Throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, summer months are a time to harvest salmon and put them away for the lean times of winter. We recently made a trip to Sekiu, Washington and salmon fishing was good! I returned home with a couple really nice Chinook fillets and decided to put them up in jars for later in the year.
The beauty of canning smoked salmon is that you get to enjoy all the flavors of summer throughout the entire year. The process is straight-forward, although it does take an entire day. It is well worth it.
Preparing Salmon for Smoking
I looked back on my time in Cordova, Alaska and used simple prep work that my fishing buddies taught me, along with some help from the book Salmon Sisters: Feasting, Fishing and Living in Alaska: A Cookbook with 50 Recipes.
- Strip the salmon fillets so that the brine has a chance to penetrate.
- Place in a full salt brine for 12 minutes, stir occasionally. (100% brine means that you have added enough salt to water to float an egg).
- Drain salmon strips in a colander and stir in 1 Tablespoon of Dark Brown Sugar for each pound of salmon.
- Allow salmon to air dry in the fridge for at least a couple hours to overnight.
Smoking Chinook Salmon for Canning
When you are prepping smoked salmon for canning, it’s important to not overdo it in the smoker. The goal is to smoke just long enough to secure a smoky flavor. But you want to make sure that there is still enough of the salmon’s natural oils left that the final product is moist and juicy.
- Place brined salmon strips in the smoker spaced out with room between the pieces.
- I smoked this batch for 3 hours at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They were barely starting to cook and leak oils, but the canning process will fully cook them.
Canning the Salmon
Pressure cooking anything requires that you follow USDA guidelines first and foremost. So read up! It’s very important that you do it right.
- Wash all the jars and rings thoroughly.
- Place the lids in a pot of water and lightly boil.
- I put 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil in each pint jar, 1 tablespoon in each half pint jar.
- Remove the salmon skins and pack the strips in each jar with 1 inch of head space.
- Place in pressure cooker and get the water boiling.
- I maintained 10# of pressure for 110 minutes.
- Once the time is up, turn off the heat and allow all the pressure to dispatch from the cooker before removing the lid. Mind the steam!
- Remove the jars and allow to air cool, all the lids should “pop” and ensure the seal. Any jars that don’t seal should be placed in the fridge and consumed within a couple days.
- Sealed jars should be placed in your pantry and should be good for at least a year.
Smoked and canned Chinook is a real treat throughout the year, and a great reminder of great fishing trips from the summer months. I plan on packing a jar or two on our fall fishing trips, as well as saving them for winter when I need a taste of how awesome summer salmon season was to us! Enjoy!