This is a topic close to my heart. It is a passion of mine that started in an effort to preserve the biggest harvest I ever had from my garden. It was the summer of 2001 and I had a 4000 square foot garden over flowing with fruits and vegetables. It was the results of working my way through the hardest struggle of my life. Months before I lost my youngest son. Deep in the dark lonely hole of grief, I was desperate to find something good in the world. Something to busy my mind. My hands. To have purpose. So I started some seeds under a set of florescent lights that winter.
From those dark days grew a passion that gives me tremendous joy and is where I go to think, or not. And the results is an amazing wealth of fresh produce that I preserve to last the entire year.
Along my preserving journey I have made pickles, jams, jellies, pickles eggs and sausage and my latest experiments have been with smoked fish.
Smoked fish is a flavour of my childhood that takes me back immediately to the kitchen table of my childhood home. It was like Christmas when my Gido would arrive bearing bags of whole smoked whitefish. Truly, it was one of the things I most looked forward to, better then any other gift he could have bought. They were whole fish, cut down the belly, laid flat then smoked until they were dried yet still had a touch of tenderness to them. I would gently peel the bones back from the fish and break it apart into flakes, popping the pieces into my mouth and slowly enjoyed the salty smokiness of each bite.
That was 35 years ago yet I can picture it as if it was only last week.
Blessed with friends who had just gone fishing it was easy to get as many as I needed. Everyone who knows me knows I love to smoke fish whenever given the chance. Looking for a better way to handle the fish once smoked I looked into canning it. All you need is a pressure cooker. And hey, that is a fantastic reason to pick up an new kitchen toy! I bought a 22 quart Mirro pressure cooker at Canadian Tire.
The first step in the process is to prep the fish for the brine. It must be scaled but keep the skin on and all the bones need to be removed.
3 1/2 quarts of water
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
1 1/2 cups of coarse salt
2 tablespoons of onion powder
1/2 cup of white sugar
8 cloves of garlic, minced
Combine all of the brine ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Simmer and stir until all sugar and salt is dissolved.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Once cool add the whitefish and refrigerate for 12 hours.
Remove the fish from the brine and rinse under cool running water. Pat dry.
Spray the rack from the smoker well with non stick spray. Place the fish on the rack, skin side down leaving a bit of space between the pieces. .
Place the rack on the top setting in the smoker and smoke for one hour.
Have all jars clean and sterlized and in hot water. All lids and rings should be in a pot of water, slightly simmering on low/medium heat.
Fill the canner with the proper amount of water for your model. I used 4 quarts for this application.
Remove the whitefish from the smoker and allow to cool for a few moments.
Gently fill the jars with warm whitefish, leaving 1/4 headspace in each jar. Drizzle with a touch of canola oil. I then topped each jar with 2 heaping tablespoons of hot sauce.
Clean the rims of the jars with a hot clean cloth, add the lids and rings until finger tight. Place on the racks of the pressure cooker.
Place and secure the lid on the cooker. Now crank up the heat!
You want the pressure cooker to get fully pressurized. Once that happens and the cooker begins to let off a steady stream of steam, start timing for 10 minutes. This is a very important step, do not skip.
Once the 10 minutes has passed add the 10 pound weight and maintain the cooker just under 10 psi for 110 minutes.
After 110 minutes remove the canner off the heat and allow to cool for 1 hour before removing the lid of the pressure cooker.
Remove all jars and allow to cool completely.
You can open a jar and enjoy it immediately.
I am sure my Gido would have enjoyed this version of preserving Smoked Whitefish.
(my dad about age 22 and my Gido, first & second generation Auctioneers)
It is amazing when I look back at how many of my memories of him are food related. Though first and foremost he was a businessman it was his garden and the crab apple picking adventures with him I cherish the most.
I don’t know where he got the smoked fish, whoever it was had some amazing skills.