Smoked and canned oysters
Conservas Lou elaborates in Galicia cans containing smoked oysters, stinging nettle –yes, that irritating plant-, smoked tuna loin and sardines…
Manuel Loureiro, a Galician entrepreneur, is not afraid of trying new things. He is a chemist who worked in the iron industry, before deciding to make his vocation come true: in 1989 he founded Conservas y Ahumados Lou S.L., a canning fish company. He is the great-grandson of Tomás Martínez Vilar, who opened in 1880 a factory devoted to fish salting in front of the beach of Castiñeiras, in the Galician town of Ribeira (A Coruña), in the Northwest of Spain.
Loureiro’s commitment to innovation has led the company to have a quite peculiar catalogue of products, very different from the other fish canning factories of the area. Conservas Lou sells cans of stinging nettle –yes, that irritating plant that he assures is very tasty with eggs and ideal for marinating meat-. They elaborate as well smoked smoked preserved fish in tins, something not common in Spain, and baked chestnuts in syrup. “We are a very small company and it was clear that in order to compete with big brands, we had to focus on originality of the product”, says the entrepreneur.
“We were pioneers in algae canning. When we started picking algae in Galician coast, 20 years ago, we were regarded as nuts, and today there are seven companies in this industry”, explains. In round tins with the brand Don Reinaldo he tries as well to capture the magic of Galician oysters. They use the variety Crassostrea gigas, which has the inferior valve very curved. Each oyster is briefly introduced in a steam bath, before taking out the flesh, which is cleaned and put on hot water and then in cold water, process that takes place twice or three times. Once the oyster is dry is smoked with beech wood during 6-12 hours. The oysters are placed in a metallic tin, covered with olive oil, and sterilized.
The final product is very different from the pearl colour, texture and unmistakable sea flavour of the fresh oysters. It has a very intense smoked aroma, his texture and taste remind the monkfish or cod liver. Each can contains 6 very big oysters and its price is higher than 10 €. Restless and curious palates can buy them in El Botiquín (calle Barquillo 11), where they recommend to eat them with lime and chives.
Conservas Lou, settled in the old factory that Manuel Loureiro’s great-grand-father started his business of salting fish at the end of Nineteenth Century, elaborates other artisanal specialities, that are sold under their brands Lou and Don Reinaldo Loureiro is a true enthusiast about smoked fish, and he is able to transmit that passion when he underlines his smoked mackerel, bonito tuna belly and sardines as his best creations and complains the lack of interest and tradition in Spain for this kind of products.
20% of the production of Conservas Lou, which reaches around 100.000 cans per year, is exported to France, England and Germany.