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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
When 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!
My 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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