.
Soybean Oil: Flavour(2)/Pour(4)/Fishy(2) This one’s better than the Spring Water, if only because it tastes fattier and therefore slightly better. But it’s still pretty boring, but less fishy though.
Olive Oil: Flavour(5)/Pour(4)/Fishy(1) Even better. Damn near perfect.
Balsamic Vinaigrette: Flavour(3)/Pour(4)/Fishy(1) This ones almost exactly like the Olive Oil except with a little vinegar taste. And if you check the ingredients, that’s exactly what it says. At first I was going to say that this was the way to go, but when I returned for round two, this one tasted rotten while the Olive Oil still tasted great.
Tomato: Flavour(5)/Pour(2)/Fishy(1) Wow! This one’s awesome. The sardines are like smothered in tomato sauce. I totally wasn’t expecting that. It goes very well with the fish. I like them.
Mediterranean: Flavour(4)/Pour(5)Fishy(1) There’s like a couple of slices of black olives in there as well as some ground up stuff on top. The ingredients say that it’s spices, garlic, and red bell pepper. All in all, it’s very good. I feel like I’m sitting in a boat in Venice – oh wait not really. I thought it would be similar to Olive Oil, but after going back and forth between the two, they don’t seem too close.
Gourmet Chipotle Sauce: Flavour(2)/Pour(2)Fishy(3) This one looks exactly like the tomato one, but with a darker color. In the past this one had been my favourite, but now it might be one of my least favourites. It’s sort of bland. It’s supposed to be a BBQ sauce, but now it just seems semi-gross. I checked the ingredients and it’s the only one with a tiny font and a long list of chemicals I’ve never heard of. I’m pretty surprised but it’s also their newest flavour. Maybe it’s not here to stay.
Dijon Mustard: Flavour(3)/Pour(3)Fishy(4) The fish are like encased in a block of mustard. You almost can’t even see them. The mustard itself tasted pretty good. I’m not quite sure that the fish go perfectly with them. They taste kinda fishy gross. But I guess that’s why they pack them in the mustard – even more so than the tomato or chipotle.
So I liked the Tomato the best, but that’s because I’m pretty partial to very strong flavours like that. For the general population, I’d go with my number two which is the Olive Oil. Now I’m going to go throw up.
So remember, if the date isn’t stamped right on the can, you can’t really know if it’s still good.