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Salmon Series, Part II: Fish in the Can

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July 21, 2010

Salmon Series, Part II: Fish in the Can

By David Draper

Contributing editor David Draper recently returned from a fishing trip in Alaska. While there, we asked him to cover all things salmon—cooking, eating, and, in one case drinking. This is the second of five stories from his trip.

Alaska residents are blessed with access to an incredible abundance and variety of wild eats, particularly of the salmonoid variety. From May through September, the state’s rivers literally teem with fish, from the early king salmon and sockeye runs into the late-summer silver salmon spectacle. In addition to conventional fishing seasons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers residents liberal limits in personal use fisheries, including dip and gillnetting seasons in certain areas.

With all these opportunities, ambitious Alaskans can haul in a year’s worth of salmon fillets within a relatively short span of time. Dealing with a pile of pink-tinged flesh can tax even the most seasoned of sourdoughs. I would bet Alaskans own the market on vacuum sealers and smoker chips, but even those two methods can get boring after awhile. There’s also salmon dried, jerked, candied and, according to Alaskan Gary Ramsell, another popular way to save your salmon.

Most summer mornings, Ramsell can be found with a cup of coffee watching the fisherman float by on the Kasilof River. The cabin he calls home sits on land his great uncle Archie homesteaded in 1946. From his deck, Ramsell could give a fishing report for the popular People’s Hole, and when the fish are in, he’ll drop his drift boat on the water. He also takes part in the dipnet season at the mouth of the river. By the peak of the run, the freezer gets full and smoker space is limited, so Gary Ramsell turns to a tried and true method for putting up fish. He cans it.

This isn’t the canned salmon you see in tin-can pyramids at every tourist shop on Anchorage’s 4th Street, but the hand-caught and homemade variety preserved with a pressure cooker and half-pint jars. Ramsell shared a few recipes with me, but this one is his favorite.

Ingredients:
1 salmon, filleted
1 tsp. olive oil per jar
Jalapenos, sliced
Onions, sliced

Brine:
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 c. non-iodized salt
2 qts. water

Directions:
Cut salmon fillets in 8-10 oz. portions. Leaving the skin on will help hold the fillets together, but isn’t necessary.

Make brine by adding dry ingredients to water, stirring to dissolve. Marinate salmon in brine no more than one hour. Remove fillets from brine and rinse.

While salmon is brining, prep good quality glass jars and two-piece lids according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

Fill pressure canner with appropriate level of water.

Add 1 tsp. olive oil to each jar.
Place a few slices each of jalapeno and onion in each jar.
Add salmon to within ½ inch of top of jar.
Seal two-piece lids finger tight.
Process according to your pressure cooker’s directions. (Typically 100 minutes under 10-11 pounds of pressure.)

David Draper is the author of the food blog, The Feral Fork.

Comments (3)

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from MLH wrote 3 years 38 weeks ago

Canned salmon is surprisingly good - nice that you can also eat the bones and skin for some extra nutrients. I eat it directly or on hot rice with tamari. The peppers are an interesting touch.

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from Greenhead wrote 3 years 38 weeks ago

Man, this post makes me long for my years in Alaska. The recipe is admirably similar to the way we used to can salmon, but for the really prime quality product, we would lightly smoke it and then can it.

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from countitandone wrote 3 years 38 weeks ago

DD~

Enjoyed installment One of your Good Food journey and I can't see how this one could fail either! Unless I screw it up, of course.

Raised in Seattle, I think it's safe to say I've had salmon prepared every which way but loose over the years not only at home but in the seafood restaurants that seem to be on every corner, right next to Starbucks. Another Seattle Icon.

This one I know will satisfy. The Copper River Run is here and why not give 'er a try?

I won't eat fish that eat other fish as much as I did once, you know, the mercury levels. Sockeye is different in that this species is not a predator such as our King, Silver or Humpies (Pinks). Main diet...brine shrimp and I suppose that's the difference in the taste, one salmon to the others.

I'll let you know and will be looking for installment 3. Thank you for the receipe 'cause I love my salmonoids.

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from MLH wrote 3 years 38 weeks ago

Canned salmon is surprisingly good - nice that you can also eat the bones and skin for some extra nutrients. I eat it directly or on hot rice with tamari. The peppers are an interesting touch.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 3 years 38 weeks ago

Man, this post makes me long for my years in Alaska. The recipe is admirably similar to the way we used to can salmon, but for the really prime quality product, we would lightly smoke it and then can it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 3 years 38 weeks ago

DD~

Enjoyed installment One of your Good Food journey and I can't see how this one could fail either! Unless I screw it up, of course.

Raised in Seattle, I think it's safe to say I've had salmon prepared every which way but loose over the years not only at home but in the seafood restaurants that seem to be on every corner, right next to Starbucks. Another Seattle Icon.

This one I know will satisfy. The Copper River Run is here and why not give 'er a try?

I won't eat fish that eat other fish as much as I did once, you know, the mercury levels. Sockeye is different in that this species is not a predator such as our King, Silver or Humpies (Pinks). Main diet...brine shrimp and I suppose that's the difference in the taste, one salmon to the others.

I'll let you know and will be looking for installment 3. Thank you for the receipe 'cause I love my salmonoids.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment