Our favorite recipe for canned smoked salmon

Ingredients

  • 6 sockeye or bright chum salmon*
  • 1 cup salt (non-iodized)
  • 2 cups soy or teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • fresh garlic (optional, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • red chili flakes (optional, to taste)
  • 1/2 bag alder chips

Equipment

  • Electric smoker
  • Pressure canner
  • 15 pint jars, rings, and new lids*

*This recipe is sized for one batch of 15 pint-sized jars in a 21-quart All American Pressure canner (model 921)

Prepare the salmon

Rinse fish in cold water. You can also add vinegar (2 tablespoons per quart) to the water. Remove guts, head, tail, fins and scales. It isn’t necessary to remove the skin. You can leave bones in most fish because the bones become very soft when canned and are a good source of calcium. Cut the fish into slightly shorter than jar-length filets and then cut into 1-inch wide strips.

 Filleting a sockeye salmon

Filleting a sockeye salmon

Brine the salmon

Soak strips in a salt brine (1 cup non-iodized salt per 4 cups water) for 5-10 minutes.

Glaze the salmon

Dip strips in glaze (1 cup water, 2 cups soy or teriyaki sauce, 1/2 cup brown sugar, minced fresh garlic-optional, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and red chili flakes-optional) and air-dry on racks for 1-hour.

 Air drying the glazed salmon strips

Air drying the glazed salmon strips

Smoke the salmon

Smoke previously glazed strips for 10-20 minutes in an electric smoker allowing for 1-pan of alder chips to finish smoking.

Canning equipment

Be sure that you have all the equipment needed to produce a safe product. A pressure canner is required for processing fish. The high temperatures reached under pressure are necessary to ensure a safe product. Check the directions for your canner. One-pint, straight-sided mason-type jars are recommended. Jars should be washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed before you use them. Check the rims of jars and discard any that have nicks. Use two-piece, self-sealing lids. Purchase new lids. The rings are reusable if they are not bent or rusty. 

Packing jars

Pack with the skin side out—it will be more attractive looking. Pack solidly into clean 1-pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Run a butter knife around the inside of the jar to align the product; this allows firm packing of fish. At this point, no liquid, salt or spices need to be added, although seasonings or salt may be added for flavor if the fish weren’t previously brined, glazed and smoked like described above. Carefully clean the jar sealing edge with a damp paper towel; wipe with a dry paper towel to remove any fish oil. Attach jar lids and rings. Tighten rings “finger tight”—snug, in other words. If the rings are too loose, liquid may escape from the jars during processing, and seals may fail. If the rings are too tight, air cannot vent during processing.

Canning

Add 2–3 inches of cool water to the pressure canner. Put a rack in the bottom of canner. Place closed jars on the rack according to your canner's instructions. Fasten the canner cover securely, but do not close the lid vent yet. Heat the canner until steam comes through the open vent in a steady stream. Allow steam to escape for 10 minutes. This removes air from inside the canner so the temperature is the same throughout the canner. Close the vent by by placing the weighted gauge on the vent; for most pressure canning the weighted gauge will be positioned on 10 pounds of pressure. Turn the heat on high and when the the 10-pound weighted gauge begins to jiggle a few times a minute, adjust the heat to maintain a steady pressure and begin timing the process. Write down the time at the beginning of the process and the time when the process will be finished. If the pressure drops below 10 or 11 psi and the weighted gauge stops jiggling a few times a minute, the timing must begin again from zero minutes. If the pressure rises above 10 or 11 psi, lower the heat on the stove but do not begin timing again. Process one-pint jars for 100 minutes.

Cooling down

At the end of the processing time, slide the canner away from the heat so it can cool. Let the pressure drop to zero psi naturally; weighted gauge canners usually have a lid lock that drops when zero psi is reached. Wait one more minute; then, using a hot pad or mitt, slowly open the vent on dial gauge canners, or remove the weighted gauge. Open the canner and tilt the lid far side up so the steam escapes away from you. Carefully remove jars with a jar lifter or tongs and place on a cloth or newspaper covered table away from drafts. Don’t tighten the lid rings any further. The sealing compound is hot and soft and the jar lids are still sealing. Most two-piece lids will seal with a “pop” sound as the cool.

 Cooling jars

Cooling jars

Checking seals

After a few hours, the jar lids should be sealed (lids curve downward in the middle and don’t move when pressed with a finger). If a jar did not seal (lid bulges or does not curve downward in the center and moves when pressed with a finger), remove the lid and check the jar sealing edge for tiny nicks. If needed, change the jar, add a new, properly prepared lid, and reprocess within 24 hours using the same processing time. Food in unsealed jars may also be stored in the freezer.

Storing jars

Wash the jars, label with contents and processing date. Store jars in a cool, dry, storage area. For best quality, home-canned food should be used within one year. Note: Glass-like crystals of magnesium ammonium phosphate (common name struvite) sometimes form in canned salmon. There is no way for the home canner to prevent these crystals from forming, but they usually dissolve when heated and are safe to eat.

Serving

Open the jar and slide all the contents on to a plate. Separate the strips and gently peal the skins off. Serve with crackers or flake and mix into a variety of hot and cold dishes (like pasta, casseroles, etc.)

Credit

The canning process described above was adapted from the excellent info available from the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service.