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.