How to Smoke and Can Salmon

Whether you live in Alaska or are just visiting, the best present you can give friends and family is canned smoked fish.  Here’s how I do it:

1. To make the brine, use a clean medium size cooler to mix the following ingredients:

  • 6 quarts waterblog - brine
  • 2 cups teriyaki sauce
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups non-iodized salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon concentrate
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • 1 TBS onion powder

Add the salmon and push the fillets down to fully saturate in the brine. (I took the picture before I pushed them down.) Add a 3 lb bag of ice cubes on top of the brine (don’t mix the ice, just leave it on top). Shut the cooler and place in a cool location to marinate for 6-24 hours.

2. Soak the chips.

It’s easier to do this right after making the brine, so everything will be ready to go when you start to smoke – particularly for the bigger chunky chips.

Most people prefer the lighter fruity flavors for fish such as peach, cherry and apple.  I particularly like mixing peach and apple.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket about half full of water, and pour the chips into the water to soak.  Twenty minutes is fine for the small sawdust type of chips, but soak big chunky chips overnight.

3. Dry the Fish

Before putting the fillets in the smoker, dry them with paper towels and then lay the fish out on fresh paper towels.  They will be ready to smoke once they start feeling sticky.  You can usually see a light film on them, but you can also touch with your fingertip to determine if it feels tacky/sticky.  The smoke needs this film to adhere to the fish.

The timing for this depends on your climate. In a 60-degree rain forest it takes about 5-6 hours in a non-insulated structure.

4. Smoke the fish.

The timing of the smoke process will vary greatly depending on weather and type of smoking machine.  So it’s best to go by the meat temperature.

For canning, you’ll want to to under-cook the salmon to 125-135 degrees, because the canning process will complete the cook.

Note: To eat immediately or to freeze — cook to about 145 degrees.

5. Canning

I’m extra careful, so I sanitize my jars in boiling water.  However, many people believe this is not necessary.

Pack the salmon into the jar, leaving 1″ space on top.  The space on top is important to process properly. As you can see in the picture, I actually left too much space on top. blog-canning-complete.jpg

If you find a recipe you like, this is the time to add extra goodies like garlic or jalapeno to your jar.   I prefer the natural flavor, so I don’t add anything.  Be sure to clean the rims of the jar before placing the lid.

To ensure a higher yield of successful seals, dip the lids into hot water (to soften the seals) before putting them on the jar. Screw the lid ring just a tad more than finger tight. Be sure to set the jars on a wire trivet for good circulation and have enough water to cover up to the bottom third to half.

Pressure cook for 100 minutes at 11 PSI.  If you happen to be using a Power XL Pressure Cooker, you can push “canning” once and then “adjust time” in 10 minute increments up to “1:40” (one hour, forty minutes), which will pressure cook for 100 minutes at 11.6 PSI.  Note: Verify PSI for the elevation where you live.

6. Depressurize

Once the cooker is finished and naturally depressurized, remove the jars to cool.  You may hear the lids “pop” which is good, because it means they are sealing.  Keep the jars undisturbed until they cool off completely.

You’re all set. Use them as gifts, or stash on your kitchen shelf to use during the year.  Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite recipe or other salmon smoking tip to share?


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