Canned Smoked Salmon

A favorite way to use subsistence salmon is by smoking and canning it.

Cleaning a subsistance catch of Sockeye salmon.

Wild salmon are a blessing that I enjoy on a regular basis.  This involves catching and processing that salmon as a subsistence food.  Typically when I get a salmon I eat some fresh and then vacuum pack and freeze whatever is not going to be eaten right away.  The sooner you freeze the fish and better job you do cleaning and packing it the longer it will last in the freezer.  I've found that frozen fish is often not the most convenient way to use it so I started  canning some of my catch.  This was a great discovery as it is so much more convenient to use canned salmon than frozen.  I always really enjoyed the  smoked and canned salmon made by the mother of a friend, so I started trying to figure out how to make it for myself.  This is a great way to prepare either fresh caught salmon or to use up some of the unused frozen fillets in your freezer to get ready for another fishing season.  

Fisherman, Fish,Tub, Brine,

Start with an amount of fresh or thawed frozen salmon fillets appropriaate for the size of your smoker and pressure cooker.  Cut the fillets into chunks that are 1/2 " less than the height of the jar.  Hint: make a mark on the cutting board so you can get uniform size pieces, it makes it a lot easier when filling the jars.  

Next brine the fish. You will need a large stainless or plastic tub or bowl big enough to hold all your fish.  Many people use a cleaned out 5 gallon oil bucket with a lid.  I've found that a dry brine works best for me.  I don't follow a recipe and prepare the brine by taste.   Start with Brown Sugar and gradually mix in fine canning salt until it tastes balanced not too salty not too sweet.  I think it is about 1/3 Cup salt to a bag of brown sugar.  After it tastes right add in spices like garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, secret ingredient ground cloves jut a dash not too much, just experiment, variety is nice.  After making the brine layer the fish and brine in your tub making sure to get all pieces covered thoroughly with the dry brine.  Cover the tub and refrigerate the brine fish overnight.

layer fish and brine in a clean tub and then refrigerate overnight 12-24 hours.

layer fish and brine in a clean tub and then refrigerate overnight 12-24 hours.

The brine  will draw some of the water out of the fish and make the smoking process go faster.  Remove the fish from the brine and place on smokehouse racks.  Spraying the racks with Pam will make the fish easier to remove after smoking.  Let the fish sit on the racks and air dry for a few 3-4 hours just so the pieces are not dripping brine and they are ready to smoke.  Smoke the fish at the lowest temperature that your smokehouse allows with heavy smoke for 1 hour.  You are not cooking the fish here, it gets cooked in the canning process.  After smoking the fish let it cool before trying to remove it from the racks because it will be very soft and break up easily while warm.  This also gives a little more drying time.  When you remove the fish from the racks you might want to remove the skin from the fish before packing the fish into jars.  This is a matter of personal preference just note this is the easiest point to remove the skin.  

Pack the smoked fish into jars for canning.  I prefer the half pint size.  Fill the jars as tightly as possible up to about where the threaded part of the jar starts.  When finished you need about 1/3 inch between the fish and the lid.  After filling the jars with fish add a light saltwater brine to the top of the fish.  Again to make the brine just use taste to determine how much salt to add to the water.  I think I use about 1 tablespoon to 2 cups water.  From here follow the instructions provided from the manufacturer of your pressure cooker to can the fish.  If you have not done this before and are considering investing in a pressure cooker I would advise you to get a good quality one and one big enough to do a large amount at a time.


Subsistance fun with family and friends.

Subsistance fun with family and friends.