Monday, December 8, 2008

Canning Salmon

I love salmon. When I get the chance to go out to dinner at a really nice place, odds are I'll order the salmon. Even though I've never lived near an ocean, I've caught and canned my share of salmon. Sockeye salmon, the pink-fleshed tasty kind, spawn and live for a while in fresh water before heading downstream to the sea. But there's also a landlocked variety of sockeye that lives its entire life in fresh water, called kokanee salmon. When I lived in Leadville, I'd try to make it out to my favorite spot on the river in the fall, just before it entered a big mountain reservoir, for salmon snagging (Colorado has a legal snagging season in the fall - the mature salmon heading upstream to spawn aren't interested in hitting a lure, but you can snag them with big weighted treble hooks using a jerk-n-reel tactic. They're going to die anyway, and it's food in the pantry).

My dad loved fishing. Every summer, my folks would camp at mountain reservoirs, taking the boat out all day, rigged for salmon fishing. Mom would take the pressure cooker and jars along, and after a couple of days of fishing success would can the salmon right there at their campsite. Since moving to Nevada, I'd always beg them to bring me jars of salmon when they were coming out to visit. But, while writing my last post, I realized that with the passing of my dad earlier this year, those jars of salmon might not be quite so plentiful now.

My Colorado brother has dad's boat now, he likes to fish, and probably even cans his salmon. But I don't see him very often. My Colorado sister and her husband also have a boat, fish for salmon, and might have to start canning their own catch (Mom might still do it for them - they live close by). So I still might be able to beg jars from family on occasion. But then again, Lake Tahoe, right over the hill, has kokanee in it. I might have to start looking around for someone with a boat, and start canning my own salmon again. When I asked Aries to ask his co-workers about who goes fishing, he said one guy had mentioned maybe trading fresh salmon for our eggs. That would work. Or maybe I can find someone that would trade salmon for my canning efforts - we could split the results (especially if I could get them to return the empty jars for "re-filling"). I'll have to look into that. If you do have access to fresh salmon, whether from salt- or fresh-water, and a pressure cooker or canner, salmon are easy to can.

Canning Salmon
Kokanee aren't as big as ocean salmon, so they're usually canned cut in cross-wise chunks, skin-on, instead of filleted. Gut the fish, and cut off the head and tail. Remove loose scales and clean the skin by scraping. Cut away the flabby belly flap and the fins (cutting down into the flesh to get the fin bones too). Cut crosswise in lengths to fit your jar leaving at least ½" headspace. Pack into sterilized pint jars - straight-sided wide-mouth jars work best. Add 1 teaspoon vinegar to each jar, seal, and process at 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes.

Salmon creates its own juices during the canning process. Leaving the skin on means more of the Omega 3 oil that makes eating salmon so good for you. The vinegar softens the little bones so that they just disappear. When I use a jar of salmon, I'll drain off the liquid, pull off the skin, and pick out the big backbone sections. Then I'm ready to make salmon patties, dip, pasta salads, all kinds of good eats.


Annette said...

Mmmm, tastey!

Janet said...

Hmmmm, thanks for the informative post. My Brother fishes for ocean salmon off the west coast and freezes or smokes his catch. I may have to persuade him to let me can some - if I cab find a pressure canner. Do you use regular canning jars for this?

Sadge said...

I use regular canning jars - I've used the narrow-mouth pints too, but the wide-mouth ones make getting the salmon in and out a lot easier. I also used to use my little pressure cooker, three jars at a time. For bigger ocean fish, you can fillet them and can the pieces without the skin (probably leave out the vinegar too, since there shouldn't be any bones to dissolve either).


When we can up here, we throw in some dill and lime in some.. some get peppers and lime, others get just a piece of undersmoked salmon to smoke the whole patch... I would love to send you some smoked salmon this summer.. We live in the middle of King salmon country.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any recipes that use canned salmon?

Linda said...

Canned salmon makes great chowder. Use condensed canned milk for a rich flavor. It is also handy for making fish paddies. Just flake and add an egg and/or mayonaisse to hold it together and cruble in about 10-12 soda crackers per pint of salmon plus your favorite spices (I'm fond of fennel). My family was once snow bound for 3 months in Alaska with only a 50 pound bag of rice, some dried seaweed and lots of canned salmon for food. Surprisingly, when all was said and done, we still like salmon! An easy meal is made by flaking the salmon, adding mayonnaise (just enough to hold it together...maybe a couple of tablespoons), crackers, salt and pepper and fennel seed and onion flakes. Pour all out into a baking dish and toss it in the oven until warm...about 20 minutes.