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Kent Wang

Why do people use canned vegetables?

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Aside from the obvious advantages of cost and ease, is it possible that some people actually prefer to use canned vegetables over fresh ones?

I find canned vegetables vastly inferior to fresh, especially for green beans. Yet, there are tons of otherwise good restaurants that serve canned green beans as a side. Even at potlucks, there's usually a canned green bean casserole, sometimes from good cooks that I would expect otherwise. I've gotten to the point that I can't eat more than a bite or two of the stuff.

Maybe people are just used to it and have recipes (from their mom, Cook's Illustrated, etc.) that call for canned green beans and have come to actually like the taste?

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I don't know. I see canned potatoes and wonder who buys them.

In cans I have been known to buy tomatoes, pickled beetroot, corn kernels and asparagus. I know that asparagus is such a different thing when canned, but they can be good on toasted sandwiches.

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I'll buy canned corn (nostalgia I'm sure); tomatoes for use in sauces (convenience); chickpeas for humous... and I think that's about it...

I always thought I hated green beans because the only time I had them as a kid, they were canned. Same with olives. Imagine my surprise when I ate some fresh ones (probably just to be polite when I was having dinner somewhere else) and loved them.

I have an aunt who LOVES canned black olives – I don't think she's ever even tried any other kind.

Canned potatoes? Boggles the mind...


I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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Well, canned veggies do have their place in disaster preparedness. I do, in fact, keep canned potatoes in the cabinet for Hurricane season. Fry them up on a coleman stove with some onion and a couple of eggs, and you get to eat a hot meal. Canned beans make for a quick "beanie" dish if you don't want to spend the time slow cooking dried beans. Tomato paste, because it is just not worth the time and effort to make my own. I generally empty out the pantry of canned veg at the holidays, and restock by the next June.

I do can some of my own veggies (pickles, tomatoes, relishes, mostly). Other than that, not if I can help it!

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Canned tomatoes (either canned myself or store-bought) are a fantastic thing to have in the winter months when you can't get good-quality fresh tomatoes. Many, probably most, pasta sauces are better made with good canned tomatoes (use whole tomatoes and puree or chop them) than with poor winter supermarket tomatoes. Don't go making Pomodoro, but Amatriciana? Absolutely.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Canned tomatoes are a worthy ingredient in their own right. Most of the most popular tomato sauces are properly made with canned tomatoes (I'll have to disagree with Chris as to whether high quality canned tomatoes can make an outstanding simple tomato sauce with nothing more than canned tomatoes and butter). I would never be without several large cans of DOP San Marzano tomatoes in my cupboard. Additionally, some few other vegetables are traditionally and appropriately canned. For example, in Spain canned (jarred, usually) asparagus is quite traditional. Some other traditional canning preparations that are understood to be intentionally transformative are quite good.

A few others (some legumes, posole) are not as good as "the real thing" but acceptably good when one is in a pinch.

Others... well, it's either a mystery to me why anyone would buy them (potatoes? really?!) or I can't understand why you wouldn't rather buy frozen (corn, peas, etc.) at much higher quality.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Most of the most popular tomato sauces are properly made with canned tomatoes.

That's an excellent point: while of course fresh tomatoes have their place in many pasta sauces, canned tomatoes have a very long history and many sauces are specifically created around them, and one would generally not use fresh. So while Pommarola is traditionally made with perfectly fresh summer tomatoes, Sugo Scappato (your basic Red Sauce, traditionally a winter tomato sauce) is generally made with canned tomatoes.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Canned taters probably hark back to an earlier generation. My late FIL loved them, particularly after he could no longer peel fresh potatoes a/c his arthritis but could still operate the electric can opener. He wasn't a great cook but he still enjoyed preparing his own meals after his wife passed on.


Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I have found canned corn, especially Niblets, to be more consistent and reliable than frozen corn, so I keep it in the cupboard.

Tiny Le Seur peas are a unique product and a good transformation, but not that easy to find.

Sauerkraut in cans is another mainstay, and the imported cans are usually better than packaged kraut in the cooler.

Canned peaches or pears are another good transformation, so I keep them at hand, even if used only twice a year.

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Very few canned vegetables in our household.

We buy pickled beets, olives (daughter loves them), beans to use in quickly prepared dishes, and tomatoes. Most canned vegetables have a terrible, mushy texture and taste tinny. Niblets are OK but I haven't bought any in years. Used to love the Mexicorn.

I once worked in a restaurant where the chefs would insist on us making "Potatoes Boulanger". Canned potatoes, heaps of nasty, stale processed garlic, margarine, and copious amounts of paprika then baked. Even the staff wouldn't eat them.

I think most people who use canned vegetables do it because it's what they're used to. My parents actually preferred canned green beans.


Edited by BarbaraY (log)

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the only thing I buy in a can with regularity besides tomatoes are water chestnuts


Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)

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I agree, canned tomatoes are fine.

I can't recall a recipe from Cook's Illustrated that uses canned beans!!

Oops, I was thinking of something like Betty Crocker or the Time-Life cook books.

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Aside from the obvious advantages of cost and ease, is it possible that some people actually prefer to use canned vegetables over fresh ones?

I find canned vegetables vastly inferior to fresh, especially for green beans. Yet, there are tons of otherwise good restaurants that serve canned green beans as a side. Even at potlucks, there's usually a canned green bean casserole, sometimes from good cooks that I would expect otherwise. I've gotten to the point that I can't eat more than a bite or two of the stuff.

Maybe people are just used to it and have recipes (from their mom, Cook's Illustrated, etc.) that call for canned green beans and have come to actually like the taste?

I'll buy tomatoes, as mentioned by most. I also use corn off-season and beans anytime. I enjoy making beans, but I can't tell the difference in taste! The only other thing I can think of is new potatoes. I stick a couple or 3 cans of them in very hot water to soak while I'm making garlic butter and cutting the bread. Then along with the meat and garlic bread I grill them outdoors with a vinegar and tomato-based BBQ sauce.

John S.

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I don't know. I see canned potatoes and wonder who buys them.

I usually have a few cans of potatoes in the camping box. They are a nice addition to breakfasts.

We buy canned tomatoes (Muir Glen organic usually) by the case.

Rotel or Hatch chopped tomatoes and green chili are a welcome addition to

many dishes as well.


Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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My family always ate canned asparagus. I don't I even knew that there was a fresh variety.

And then one day, my DH introduced me to fresh asparagus and a whole new world opened up. We have some ancient patches on the farm, and the years when it rains a lot in the spring, we actually get tired of eating the stuff.


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

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Canned beans (pinto, garbanzo, black) can be a lifesaver when you need to get a quick meal on the table.

Canned tomatoes, as mentioned by many others in this thread, are a valuable resource for sauces when good fresh tomatoes are not available.

Canned water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and baby corn can dress up a stir-fry.

Pickles and pickled items like grape leaves and olives are tasty to some and available year-round, helping to add something different to the menu at home.

I really see no modern use for canned carrots, green beans, potatoes, spinach, peas, etc. except as emergency rations.

***

The canned vegetable aisle (ever shrinking as it is), is a relic of a bygone era. Go back in time 75 years, and the average grocer had very little available in terms of fresh produce in winter. Nuts, root vegetables, and occasional shipments of exotic fruits like bananas were all you got for months on end. (my dad worked for a local grocer as a kid in the early 1930s)

Refrigerated train cars were around, and delivering produce, but primarily to the wealthy in large cities.

You home-canned as much of what you could raise yourself, if you had an established garden. If you lived in the city, or were starting up a homestead, store-bought canned goods were the only game in town.

You could buy exotic canned goods (pineapple) to expand your menus and add variety.

Frozen foods, while developed in the 1930s, didn't appear in the average grocery store until after WWII. Many homes didn't have sizable freezer space until the mid-1950's when fridges started being configured like today's models with freezers large enough for more than just ice cubes.

Essentially, canned goods were the only game in town for over 100 years, and people got used to eating them.

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I just scored a case of canned tomatoes for 7.99.....

I much prefer canned corn over frozen, frozen corn seems sticky

oh and baked beans, they were on sale too

tracey


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Maxine

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We feed canned green beans to our dogs to maintain their weight. Consequently, our boys consider canned green beans to be dog food. You can imagine the results when friends invited us for dinner and served nicely-sauteed fresh green beans.

Son: “What is this?”

Me: “Green beans.”

Son: “But that’s dog food!”

Me: :shock::blush:

We have a temporary teenaged daughter for the next few months. She has many fine qualities, but canned corn is the only vegetable that she eats without drama. Makes me appreciate our boys’ progress.

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the only thing I buy in a can with regularity besides tomatoes are water chestnuts

I thought I liked canned water chesnuts until I had fresh ones. Now it is really hard for me to get over the tinny taste. Every once in a while when fresh are not an option I pick up a can and mostly pine for the real stuff.

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Then there are the veggies that you can't really get otherwise like baby corn (seems to be popular in Chinese dishes, though I guess it's a recent development) and bamboo.

I know someone (yimay) that doesn't eat the baby corn because of the tinny taste. Fresh bamboo is one of the things I miss most about China. But I'm willing to make do with canned.

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canned tomatoes are great. Not just for make Italian tomato sauces, but they work equally as well when making Mexican. I can knock out a pretty good salsa with canned fire roasted tomatoes along with roasting fresh garlic, fresh chili peppers, and onions.

Also, I think canned beans are just fine for a lot of things. Good to have on hand.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I much prefer canned corn over frozen, frozen corn seems sticky

I'm with you on this. We don't eat much corn in the winter when we can't buy it fresh at the farmer's market, but when we're in the mood, it's canned corn. The frozen stuff seems to me to have a weird texture...sticky...mushy...something...

Just not good.


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If I'm eating corn as a stand-alone vegetable, I'll go with canned (if fresh isn't available). If I'm adding it to a soup or stew, I'll use frozen.


I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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