Friday, April 6, 2012

Pickled Salmon

Two pretty salmon, two ugly fishermen

Living on the Kenai Peninsula offers the unique opportunity to eat all the salmon a person can stand. This is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. Not so much for my kids. Growing up, they developed a dislike for salmon due to an overexposure to it.  Canned, smoked, baked, barbecued, fried, loafed, caked, poached, burritos, ceviche, salmon salad, you name it, whatever Oncorhynchus species was dragged home took on the variation. We even tried salmon spaghetti sauce… once and only once. NOT a good idea… at all.

All that salmon exposure left my children scarred. One fled the state entirely, and the other lives in Anchorage, 160 miles away from the prime salmon fishing streams of the Kenai. After my daughter and her husband moved to Anchorage, I noticed their summer visits were infrequent at best. I asked why, since the Kenai is considered Alaska’s playground.

“It’s the salmon, Dad. If we come down, you’ll want us to eat salmon. If you promise not to cook salmon, we’ll visit.”

Fresh in July, pickled the following April
“But you loved salmon as a kid!”

“No, Dad, I had to eat to survive.”

Even though it is vacuum packed to protect against freezer burn, by this time of year the salmon caught last summer doesn’t taste as good as fresh, or recently frozen. What to do with those few filets left in the freezer?  Pickling is the answer.

Pickled fish is a favorite of mine. (Although, Mrs. Poynor’s estimation is much lower. As in, “Ugh! Gross!”) So, as a service to this blog’s readers (both of you) I am offering up my favorite pickling recipe. Frozen salmon is available in just about any region, but remember to only buy “wild” salmon. Friends don’t let friends eat farmed salmon. This recipe will pickle up to two pounds of fish.


Pickling solution ready to simmer... ummm.

To start the process, remove the skin from the salmon and soak it overnight in a brine solution made with one cup non-iodized salt per gallon of water (use a plastic, glass or ceramic container). A gallon of brine will treat four pounds of fish, so you might want to adjust the volume of brine, just keep the ratio of salt to water. (The fish must be brined, or it will get very soft on pickling.)


 Pickling solution:
In a glass or stainless steel, 2-quart pot put in the following:
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 large lemon, quartered
1 medium onion, quartered
1 teaspoon non-iodized salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (can use brown or white)
1 tablespoon of mixed pickling spice
1 clove mashed garlic (more if you’d like, I use about 3)
Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for thirty minutes.  Let cool thoroughly before adding to fish.

While the pickling solution is being made and cooling down, “freshen” the salmon. Dump the brine out of the container, rinse off the fish and then soak in fresh water, changing out the water at least once. (I know this seems weird, drawing the salt out after brining, but if it isn’t done, the product is too salty. Don’t be tempted to skip brining!  Believe me, I’ve done it, and you get mushy fish.)

This fish is in a real pickle!

Once the fish is freshened, cut it into about 1-inch cubes, put it into a non-metallic container and pour the cool pickling solution over it and mix everything together. Put a cover on the container and put it in the fridge. Let the fish pickle for at least 24 hours, mixing things around a few times, before trying it.  The fish will keep in a refrigerator for two months (or so I’ve been told, mine never makes it that long, and I do 4-pound batches).  After two days, I recommend pulling out the lemon rinds, as they will start to impart a bitter flavor.

Hope you try it and enjoy it.

Pickled fish with pickled jalapenos! Your tongue will beat your brains out to get to it!
 A note to the readers: April posts may be sporadic – like this one. I am have taken on a contract and will be working every day through the month. (Hey, gotta pay for the blogging habit somehow!) I will try to maintain the weekly schedule, but ask your patience if I don’t.

33 comments:

  1. As one of your two (?) blog readers, I have to say that I agree with your daughter. Salmon...bleck!!! Rather have a real pickle. :)

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  2. I hope my brother-in-law doesn't see your picking recipe.

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  3. Um. That is all kinds of yuckiness. :) More for you though, right?
    FYI - Anchorage is pretty nice in the summer because everyone is down on the Kenai. :)

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  4. I just do.not.understand salmon haters!

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  5. My husband just returned from King Salmon AK and brought home 4 nice Kings, we've been looking for a pickling recipe and are definitely trying this one! Thank you for specific instructions and bringing up the mushy fish part, a lot of recipes fail to mention that! We'll let ya know how it comes out! Thanks again!

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    1. Great! Thanks for commenting. You also ought to try smoking some of those kings. Smoked king is delicious. Another great way is to cook it slowly over a very smokey charcoal fire. Use apple wood chips for the best flavor. Kings are quite oily and absorb smokey flavor very well.

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  6. My Aggie Dentists friends in the north out of Anchorage area slice the slice into thinner fillets, not the thick chunks. It sure was tasty and easy when camping on the Kenai... Circle up the RVs with kids and friends.

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  7. Holy Cow!!! we pickled some of last years salmon to make room for this years. now we might have to pickle some of this year's too!!! excellent, with saltines and cheese and a cocktail on the deck looking at Pioneer Peak... not much better!!

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    1. Oh, yeah! Pickled salmon... it's not just for breakfast anymore. Or at least I'm making the assumption that you're not having cocktails for breakfast, could be wrong, you are an Alaskan after all. Glad you liked it.

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  8. I gew up in northern Minnesota and we pickled fish all the time. It is delicious, but now I live in Washington and this is "Humpie" season in Seattle. We eat and smoke them, can you make these into pickles?

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    1. Thanks for reading the blog. Humpies pickle just fine. The only cautions I would offer is that being softer fleshed than other salmon, don't use fish that have been frozen for long, if possible, and make absolutely sure to brine them first. When I pickle them, I make smaller batches so they don't sit in the pickling solution for much more than a week.

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  9. Once the fish is pickled, is there a way to can/jar them like you would kippered salmon?

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  10. Thanks for reading the blog, Elena. There is a "finishing" pickle, one that isn't as strong, and is used to keep the fish longer. I have never done it, however. The pickled fish must be kept refrigerated using that method, just like the ones that can be purchased in the stores. I don't think pickled fish would hold up to being canned. I suggest you do a search on "Long-keeping cold fish marinades" or "canning pickled fish." Sorry I couldn't help more.

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  11. I do so appreciate your blog on pickling salmon. I love love love pickled fish.

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    1. Thanks for reading the blog. That seems to be the thing about pickled fish: people either really like it, or really dislike it. I think it's the distinctive taste.

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  12. How long do you 'Freshen' the Salmon for? I am trying this out and don't want to mess it up. Thank you for the recipe!!!

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    1. Thanks for reading the blog. Hope you like the results. It takes an hour to two hours, changing the water a couple of times, but if you don't freshen it enough, it's not the end of the world, the fish are just a little more salty. A friend of mine doesn't freshen the fish at all, just takes it from the brine and pickles it. I find his fish way too salty.

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    2. Thank you for responding to my question! (about "freshen" the Salmon). I tried this recipe out and I wanted to let you and everyone else that wants to try this recipe out, do yourself a favor and GO FOR IT it's GREAT!!! Mr. Poynor thanks for getting back to me and teaching me another way to make Salmon taste great. Time to catch some more!!!

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    3. Glad to hear it turned out for you and that you like it. I like it for breakfast - seriously. Good stuff.

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    4. Sounds most excellent I will try your pickling recipe with brining the fish first. Thank you.

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  13. I am born and raised in kodiak alaska and this is hands down the best recipe out there.

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    1. Thanks, Deric! High praise coming from someone who lives where there are plenty of opportunities to try different recipes out. And thanks for checking out the blog.

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  14. been pickling salmon in S.E Ak for a few years now, gonna give yours a shot. Thanks for posting!

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  15. Unbelievable! Tried it next to my old school recipee, room temp cure for 10 days then pickle. This cure was slimely to the touch after 24 hrs. The other (old country) cure was foggy and firm. Wierd. Going to keep going with this to check it out. My recipe lasts for months in the fridge. Does this? Seems sketchy so far. Call me cabin50@comcast.net

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  16. Just had to say, thanks for this!!! Done it twice, and I love it! As a long time fan of pickled herring, this recipe made my first pickled salmon experience awesome. Doing it again for Christmas. My dad wants me to send him a jar! Thumbs up from this American Norwegian clan!

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  17. I was in Nome at Marty Ruud's house. You gave me a card. I have tons of pictures of his boat. I need an email address. You liked his unique boat.
    Contact me through Marty.

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  18. Trying this today. We have never had or made pickled salmon. Fingers crossed it turns out yummy!

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  19. This is my first time pickling fish. The pickling solution is really yummy. I've had my salmon soaking (pickling) now for 48 hours. I just took some out to taste and check. Some of the pieces seem good but some of the other pieces were either kinda soft and still darker pink inside and some pieces were very tough to the point that I couldn't pull them apart. I'm just wondering is it possible that I need to just let it sit for longer? Like maybe a week atleast? Never doing this before, I'm just hesitant to eat it (or share it) before I know it's ready. I made a pretty large batch, your recipe x 8. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks. :)

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    1. I've never made a batch that big, but have two thoughts on your problems. First, with that much fish, all of it may not have been exposed to the brine evenly. Or, during freshening, some did not get thoroughly rinsed. Both situations could cause some pieces to be softer, or tougher. As far as some pieces not being fully pickled, I think it goes back to the size of the batch. The salmon needs to be moved around fairly regularly to ensure exposure to the pickling solution. I rotate mine at least four times during the first 24 hours. Also, it is always better to have too much pickling solution than not enough. If pieces are still darker pink inside, they aren't fully pickled and need to sit longer. Hope this helps.

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  20. Thanks I have learned a lot here. I have pickled fish before but thought salmon would be too oily to pickle well. I'm going to give it a try. The brine the fish before I think will make a world of difference.
    Thanks again.
    Darwin SE AK

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  21. Peel the lemon and it will not add bitterness.

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