How to Can Salmon
Canning is a method of preserving foods, and canning your own salmon is a great way to store fresh fish for later. You can make canned salmon with fish you caught yourself, or with fish you bought from the store. Canning is a relatively simple process, but it’s important that you use a pressure canner to process meats and fish, as this will ensure they're safe to eat later.
3 pounds salmon
1 cup (200 g) brown sugar
1 cup (225 g) white sugar
1 cup (300 g) salt
8 cups (1.9 L) water
Cleaning the Fish
Scale the fish.Wrap a towel around the salmon’s tail and hold the fish in place by the tail. Run the back of a butter knife along the body of the fish, working from the tail toward the head. As you scrape the knife along the body, you'll remove the scales. When you finish the first side, turn the salmon over and repeat on the other side until you’ve scraped off all the scales.
- Rinse the salmon under running water to wash away any leftover scales.
Remove the organs.With a filet knife, slice into the belly of the salmon from the tail to the lip. Gently open the belly, and use your hand to pull out the organs. If there are any organs that you can't easily remove, delicately slice them out with the knife.
- Hold the clean belly open and rinse the fish under running water to remove blood.
Remove the head, fins, and tail.Use the filet knife to remove the head and pectoral fins from the salmon. Cut on a 45-degree angle from the head, around the back of the pectoral fin, and toward the belly of the fish to sever the head and fin from the body.
- To remove the remaining fins, use a sawing motion to slice the fins from the body. Cut from the tail toward the head.
- Cut off the tail where it meets with the body of the fish.
Slice the fish into pieces.Use a large knife to cut the body of the salmon into inch-thick (2.5 cm) filets. You don’t have to worry about the bones in a salmon, as they will soften up during the smoking process.
- Keep the thickness of the steaks as uniform as possible to ensure even curing and smoking.
Cure the salmon.Before you smoke the salmon, it’s important to soak it in a brine solution that will help preserve the fish. Combine the brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and water in a large glass bowl and stir to combine. Place the salmon filets in the brine solution.
- Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and let the salmon cure in the brine for about an hour.
Smoking the Salmon
Gather your supplies.Most canned salmon is smoked before it’s processed in the cans. This prevents food-borne illnesses and contamination, and ensures the fish will be properly preserved. To smoke the salmon, you'll need:
- Clean towels
- Kitchen scale
- Smoker or a barbecue
- Wood for smoking
Rinse and dry the fish.Remove the salmon from the brine solution and rinse it under running water to remove excess salt and sugar. Lay the fish on a clean towel and pat it dry. Place the fish somewhere cool and let it dry for about 30 minutes.
Weigh the fillets.The best way to determine proper smoking time for canned fish is to measure the amount of moisture lost during smoking. To do this, you must know the start and end weight of the fish. Place all the fish in a clean bowl and weigh it using a kitchen scale.
- Record the weight of the fish before you start the smoking process, and keep this number handy.
- You don’t have to worry about measuring the weight of the bowl, as long as you use the same bowl later to measure the post-smoking weight.
Prepare the smoker.Light the charcoal in your smoker. Let the fire burn and embers form. When there's a good bed of embers and the temperature of the smoker is between 140 and 160 F (60 and 71 C), add the wood.
- You'll know you have a good bed of embers when the coals are red hot and there are few to no flames.
- A popular wood for smoking salmon is alder.
- You can also use a charcoal barbecue to smoke your fish if you don’t have a smoker.
Cook the salmon in the smoker.Lay each piece of salmon scale-side down on the racks of the smoker. Leave about an inch (2.5 cm) of space between each filet to allow air to circulate and the smoke to rise.When the smoker is ready, insert the racks with the salmon. Smoke the fish for about two hours.
Remove the salmon and weigh the fillets.When two hours have elapsed, remove the salmon from the smoker. Transfer the fish to the bowl you used to weigh it originally. Weigh the smoked fish and record the weight. Ideally, you want a weight loss of about 12.5 percent. If the fish needs more time, return it to the smoker for another hour if necessary, then weigh it again.
- To determine the weight that’s been lost, subtract the post-smoking weight from the starting weight. Divide that number by the original weight. Finally, multiply that number by 100 to get the percentage.
Canning the Fish
Wash the jars.To can salmon, you should only use half-pint or one-pint (200 or 250 ml) canning jars. Wash the jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water. Set everything aside to dry.
- For three pounds of salmon, you'll need roughly three pint jars or six half-pint jars.
- You can buy canning jars at home stores, grocery stores, supermarkets, and departments stores.
Pack the jars.Use your finger to peel off as much skin from the salmon as possible. Pack the filets into a clean canning jar with the skin-side out. Fill each jar as much as possible, leaving an inch (2.5 cm) of head room at the top of each jar.
- Clean the rim of each jar with a clean towel.
- Place a sealing lid on each jar, and then screw on a ring. Don’t tighten the rings too much, as these will tighten during canning.
Fill the canner with water and bring it to pressure.Arrange the jars on the canning rack and place the racks into the pressure canner. Cover the jars with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the lid on the canner, close the latch, and open the heat escape vent.
- Heat the canner over high heat and bring it to 11 pounds pressure.
Turn down the heat and process for 100 minutes.When the pressure canner reaches pressure, turn the heat down to medium or medium-high. Process the fish for 100 minutes.Keep an eye on the pressure to make sure it doesn’t drop below 11 pounds.
- If the pressure does drop below 11 pounds, turn up the heat immediately until it returns to the right pressure.
Turn off the heat and cool.After 100 minutes, remove the canner from the heat and allow it to cool and the pressure to return to zero. Wait another two minutes, and then carefully remove the jars using a jar lifter or tongs. Set the jars on a heat-proof mat and allow them to cool for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, test the seals by pushing each lid gently with your finger. If any seals move, it means the lid didn’t make a proper seal.
- For jars that didn’t seal properly, you can process them again in the pressure canner for another 100 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure. Or, transfer that can to the refrigerator and eat the fish within a couple days.
Before canning salmon in a pressure canner, wash the jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water and set them aside to dry. Next, use your fingers to peel off as much of the skin as possible, then pack the fillets into the jars. Fill each jar as much as possible, but make sure to leave 1 inch of space at the top. Then, clean the rims, place a sealing ring on each jar, and screw on a ring. Finally, place the jars in a pressure canner and process them for 100 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure.
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