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Old 08-17-2015, 03:34 PM   #1
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Ancient mid-Atlanic tuna salad

this is primarily for us old geezers - if you remember eating tuna salad in the '50's-60's
altho, if you're just 12 years old and have completed a study on the topic, chime in.

today's tuna salad just does not taste the same. why that & how do I make the old stuff?

tuna fish salad has changed. now, there's typically a limited number of ingredients:

the tuna fish
the mayo and/or other white creamy stuff
diced onion
diced celery
salt
pepper

one can guild the dish with olives, chives, shallots, pimento, green/red/yellow pepper - on and on - but does any of that seriously change the taste? I have the impression it would be a minor impact - and I'm pretty sure the tuna sandwiches they fixed at my elementary school were not snobbied upscale with shallots . . .

the mayo (or other) is likely a major factor. thinking back, Hellmans (East Coaster here....) is the only name brand left standing. anyone know if Hellmans has changed a bunch over the years? everybody has a different preference - I've tried others based on posts like "I hate Brand X but Brand Y is excellent" - and been disappointed, sometimes sent to gagging . . . .

with the eat healthy and live forever craze today, most tuna is packed in water. this was not previously the case - tuna was oil packed. can anyone speak to the delicious factor of oil vs water packed tuna?
the fish itself - bunches of different descriptions. is this marketing hype or real taste differences?

albacore, yellowfin, skipjack, and tongol - what was the ancient 1950's stuff? and what did we get fed in 1950's?

.... which drags out even to the late 1960's - Philadelphia street corner deli's making tuna subs - outflippingstanding compared to today's crop.

I've read through any number of "tests" - and tried some of the recommendations - and obviously they didn't go to elementary school with me....

my lunch ladies would be in their 90's+ at this point - anyone have any clues on "mid-Atlantic" regional tuna fish preps from the period?

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Old 08-17-2015, 03:45 PM   #2
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My mom is in her 70s and grew up in Virginia. I'll ask her if she knows. Btw, I always make tuna salad with chopped dill pickles. I think that makes a big difference in the flavor. I'll ask her if it was made that way when she was little.
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Old 08-17-2015, 03:54 PM   #3
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ancient mid-Atlanic tuna salad

I've said it before, those elementary school lunch ladies knew their stuff. My great aunt was a lunch lady, and one of the best cooks ever, both at home and in the cafeteria.

I think tuna salad is best made with tuna in oil. I prefer Hellmann's mayo, with sweet pickle relish.
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:06 PM   #4
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Chunk light tuna in vegetable oil was the norm. I remember my first taste packed in water and I was underwhelmed. Now I buy only tuna packed in olive oil as "vegetable" oil is usually canola oil and canola is inflammatory.

Our tuna salads had chopped tomatoes, capers, red bell peppers, chopped onions, celery, chopped dill pickles, chopped black or green olives and were served on lettuce. Bread on the side. Not sure if Mayo or Miracle whip was involved...Dad was always partial to Sandwich Spread...anything really as long as it did not look like Mayo.
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:23 PM   #5
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ancient mid-Atlanic tuna salad

Did they have canola oil in the '50s? I couldn't read then.

Am thinking it may have been generic vegetable oil, maybe corn oil? I do recall Mom using the Kraft sandwich spread.
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawgluver View Post
Did they have canola oil in the '50s? I couldn't read then.

Am thinking it may have been generic vegetable oil, maybe corn oil? I do recall Mom using the Kraft sandwich spread.
Then it was corn oil, today it is canola, cottonseed and/or soybean oils...all of which can cause inflammation (arthritis).
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:40 PM   #7
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Hmm. Good to know!

I remember the tuna casserole moreso than tuna salad sammies in school.

I remember seeing the gigantic industrial cans of tuna, green beans, cream of something soups. Those lunch ladies weren't only great cooks, they were weight lifters!

A friend recently came out of retirement to become a LL for a preschool. Her creations are amazing, and she's loving her new job.
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Old 08-17-2015, 05:09 PM   #8
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...Then it was corn oil, today it is canola, cottonseed and/or soybean oils...all of which can cause inflammation (arthritis).

which is better than the GM corn oil growing you a third eye.
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Old 08-17-2015, 05:39 PM   #9
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DH grew up in PA. He's a bit older than I. He recalls tuna in sunflower oil back in the day. He also lived 2 blocks away from his elementary school, so went home for lunch.
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Old 08-17-2015, 06:51 PM   #10
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I don't remember ever having tuna salad sandwiches from the school cafeteria. My mum made the best tuna salad that I tasted as a kid. I still make tuna salad her way and I think it tastes the same.
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:03 PM   #11
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Mom made tuna salad with Bumblebee brand solid white meat albacore packed in oil and Hellmann's mayonnaise. Add-ins were usually limited to onion as I didn't like celery.

With marriage comes changes. My bride made tuna salad with chunk light tuna in water and Miracle Whip. I was OK with the tuna but the MW was quickly switched to Hellmann's.

Today, for SO and me, Costco's chunk light in water (7 Oz cans) and Hellmann's does the trick. I dress mine with minced scallions and sometimes green olives.

I actually enjoy tuna sandwiches but never elevated them beyond "simple is best" status.


Interesting. The tuna and women in my life have changed over the years. The only constant has been Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise. I wonder what that means.
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:51 PM   #12
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My friend made me a tuna Sammie with only whole foods solid white in water and Hellmann light/low fat, salt and pepper and it made my head spin it was so good.

I'd marry the pasta salad she makes with the same plus cooked elbows and diced veggies. This might take legislation to make legal but I have a few years.

Whole foods tuna is really good. Much better than other brands. And I'm not a huge WF fan or anything.
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Old 08-17-2015, 08:24 PM   #13
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We did not have tuna sandwiches for school lunch. I went to Public school, but we followed the rules for Catholics, meatless fridays. Tuna casserole, chop stick tuna, but no sammies. Grilled cheese, tomato soup or mac and cheese, salmon patties with creamed peas. That is the limit I remember in the rotation. We had terrific lunch ladies too. One always pinned a fresh (starched? ) floral handkerchief carefully folded into a fan shape over her
b-oob and always had fresh lipstick by the time lunch was served.

Dad did not like tuna in any form so we never had it at home. My First tuna sandwiches that I remember were served at church basement functions, like after a funeral. Small buns with this funny texture but yummy tasting. Didn't know what they were until I was in college and saw a new tray set out at a deli and the counter-man stuck a sign in it that said Tuna/

Been Hooked on Tuna ever since.

I grew up on Miracle whip, but switiched to Hellmans mayo eons ago.

I usually buy solid Light tuna in water. Never tried the kind that comes in packets/ pouches. Boy, after they switched the cans from can openers to flip tops, it only took the little girls, whichever ones were part of the family at the time, to learn that new sound. Double Boy, I bet they wish I was still working as I made tuna sammies for lunch more often than anything else. They always get a spoon each Sometimes I will set the can down on the floor and they can lick the inside while chasing it around the floor like a hockey puck with their noses buried in. Did I say I usually open two cans at a time just so they each get their own. They share best separately.

If I add anything to tuna salad, I like Famous Daves spicy pickle relish, any relish or sweet pickles or dill pickles or olives chopped up. Sometimes a single onion slice, sometimes a little celery. Diced jalapeno is good too or a radish. Lettuce, tomato, toasted bread and I'm a happy man.
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Old 08-17-2015, 08:35 PM   #14
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I will often buy a small 6-8 oz. piece of tuna from the fish counter. I take it home, sauté it in olive oil, then when it is cooked through, I flake it and pour a small amount of olive oil on it and let it sit for 24 hours. I mix it with finely diced celery, onion, very little Cains Mayo (Local brand) a small amount of pickle relish on the tip of a spoon, salt. I do not drain the olive oil off as most of it has already be absorbed by the fish. And it allows me to use less mayo.

If I have it on hand, I will replace the onion with scallions. Whites and part of the green.

On the rare occasion when I buy a can on tuna, it will be solid pack albacore. I drain it thoroughly and replace the water with olive oil. Follow as above.
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Old 08-18-2015, 01:37 PM   #15
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As a couple others here have mentioned, I also only buy the tuna in oil - I think it has better flavor than water packed. I just looked and I've got 2 cans of chunk light Chicken of the Sea (it says it's packed in soybean oil), and 2 cans of solid albacore in olive oil. I just used my last can of Trader Joe's yellowfin in olive oil, that's one of my faves.

I also remember my mom packing us tuna sandwiches on squishy white bread. Oh, how I loved those, especially when she cut the sandwiches in little triangles.

Usually I just mix tuna with mayo, diced celery and onion, and chopped pickles - sometimes sweet and sometimes dill. And instead of the squishy white bread, it's rye or whole wheat for me.
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Old 08-18-2015, 04:10 PM   #16
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For the life of me I can't remember how the tuna salad from a school lunch tasted.

I just remember we got an ice cream scoop plopped on the plate.

I ate it because it was what was had and it was all I was getting.

I go for simple these days for Tuna Salad.

Chunk White Albacore. Whatever brand is on sale.

I go for water packed. I can add olive oil if I think it needs it.

Mayo.

Pepper.

Sweet pickle relish.

Old Bay and/or Cayenne.

That's it.

If I'm feeling adventurous and not lazy then some finely chopped onion and/or celery.

On soft white bread. (Toasted or not as the mood strikes me) is my go to Tuna Salad Sammie.

Lettuce is a nice addition but it's a step I usually don't take for the quick fuel I view tuna as.

I don't believe It's the recipe as much as the ingredients that will lead you to the taste you seek.

Schools of yesteryear made due with a budget and perhaps you should use the most economic Cheap ingredients to duplicate the taste you seek.
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Old 08-18-2015, 04:34 PM   #17
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In elementary school our lunch ladies always served us "Tuna Boats". A hot dog roll with tuna salad and a half slice of yellow cheese cut on an angle then stuck in it to represent a sail. The sides were always potato chips and pickle chips. I remember pouting more than once because the pickle juice ran into the hot dog bun or the chips and made them soggy. I can't stand soggy!

These days I make it similar to dc with the addition of some finely chopped red bell pepper or some chopped pickles.

I want to try an Aunt Bea version of this cream cheese/tuna spread and serve it with crunchy celery, or bell pepper strips.

Tuna Cheese Spread Recipe | Taste of Home
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Old 08-19-2015, 01:54 AM   #18
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I went to Catholic schools for all my 13 years of education (no, I didn't repeat a grade, my first school had a kindergarten) and for the life of me, I cannot remember if my high school made tuna salad. The grade schools did not have cafeterias, but I can't say if the high school offered it or not. Besides, I still took my own lunch almost everyday.

I'm odd, I never put onion/shallot/scallions into my tuna salad, nor dill relish/pickles. Instead, I mix 1/2 mayo-1/2 yogurt with fresh-ground pepper, Lawry's seasoned salt (the only other thing I ever use Lawry's in is potato salad), Colman's dry mustard, and a shake or two of Tabasco sauce. I then add the tuna, celery, HB eggs, and sometimes chives or capers. We like these best on rye bread, but any bread or Triscuit cracker is fine too.
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Old 08-19-2015, 08:40 AM   #19
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Canned tuna, mostly albacore has been around since the turn of the century.
I'm guessing some of those cans were being used in the 'sixties' in school cafeterias LOL.
Canned tuna sold commercially in the US, in the fifties, were albacore which were caught by the millions in seine nets and fish net traps, which are still being used in a few places in the Mediterranean, and later using longlines and driftnets.
The oil used in canned tuna in the fifties was likely third press olive oil from Italy shipped to the US in tanks.
Handling/hygiene/processing has come a long way since the fifties. If you ignore the heavy metal in canned tuna I'm guessing today's tuna is a better tasting product.
Buy one can of $'Ventresca Tuna'$.....if you dare. You'll never taste jarred or tinned tuna like it.
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