Canning Salmon

My husband, really, REALLY likes to fish – especially for salmon.  Which is a good thing, because we like to eat salmon.  Last fall, during early salmon season, he caught five nice ones! If the salmon are caught later in the season, they will be beat up, their scales start to fall off and they just look downright ugly.  Their flesh also has a bit of a muddy taste, so he goes out early and catches enough to get us through a year.  We also give a lot of salmon to my mother, who is very appreciative!  Ray likes to smoke some of the salmon and takes it to holiday dinners and parties with friends.  Yeah – we get asked to bring the smoked salmon quite often. 🙂  preserving pacific salmon

Usually we either fillet the fish or cut it into salmon steaks, then freeze.  The only problem with this is that I like to use my sucky machine (aka Food Saver) to vacuum pack all of the food I put into the freezer, but it is nearly impossible to vacuum pack a salmon steak.  Why?  Well, the bones in raw salmon are like sewing needles and they poke right through the plastic bags!  Unfortunately there have been a few times when I have realized this too late, and the salmon steak has been freezer burned beyond repair. 🙁

Nonetheless, when we move up to our future homestead, we won’t be able to rely on a freezer to preserve all of our food.  There isn’t a freezer big enough for that.  Our plan is to build a root cellar as soon as our home is done, which will house the majority of our fresh potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, pears, and squash.  But we also plan to dehydrate and can a large supply of our food.  That way we won’t have to travel to the grocery store but once or twice a month, and if some type of disaster strikes and we have to hunker down in place, we should have enough food on hand to survive at least six months… or more.

I have done some canning before.  This past summer I made some really delicious plum butter in my crockpot and canned that up.  A few months ago I took whole frozen tomatoes and turned them into a thick tomato sauce which I canned into pint jars.  When I was a young mother I even tried my hand at canning green beans.  I entered those into the county fair and won first prize!!!

But I have never canned any type of meat or fish.  I have always had a lot of (irrational) fears about it.  Oh, I know – people have been safely canning meat for decades.  I needed to put my fears aside and just do it!

I found a new rubber gasket and also the instruction manual for my old pressure canner online, which included all of the safety checks, and followed those exactly.  Three times.  🙂

I found a recipe on-line that was from an extension office in Alaska.  I figured, if anyone knew how to can salmon, people in Alaska would.  Right?  pressure canning salmon

These instructions said that frozen fish is perfectly acceptable to use and there is quite a bit of salmon still frozen in my freezer, including some who’s seals had failed (stupid bones!) that I had repacked into a zipper lock freezer bag, so they were still okay.

The process to can the salmon was very straightforward:  Place chunks of salmon into a clean jar (no need to sterilize the jar because the canner will do that anyway), add a little bit of salt, no need for liquid.  Wipe the rim of the jar clean, place the lid on top, screw on the band to just finger tight, put into the canner and process for an hour and a half. pressure canning pacific salmon

So far so good.  Then I had a little trouble:  I had watched several You Tube videos about how to can with a pressure canner.  They all said to wait for the steam to release from the vent for ten minutes  before you put the weighted gauge on top, and then start the processing time.  So, I turned on the heat and waited for the steam to come out.  All of the videos showed this huge plume of steam gushing out of the vent.  Every one.  I never saw this.  I could hear the water bubbling in the canner.  When I put my hand over the vent – ouch!  Yup, it was hot steam.  But I never saw that huge plume of steam – like in the videos.  I let it go on like this for almost an hour.  Then I realized that there must be steam coming out, I just couldn’t see it very well like on the videos!  I was afraid that at this point I was going to just boil and steam all of the water out of the canner!  So, since it was all an experiment anyway, I decided to go ahead and put on the weighted gauge.

Heaven’s to Betsy – you would have thought a band of senoritas with castanets were marching through my kitchen!  That weight gauge almost jiggled itself off the vent post!

Yup.  Obviously there was enough steam venting!

So, I started the timer, turned down the heat a bit so I could hear my husband’s voice over the clatter, clanging, jiggling of the weight on the vent, until the weight jiggled once about every 20 seconds – or 2-3 times a minute.  Then I stood there for an hour and fourty minutes, counting the jiggles every five minutes or so to make sure the pressure was still at the 10 pounds required for my altitude.

Candy Crush on my Kindle kept me company.  Just can’t pass level 165 – grrrrrrrr….. how to pressure can fish

Once the processing time was done, I turned off the stove but left the canner there, unopened, for several hours.  That evening I nudged the weighted gauge and when nothing much happened I opened up the canner..  I carefully lifted the jars up and out of the canner onto a dishtowel on my counter.  Well, it was canned salmon alright, but it sure didn’t look very pretty.  The salmon shrank up a bit, there was a white gooey looking substance (I assume salmon fat) and a thin layer of orange oil.  On the bright side, every one of the seals were tight.  Yay!

Now came the ultimate test – taste!  My favorite meal with canned salmon is to make salmon patties! So, a few days later I decided to give it a try.

canned salmon cakesWhen I opened a jar, the aroma of salmon was fairly strong, just as it is when I open a can of salmon that I have purchased at the store.  Good.  But, taking the fish out of the jar was another problem altogether.  Note to self:  in the future, use a wide mouth canning jar!

Next, I flaked the salmon in a bowl, added the rest of the ingredients (recipe to follow), shaped the salmon mixture into patties, and fried them up!  Yum!

Making salmon patties from home canned salmonMy recipe?  Well, I have always used a simple recipe passed down from my mother, but I tweak it and twist it to use what ingredients I have.  I start with one can of salmon (oops, I guess I should say pint jar now), two eggs, and lots of freshly ground pepper (no salt).  Those are the ingredients that never change. Then I add in bread crumbs or crushed saltine crackers or crushed potato chips (about 3/4 to 1 cup) – something to bind it all together. I have even used hash browns before, which is really good!  Sometimes I add a little bit of onion or lemon zest – or both!  It doesn’t matter.  Just mix it all together, form into patties about the size of a hamburger, and fry until a golden brown on one side, flip and fry to golden brown on the other side.  You can fry the salmon patties in oil, butter, lard – whatever floats your boat!

My next experiment will be canning beef.  I purchased an e-book on my kindle all about canning beef, and I can’t wait to try!  If you have ever canned beef, chicken or fish before and have any tips or tricks you would like to share, please share them in the comments below!  Or, if you have a blog post about canning beef, chicken or fish, you can certainly direct my readers to yours in the comment section also!

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35 thoughts on “Canning Salmon

    • Thanks! I have been wanting to do this for a long time – just took a bit of courage to do it! We ate the salmon patties (they were really good) and didn’t die from botulism, so now I am going to try canning beef! Wish me luck!

  1. Great job on canning the salmon. We don’t eat it so haven’t tried that. I did pressure can beef, burger, pork and chicken. I used instructions from the Big Blue Ball book (i think that’s the name). All worked great, all taste/look similar to store bought canned meat. for the burger I cooked it first and rinsed off any grease and made meatballs which I browned in the broiler a bit then rinsed. I too have a hard time seeing the steam so I scrunch down and check the stream against a dark object. When it seems pretty full and steady, I figure it’s good to go!

    • Oh yes! I guess it would be easier to see steam against a dark object! Thanks! Have you done any posts on your canning? If so, I must have missed them! The meatballs sound great! I think I am going to start out with just cubed beef first, then graduate onward and (hopefully) upward. I may try canning some trout soon also because I hear it is very mild and is a great substitute for tuna. Plus, we have some left in the freezer and it’s almost time to go trout fishin’ again!

  2. How great that you can catch and preserve your own salmon! Much cheaper and healthier than buying it canned at the store. Thanks for sharing at Fridays Unfolded!

    Alison
    Nancherrow

    • Yes, it certainly is nice and fresh and a LOT cheaper than what you get at the grocery store! I enjoyed learning how to can the salmon, but I must confess that my favorite way to eat it is to marinade a fillet or two in soy sauce, lemon juice, honey and a little bit of garlic – then barbeque it! Delicious!

    • Yes, I plan to do it again! And again 🙂 As long as my husband keeps fishing, I guess I will keep canning! Thanks for stopping by, Melanie.

  3. I started canning my own chicken last year and love it! I by boneless, skinless breast when they go on sale and stock up! it really is simple and you can do a raw pack like you did the salmon. Same method (90 minutes at 10#’s pressure for quart jars). So much tastier and a better value than commercial canned. Thanks for sharing your story…now I am a little more confident to can some fish!

    • Thanks, Teresa! Do you add any broth or water, or just dry pack? Do you have a post on your blog about it? My husband and I plan to raise both egg hens and meat chickens, so I would like to learn how to can chicken also! Thanks for the info!

  4. I’ve never canned salmon, but my mom has. I want to try chicken this year. Have you ever done that? Thank you for sharing at What We Accomplished Wednesdays. Have a lovely week! ~Deborah

    • Hello Deborah – good to hear from you!! No, canning the salmon was the first type of “meat” I have ever pressure canned. I want to try beef, chicken and pork next – actually not sure which one yet – waiting for a sale! 🙂 I do have some trout in the freezer that I want to try canning. I hear it is mild when canned and is a good substitute for tuna! I will let you know how it turns out!

    • I have eaten salmon out of a can for most of my life as it was one of my mother’s favorite meals to serve. So, when my husband started salmon fishing some number of years ago, I would freeze the fillets and steaks for baking or grilling, but if I wanted to make salmon patties, I always bought the canned salmon! Recently, as I have been preparing to move up to our future homestead, I have been learning more self sufficient techniques, including canning fish! Since we plan to live off-grid, I figured it would be a good idea not to rely heavily on a freezer for food storage, so canning and dehydrating are skills I am presently trying to learn!

  5. I am sure it is delicious! My father use to bring home large rainbow trout and my mom bottled it. It really tasted wonderful. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

    • Oh yes! That is something I have been planning to can! We catch a lot of rainbow trout every year and I want to can some of it! Thanks for hosting your blog hop and letting me join in!

  6. What a great idea!! I have never thought about canning salmon before. I am always looking for better ideas for food storage. Thanks so much!

    • Yes, I agree, this is a great way to store salmon! It certainly doesn’t look very pretty in the jar, but it tastes great! I appreciate your comment!

    • Thanks, Jenny! I was just hopping about and found a recipe for “Alaskan Salmon Chowder” that sounds good, and I can use my canned salmon! Thanks for hosting the hop!

  7. Very interesting and unique post, I love smoked salmon, and fishing. Since we mover here 4 years ago I have only been once. Why? Gators for one, and have not made time, thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays, join us again tonight at 7 central.

    • Haha – yup – gators would make me think twice about going fishing also! I would be afraid that every fish I caught, a gator would eat it before I could get it into the boat, and that might just attract more gators! No thanks!

  8. I also can salmon every year. My husband catches quite a few and last year I was lucky enough to catch a 40 pound and a 33 pound salmon. Some in the freezer and some went into canned. A lot is passed on to the kids as they aren’t lucky enough to live by the river that has salmon. We also can a lot of tuna which we buy off the tuna boat.

    • Hello, Drusilla – nice to meet you! Yup – it’s salmon season here again. It’s nice that my husband likes to fish… a lot! Sometimes I wonder if he’s just out there to get some peace and quiet! 🙂 Anyway, once I learned how to can the salmon, we have found several recipes to use it including the stand-by salmon patties and a wonderful salmon chowder. We also give some away to my mother and my sisters, and then freeze a lot of the salmon in fillets so we can either grill them or bake them later. I have heard that canning tuna can be tricky, so I haven’t attempted it, but some day would like to learn how. I have heard that canned trout is pretty good and can be used as a substitute for canned tuna. Have you ever canned trout?

  9. To freeze salmon I do what my friend who owns salmon canning boats in Alaska. He freezes his own salmon that they use at his home each year. His recipe: Hi Dru
    I think one cup karo would work…. w/3-4 cups water….. boil to totally mix the karo with water….. then chill…. you might need more if you do the whole fish at once…. other wise, I freeze the fish solid, then steak it with a bandsaw, and then dip the individual steaks in the chilled brine solution, that way you can take out a couple steaks anytime you want, sometimes the local butcher will steak it for you at the end of the day before he cleans his saw…
    good luck, Grant T

    Hi – – – this is how Grant said for me to freeze the fish so it won’t be freezer burned. So this is how I followed what he said – – sort of – -mostly, and it works so good.

    1st we cut it up into whatever we want – then freeze the pieces on a rack on a cookie sheet (like steaks, fillets, halves, etc.) After they freeze I then dip each piece in the COLD Karo brine and put them back on the rack (like a cake or cookie rack) and put back in the freezer. I usually do this a couple times to really get a good coat on the fish. Maybe I do an overkill here but it works great. So far we have never had any freezer burn.
    When frozen we wrap each piece in plastic food wrap (like from Costco) and we vacuum pack at this point – although Grant didn’t tell us to, I really don’t want to lose one bite of our hard to catch fish. This tastes like fresh salmon doing it this way. It really doesn’t take as much time to do as this sounds – DUH! What can I say?? I do an overkill..
    I also can lots of salmon now and have since I was a teenager. Before the pressure cooker/canner – we had to boil the jarred salmon covered with water for 4 hours. That would be unheard of now in the USA. It sure did work for us for many years until we could finally afford to buy a pressure cooker/canner.

    • This is a great method! I have also frozen my salmon and do it almost like you, minus the frozen brine. I find that if I freeze the salmon fillet on cookie sheets and then use my sucky machine (vacuum sealer) the very next morning, I rarely have freezer burn. I know a guy that used to water bath can his salmon also! I would always fret that he was going to die of botulism, but he never did. Of course, after cooking the salmon for hours to ensure it’s safety, I’m sure there weren’t very many nutrients left. 😉 Thank goodness for pressure canners!
      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment, Dru. It’s always nice to hear how other people do things because you never know when you may learn something new! Thanks for teaching me something new today.

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