Where can I get a new can of sardines which opens with a key?
May 25, 2007 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get a new can of sardines which opens with a key?

When I was growing up, my father would always have cans of sardines which he would open with an included key (for an example/explanation of this, please scroll down to section 2.5 on this page). I'd like to get him one (which he can eat, hence the "new" criterion) for Father's Day , but have so far been unsuccessful in finding one locally (I'd like to buy it in person to verify that it uses the key, but if you have recent experience with a particular brand I'm fine with online purchase). If it's available for purchase in the greater Seattle area, so much the better (I've already checked DeLaurenti's and The Spanish Table).
posted by j.edwards to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I associate this with mass-market food. Try Safeway or the like.
posted by rhizome at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2007

I haven't seen a can like that for years. They all use a pull tab now it seems.
posted by caddis at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2007

FWIW, I've been looking for one of these too (my son really really really wants one because he saw it in a book) and have struck out at every grocery store: mass market, mom & pop, or ethnic, that I've visited over the past 2 years.

Having looked over dozens upon dozens of Asian, Italian, Portuguese and Mexican brands of sardines, I'm now in search of Russian sardines, on the wild-ass chance that maybe they are still using the oldskool cans or a (hopefully well-preserved) WWII vintage USArmy ration tin because I vaguely remember my dad had one that opened with a key.
posted by jamaro at 2:57 PM on May 25, 2007

Here is a list of sardines from a Chow Hound tasteoff
Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi all’olio di olivo – Portugal/Italy - $1.99
Albo Sardines in Olive oil – Spain - $4.99
King Oscar Sardines Mediterranean style – Norway, packed in Poland - $2.99
Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in soybean oil – Morocco - $2.49
King Oscar Extra Small Sardines in fish oil 2 layers – Norway - $2.99
Beach Cliff Sardines in soybean oil – USA / Canada - $.69
Brunswick Sardines in Spring Water No Salt Added – Canada - $1.19
Madrigal spiced sardines in vegetable oil – Morocco - $1.59
Brunswick Sardines in Olive Oil – Canada - $1.19
King Oscar Extra Small Brisling Sardines in purest virgin olive oil – Norway - $2.99
King Oscar tiny tots Sardines in olive oil two layers – Norway - $2.99
Palacio Real Small Sardines in Olive oil (slightly smoked) – Spain - $2.99
King Oscar Sardines in pure spring water – Norway - $2.99
Mega Sardines in tomato sauce with chili – The Philippines - $.79
Brunswick Sardines in Mustard Sauce – Canada - $1.19
Bumble Bee Sardines in Mustard – Poland - $.89
Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in tomato sauce – Morocco - $2.49
Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in mustard sauce – Morocco - $2.49
King Oscar Sardines in tomato – Norway - $2.99
Brunswick Sardines in Mustard and Dill Sauce – Canada - $1.19
King Oscar Skinless & boneless Sardines in olive oil – Morocco - $2.99
Gourmet Award lightly smoked sardines in tomato sauce – Morocco - $1.89
Brunswick Sardines in tomato & basil Sauce – Canada - $1.19

A little googling shows that many packagers have switched to "pop top" or "easy opening" cans, including Vigo, Reese, Bela-Olhao, Crown Prince.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another datapoint in my obsessive search for one of these damn cans: I visited every antique and souvenir store on or near Cannery Row in Monterey Calif., because of the famous association with the canned sardine industry.

I hope you find one and please post the brand name if you do :)
posted by jamaro at 3:06 PM on May 25, 2007

Nah, don't waste your time at Safeway -- I buy a lot of sardines at supermarkets, and have never seen the cans with keys there (or anywhere else for years and years).
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:23 PM on May 25, 2007

I've swear I've seen these recently here in San Francisco. I'm thinking either at Lucca Deli (which carries many of the brands listed above) or possibly at one of the Mexican supermarkets like Casa Lucas on 24th...
posted by vacapinta at 3:29 PM on May 25, 2007

Connétable's Sardines d'Argent Millésimées may employ a key. It is their premium sardine and the only package they display that doesn't have a pop-top ring on the top.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 3:32 PM on May 25, 2007

Try googling "vintage sardines." No, seriously. If you're interested in starting some detective work tracking down an old can, there are apparently those who claim they improve with age.
posted by nanojath at 3:57 PM on May 25, 2007

Sardines d'Argent Millésimées copy says nothing about the key, but does emphasize "traditional" preparation. Perhaps they traditionally open with a key as well.

The French:

Cette conserve d'exception est une série limitée.
Pour cette préparation à l'Ancienne, je garantis mettre en œuvre de la sardine fraîche, sélectionnée, pêchée en fin d'été quand elle atteint toute sa finesse.
Sa fabrication a fait l'objet de soins méticuleux.
Elle est déjà très bonne, mais comme les Grand Crus, elle se bonifie en vieillissant.
posted by bad grammar at 8:18 PM on May 25, 2007

No luck with any Mexican sardines - they're all pretty much canned, as in opened with a can opener. The Argent Millesimees might be the same way.
posted by vacapinta at 8:55 PM on May 25, 2007

If I remember rightly... the two sides of the slot on either side of the key are different sizes. If you succeed in your quest, grasshopper, remember to slide the key onto the tab of the can top using the side with the larger slot.
posted by Dr.Pill at 8:11 AM on May 26, 2007

Check Italian import stores. The one by my house (closed a month ago, unfortunately, so I don't recall the brand) had them.
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:13 AM on May 26, 2007

I went to an Italian groceria in an Italian neighborhood and all they had was pop-top fish or large cans that require a can opener.

Ditto for a large supermarket with lots of "international food".

If you really want to open a can with a key, I did find Armour Corned Beef (from Brazil) - in the photo you can see the key on the side of the can. This might not be available eveywhere - in googling corned beef I found this blog entry
Well, it has been so long since I bought a can of Corned Beef from South America, that I almost forgot how much I love it. For my first journey into canned meat I selected a true classic - Armour’s Corned Beef. This can was from Brazil, but others are imported from Argentina.
My first surprise was that they have moved on from the old key-open cans to a pull lid. That is more convenient but not any easier.
Neither the official Armour (USA) or the unaffiliated Swift Armour (SA) (who I presume packs the meat) have any info on corned beef.

Thinking about keys and pop-tops on canned meat and fish got me thinking about why these products and not canned peas had such openers.

My guess is that these products were made for lunches - a man's lunch pail might contain a hunk of bread and a can of sardines. You see this trend today with pop-tops on mini cans of fruit cocktail.

I've also recently seen pop-tops on 8 oz cans of fruit cocktail - i guess these are for hearty American appetites.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:28 PM on May 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all for the suggestions -- I'm not too optimistic about being able to find one before Father's Day. In case anyone was wondering, here's the reply from Lucca's Deli:
I remember the tins with the key very well! Unfortunately I have not seen them in a long time. All of our tins come with a pull tab. I suspect they have changed to pull tabs throughout the industry.
I'll update here if I do end up spotting any.
posted by j.edwards at 6:25 PM on May 27, 2007

One other specialty place you should check is PFI or Big John's PFI as it's now known. But yes, it may indeed be a thing of the past.
posted by O9scar at 12:20 AM on May 29, 2007

Best answer: I'd just like to note that ever since this thread I've adopted this as a personal quest.

My wife is from Portugal and her and I have scoured the stores there looking for keys. Old supermarkets and small markets, no luck. (Well..thats not entirely true. We did find a can that opens with keys! It was a type of fish-egg oddly enough. Will that do?) No sardines though, despite finding a supermarket with about 20 types of canned sardines!

We even tracked down a market in old Lisbon that, get this, specialized in producing old-label sardines. Seriously. For nostalgic reasons, they had old sardine brands. Did we find keys? Nope, all pull-tabs.

I think that keys are mostly gone from this world, except perhaps for some sitting in someone's basement.
posted by vacapinta at 11:32 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

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