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Jun 18, 2014 06:25 AM

What food items have you only had canned but never fresh?

So upon reflection upon reading another thread, it seems that there are certain things that people have only had in the canned version. When I was growing up, I only saw tuna and sardines in a can. Didn't realize they came any other way. I remember the first time I went to a restaurant and was told I could have a fresh piece of grilled tuna. So I ordered it and was gobsmacked by the difference between fresh and canned. Same thing with sardines and corned beef hash. I was in college before I had my first real corned beef sandwich. I think by this point in my life anything I've enjoyed canned, I have also had the fresh version. I don't rule out canned over fresh as canned tuna and sardines form a big part of my weekend snack menus. But I was wondering if there are CHs who have never had the fresh version of something canned they enjoy.

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      1. re: Plano Rose

        Water chestnuts and pumpkin. I've been around plenty of fresh pumpkin, but always cooked with the canned.

        1. re: Firegoat

          water chestnuts are a different animal, too -- sweet and not salty at all, and crispy. I used to buy them fresh at a Kash 'n' Karry in Tampa, but haven't seen a fresh one in 20 years.

          Making your own pumpkin is dead easy -- but honestly, there's not a huge flavor difference.

          1. re: sunshine842

            I never really liked water chestnuts until I started buying them from a street vendor in China. The canned versions always tasted salty to me. Either way, they pack a great crunch.

            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              At a sake pub in Tokyo, fresh water chestnuts are sliced into think discs and fried. Quite a crispy and delicious snack, and so different from potatoes. They only do this during the water chestnut season, which is quite short.

              1. re: Tripeler

                ooh, that sounds really, really good.

          2. re: Firegoat

            I bet the fresh pumpkins you were around were bred to be carved. Try the Pie Pumpkins that are bead to be eaten - so worth it!!

          3. re: Plano Rose

            Those were the two that sprang to mind too... actually I HAVE had the 'fresh' version of each - once! I found them way too much work to be worth the effort, and they tasted pretty much exactly the same as the canned version.

          4. re: iL Divo

            if you ever get the chance, jump on it -- I've only had them fresh one time, but oh, they're so sweet and light and crunchy.

            I love them canned, but they're a.ma.zing fresh.

            1. re: iL Divo

              That is a hard one for most people to find and there is a world of difference between the Real Thing and what comes in cans or jars. I was amused when a Name Restaurant recently put HoP on the menu and the critics went beserk as though it was a new discovery. It was, on investigation, not fresh. (See Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's "Cross Creek Cookery" wherein she describes "swamp cabbage,")

              1. re: hazelhurst


                swamp cabbage is indeed hearts of palm, but they are quite different in how they are typically prepared and consumed. swamp cabbage is cut like one would cut up a green head of cabbage and has a great smoky flavor from being cooked over an open fire with pork fat of some sort. hearts of palm are just preserved in some salty brine and served without cooking. one is hearty and savory, the other is delicate and subtle.

                i adore them both.

                if any of you are in southwest florida in february, go to the swamp cabbage festival in labelle. good stuff!

                1. re: alkapal

                  Hearts of palm are also just sliced and served raw.

                  This is where I had them: http://www.capsplace.com/

              2. re: iL Divo

                Yup, and lychees too I think. Not totally sure as they've been served to me in restaurants ... hmm. I have had fresh pumpkin and kidney beans.

                Fresh artichokes I think are completely different from canned. The hearts in particular are sooo good. I like to be very good and save the hearts (or part of them) and make a pasta sauce with cream and thyme. TDF.

                One thing that is an absolute crime to can is asparagus. I have had good pickled asparagus though.

                1. re: foiegras

                  oh, fresh lychees are a fabulous thing.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Hmm, I think my grocery store has them, but I don't know anything about selecting them.

                    I believe the ones I've had have always been kind of translucent. After Googling pix, I think actually I have had fresh. They have the look of canned fruit cocktail about them, but I guess that's deceptive ;)

                    1. re: foiegras

                      canned ones are limp and gloppy-sweet because of the sugar syrup they're tinned in.

                    2. re: sunshine842

                      It's fresh lychee season for me now - there's no comparison with canned.

                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit


                        there was *always* a bowl of lychees on our dining room table when we lived in Europe. In season (in the winter time, as most of them come from Madagascar) they were dirt cheap.

                        They're high in vitamin C and we ate them like popcorn, so it was a great thing to always have on hand.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Like others on this sub-thread, I, too, love fresh lychees.

                          Fresh lychees are as similar to canned lychees as a bottle of discounted Two-Buck Chuck from the overstock shelf at Trader Joe's and a bottle of Remy Martin VSOP.

                  1. Kidney beans. Would still love to have fresh kidney beans in the pod. Sadly, it seems to be one of the beans that just isn't made available in that format, even from farms or farmers' markets directly.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: AlexRast

                      Ah, let me add baked beans. I've never made them from scratch, I've always doctored up canned beans

                      1. re: Firegoat

                        you need to come to my house!

                        I made them for a potluck a few years ago because I was living where I couldn't by them canned.

                        They came out so good I make them at least once a year now (4th of July, usually) -- I put mine in the slow cooker, and they rock!

                      2. re: AlexRast

                        "Red Kidney beans are typically harvested at complete maturity as dry beans."

                        1. re: C70

                          I had to check where you live. You can't get fresh artichokes there? Holy moley.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            LOL of course I can, I've just never had the urge as they seem like a lot of work.
                            Have only had hearts from a jar.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                We have them here but they run anywhere from $2-$3 apiece. I'm just not that adventurous I guess, and the canned ones never appealed to me.

                                1. re: ennuisans

                                  You may be surprised to know that here in NorCal they can go for as high as $4! I don't buy them at that price however. I believe canned ones are just the hearts, aren't they?

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    The canned can be hearts or quartered.
                                    Frozen are quite good, too, and if I'm using the artichokes in a casserole, or dip, I would NEVER go through the work of buying fresh.
                                    They are simply an amazing convenience product and a good bang for the buck.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Canned ones are either just the bottoms or quartered ones that have a chuck of the heart and some soft leaves. Frozen hearts are, I think ,preferable. I got some a Trader Joe's recently and they were perfectly fine for salads although nowhere near as good as the Real Thing. For something like Crabmeat Sardou(requiring a whole artichoke bottom) I'd never use canned.

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        I think frozen anything is better than canned anything. At least that I can think of :)

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          That's true...although I must admit that once-in-awhile (every 25 years or so) I'll chill canned asparagus and serve it with a dollop of mayonnaise on it because it is so redolent of 1965. Doesn't taste a thing like real asparagus and I just don't care, And it is always an odd green and soggy to boot.

                                          1. re: hazelhurst

                                            I haven't done that but if it were served to me I would probably have the same reaction as you. Gotta have the mayo though :)

                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                              my sister always loved to open a can, drain it, then pull out one slippery spear at a time, tip her head back, and let that spear just slide on down into her mouth. i can still picture it. have been known to do it myself on the rare occasion when i get nostalgic, too.

                                            2. re: c oliver

                                              By leaps and bounds. For example, canned peas are godawful but frozen can be nearly as good as fresh.

                                              1. re: ferret

                                                Le Soeur canned peas are my dirty little secret.

                                                I eat them cold, right out of the can. (usually alone in my ktichen)

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  you would have gotten along famously with my cat, dopey. she loved those canned peas.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    LeSoeur peas are the key ingredient in Galatoire's Chicken Clemenceau. Food snobs love to cavil about it but the regular customers would never let them change it

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      my mom's pea salad -- she'd ONLY allow le sueur canned baby peas to be used. i need to make that salad, as i haven't had it in a while. http://community.tasteofhome.com/comm...

                                                      make it a day ahead of time.

                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                    I'll look for frozen artichokes. Not sure I've ever seen them around here.

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        Not a one near me. There is a Fresh Market that I can check.

                                        2. re: c oliver

                                          I'm not the OP, but I can't get fresh artichokes for love nor money where I live (Taiwan). I have to google an image to explain what they are, because people have literally no idea what they are.

                                          I can find canned hearts at some speciality stores, but it's not the same.

                                        3. re: C70

                                          They may choke Artie but they won't choke me!

                                          Sorry. Just had to do it.

                                        4. Beef-a-roni

                                          (yes I've had fresh pasta, and pasta and meat, but I don't think you could ever replicate Beef-a-roni with "fresh" food)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Actually, I think the Gilmore Girls got their mom/grandma to make artisinal Beef-A-Roni in one episode... :)

                                            1. re: annagranfors

                                              EMILY made artisinal beef-a-roni? she was a trip!

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                Of course she didn't *make* it, dear. She had one of her frequently-fired cooks make it. :)