The sardine season at Conserveira Pinhais & Cª Lda

The sea, the fish market, the fishermen, the auction. The opening of the sardine season could be summed up in these four words, but in fact, it goes way beyond that. It means tradition, commitment, joy! Every year come early June, this ritual is revived, bringing tremendous pride and joy to the Pinhais family. We will tell you all about each step of this special process in this article. Read on.


The Matosinhos fish market

At the Matosinhos fish market the art of fishing is celebrated daily. The sea, the fishermen, all the bustle of every night and morning, the smell of fresh fish… In this magical place you truly feel the love for the sea and the century-old tradition of Portugal.

The Matosinhos fish market is located at about 1km from Pinhais and works as a true extension of our factory. This strong connection with the fish market dates back to many years ago when the grandson of founder António Pinhal had his first job as a sardine buyer at the market selecting the finest sardines, a crucial triage to ensure the best sardines.

 There are two types of sardine fishing – “acejo” and “alvor”. The first expression refers to the early night fishing and the second one to the last fishing before returning to the market. In those days, the way to make sure what kind of fishing had taken place was to throw the sardine at a wooden board. If it did not jump off it, it was not an acceptable sardine for a Pinhais preserve, as it has been fished too long ago. This technique was taught to António Pinhal by Carlos Amorim, a former Pinhais buyer who had a permanent seat at the fish market and was well liked by everyone.


The auction

One of the great secrets of the taste of our preserves starts here: selecting and buying just the best and freshest fish. Fishermen go out to sea at night and arrive at the fish market at the crack of dawn. That’s why very early every morning we have two of our experienced workers waiting for the boats to arrive – the auction in about to begin! Dona Emilia and Dona Paula have learnt with time and experience of the buyers of yesteryear the fine art of choosing the best sardines. During the auction Pinhais always bears in mind to pay the fisherman a fair price, never letting the price drop to the point where it would be impossible for the boats to sail back to sea.


Traditional method since 1920

After selecting and buying, the sardine baskets are quickly transported back to the Pinhais factory so our team can start cutting the fish as early as possible. This is a moment of true celebration; every time fresh sardines arrive, they are a source of pride and joy for everyone. Whatever we can produce during the sardine season is what we will have to sell throughout the year. The preserves are left to mature in our warehouses and are not sold immediately after being tinned.

The freshness of the fish, our homemade and secret recipes perfected over generations, the small details known only to our workers after decades of handling sardines, make this whole process a ritual of pure magic. From the capturing of the fish to its cutting, placing it into the tins and the hand wrapping, this is a true unique tradition that carries the love and dedication of our family