Sardines are canned in many different ways. At the cannery, the fish are washed, their heads are removed,and the fish are then smoked or cooked, either by deep-frying or bysteam-cooking, after which they are dried. They are then packed in either olive, sunflower,or soybean oil, water, or in a tomato, chili, or mustard sauce.
Canned sardines in supermarkets may actually be sprat (suchas the “brisling sardine”) or round herrings. Fish sizes vary by species. Good-quality sardines should have the head and gills removed beforepacking. They may also be eviscerated before packing (typically the larger varieties). If not, they should be purged of undigested or partially digested food or feces by holding the live fish in a tank long enough for them to empty their digestive systems. Sardines are typically tightly packed in a small can which is scored for easyopening, either with a pull tab (similar to how a beverage can isopened), or with a key attached to the side of the can. Thus, it has the benefit of being an easily portable, nonperishable, self-contained food.
The close packing of sardines in the can has led to their metaphorical use of the name in describing anysituation where people or objects are crowded together, for instance, in a bus or nightclub. It has also been used as the name of a children’s game, where one person hides and each successive person who finds the hidden one packs into the same space until only one is left out, who becomes the next one to hide.