Don’t Freeze It!! Smoking & Canning Kokanee

I woke up at 3 in the morning to pull on my long johns, two pairs of socks & a pair of coveralls I borrowed from my husband.  There are very few things I wake up for with a pep in my step….FISHING is one of them!!  We froze our tushes off for a few hours as we laughed with my Grandpa Don & enjoyed the crispness of the morning that was beginning to bloom across the lake before us.  Wickiup Reservoir has always been a good Kokanee fishing spot!  I already knew what I was going to do with my catch….CAN those BABIES UP!!

I used to freeze all of my fish that couldn’t be eaten within a few days of being freshly caught.   Nothing made me sicker than to open the freezer to find my fresh fish encrusted with freezer burn!!  It goes from being tonight’s dinner to tomorrow’s hard earned crab bait!!  I have used vacuum sealers as well, but canning has taken the cake for me!  Excellent flavor retention & I have a thing about texture okay…I like my fish firm!

 

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Happy man with his kokanee catch!

We like to smoke our fish with just a bit of sea salt & black pepper on them.  Nope, we don’t brine them or do anything fancy!  We like the natural flavor & you can spice up the recipe any way you’d like prior to canning;) When we say “lightly smoke” we mean just that.  Smoke it until it begins to firm up and the skin peels away easily. Do not smoke the fish to the point of jerky or your canned fish will be like chewing on a shoe!!! We smoke our fish for about 4 hours with a heavy cold smoke (approximately 100-120 degrees) so the fillets are completely coated.

We have a smoker/barbeque combo that works perfectly!  It let’s us build the fire in the little box on the side to create the smoke that rolls into the attached big box.  This lets the fish cold smoke without all of the heat that a regular smoker puts out.  It’s best to get the smoke rolling good prior to sticking the fish in the smoker.  We cut our fish right down the middle before laying on the smoker.  The bones come out easily, especially after being smoked a bit;)

Once smoked, I put them in the fridge for a couple hours to firm them up even more.  Then I gently peel off the skins & bones & put the kokanee meat into a big bowl to be packed into jars.  You can use any size of jar you would like, but I find that half pints are perfect!

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Kokanee meat ready to be canned

Before packing your jars, put a couple inches of water in your pressure cooker & turn it on medium to heat up the water. Start packing your fish into jars leaving an inch of space at the top. I don’t mean cram them all in, but pack the fish down so the jars don’t have much airspace between the fillets.

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The awesome thing about fish like salmon & kokanee is they have so many of their own natural oils! So, you don’t need to add much canning liquid.  I add just a few tablespoons of a little concoction just to add a bit more flavor!  Once canned, we open them up & eat them straight out of the jar they are so good!!

Special Canning Concoction:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 tsp black pepper

*Add 2 tablespoons of mixture to each jar prior to putting lids on.

Once packed, wipe the rim of the jars with vinegar to clean off all oils from the fish.  Slap on your lids & rings & load them into the canner!!  The lids should fit snugly, but not to tight!

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Loaded & ready to go!

After all jars are loaded into the pressure cooker, check the water level.  The water should only come up to barely halfway on the jars.  If there is to much, take some out.  If there is to little, add a bit to reach the correct level.  As soon as that is accomplished I turn the heat up to medium/high & bring the pressure up to between 10 and 15 lbs.

Once the pressure cooker has reached the desired pounds of pressure, start your timer for 70 minutes!

**Check your canner instructions for proper use and altitude adjustments

Once 70 minutes is up, I turn off the burner & let the canner reduce to 0 on the pressure gauge. Do not open the canner (or the valve) before the canner reaches zero pressure.  It will spew incredibly hot steam that burns or the jars might explode! Once the pressure reaches

zero, open the lid & remove the jars. Place on a cooling rack or thick cutting board to cool down without being disturbed. Jars will still be boiling &  incredibly hot so I recommend using a jar lifter! At this point you can load in your second batch if you have more. 20160504_164031

You will begin to hear the canners applause as they begin to cool.  The lovely sound of success when the lids seal!  It will resound as a loud >POP< & you can pat yourself on the back;)  If you question whether a can has properly sealed, push down on the lid. If the lid moves up and down the jar is not sealed and will have to be run through the process again or put in the fridge to be eaten immediately.

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Canning your catch is an awesome alternative to just tossing them into the freezer!  Once you get the hang of canning, you’ll love it!  It’s excellent for preserving your hard earned food & if you’re ever in a pinch for a gift; people LOVE to get canned goodies!  I mean, anything that has been prepared with such love has to taste good!!

Note: Always follow the recommendations from the directions that came with your canner and FDA Guidelines.

The sun is shining…get out there & fish!!

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