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Alaskan Fish: We Can Pickle That!

March 6, 2013

Do you enjoy inefficient fixed-gear bicycles and straight shaving? If so, then give home-pickling a try! Portlandia references aside, pickling is another common home food processing method that is great for food preservation and imparting unique flavors onto food. The Pacific Northwest Extension has a great pamphlet on making Scandinavian-style pickled fish. There are many recipes for pickling available on the web, but in keeping with familial tradition, we decided to use Bixler’s great-grandpa Solly Urie’s pickling recipes from his days as a food proprietor in Seward. In fact, if you are in town, the building undergoing renovation for offices across from SeaLife Center is called Old Solly’s, where he used to have a bar and liquor store.

Solly invented this recipe quite some time ago and is far more intricate than other picking recipes we’ve researched on the web. In honor of Old Solly, we’ve included a picture of him below with his sweet beard. You can also learn about him at the Seward Museum!

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Solly’s Pickled Fish Recipe

Solly’s original recipe calls for either salmon or herring, but we decided to do a suite of fish: salmon, halibut, rockfish, and cod. The recipe is a two step process and takes six days to complete.

Brining

Before you can properly pickle fish, it must be properly brined to draw out water to firm up the fish and to kill any excess creatures that might be living in the meat. The brining must be done at temperatures below 38 F (3.3 C) for an added measure of safety. This means you can either clear out a large space in your fridge or use the great outdoors of Seward’s Ice Box like we do.

Ingredients:

  • Fish fillets, defrosted (if using frozen), skin on
  • White vinegar
  • Pickling (non-iodized) salt
  • Water
  • A cool place below 38 F (3.3 C) – fridge or the great outdoors

Here are the steps:

1. Set up a container to brine in such as a large bowl, bucket, or cooler (if placing outside). Place fish in container.

2. Make the brining solution: 50% white vinegar and 50% salt brine. The brine is 1 lb of salt to every 5 quarts of water. To convert between pounds of salt and cups of salt, use the following ratio: 1.6 cups of salt to 1 lb of salt. For our solution, we used 1 gallon of water, 1 gallon of white vinegar, and 1 1/3 cups of salt.

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3. Pour brining solution over fish. Make sure that it completely covers the fish. It is okay if the fish floats in the solution. Store in a cool place for three days. Every day or so give the solution a nice mix to rotate fish.

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Pickling

After the brining process is complete, the fish will be lighter in color and firmer in texture. This means it is time to pickle. Here is what you need for Solly’s Pickled Fish:

  • Pint or quart-sized canning jars
  • White Vinegar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Water
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Lemons or Limes
  • Pickling Spice

1. Drain brining solution. Add fresh water to the container and soak fish anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, depending on how salty you want the fish. We soaked for just two hours since we like the salty taste.

2. While you are soaking the fish, prepare the jars by boiling jars, lids, and rings for five minutes to sterilize and remove any manufacturer residues. Set aside to air dry.

3. Remove fish from soaking solution and discard. Skin fish and cut into half-inch chunks. Set aside. Peal whole garlic cloves and thinly slice apples, oranges, onions, lemons or limes, and carrots. Set aside. As shown in the picture below, we sort of setup a pickling station for this project. We also forgot the carrots, too.

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4.Prepare the pickling solution: 50% white vinegar and 50% water. Add about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to every 1 gallon of solution.

5. Pack the jars half full of fish, then add a combination of whole garlic cloves and thinly slice apples, oranges, onions, lemons or limes, and carrots. Top with pickling spice. Do not pack too tightly as the solution needs to reach all fish chunks.

6. Pour pickling solution into jar to cover everything you’ve added. This combination of fish, fruits, and veggies makes for a very colorful addition to your fridge. Salmon is especially pretty.

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5. Cover your jars with lids and rings. Be sure to write the full date (month-day-year) and the type of fish you are pickling.

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6. Place in the fridge. In three days from jarring, the pickled fish should be ready to eat. You can store under refrigeration for up to 6 months from the “pickled on” date.

Serve with crackers or straight from the can with a fork. Yum!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark & Deb Nelson permalink
    March 8, 2013 2:41 am

    Will it be ready for tasting on our arrival ? Pickling is also a natural probiotic. Good for digestion natural bacteria. Cheers Mark

  2. Aneta permalink
    July 24, 2014 11:58 am

    Hi, I have just tried this recipe but in a day my jar almost exploded, foam was coming out and the brine turned white and seems fizzy. I have put it in the fridge and just tasted it now, it tastes okay but fizzy, is that how its supposed to be? I am scared to eat it – its still a raw fish. Please let me know what you think, that would be very helpful!

  3. Mike permalink
    August 4, 2014 4:16 pm

    I just got back from a successful fishing trip to Homer, AK, and I have about 50 lbs of halibut and 50 lbs of salmon. Also a little bit of rockfish and cod. I thought I’d try pickling some, and found this page.

    I’ve never pickled anything before, but I have tried smoking salmon and halibut other years. In my experience, the halibut tends to get way too salty, though the salmon works great.

    Since you’ve tried a variety of fishes, can you comment on which work the best?

    • August 4, 2014 4:20 pm

      Salmon is really the only fish that works best with this recipe. Halibut breaks down way to easily in the pickling solution. Rockfish stays firm for a little while, but then turns into a paste – not very desirable.

      We would do pickling with the salmon (save some for smoking!) and smoke the halibut. Oh, and you can’t forget fish and chips with the halibut!

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