Canning Fish and Seafood

Caution No container larger than a pint jar or No. 2 can should be used in the home canning of fish because difficulties in sterilization make the use of larger sized containers unsafe. Read USDA recommendations for processing fish in quart glass jars that follow. When canning halibut or other lean fish, up to 4 tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil may be added to each pint jar. The oil will add moisture to the product but will also increase the calories (1 Tbsp of oil = 135 cal).

Salt, seasoning salt, or other spices may be added to the packed fish.

Sauces

Sauces may be added to containers before sealing them or served with cooked canned fish. Tomato Sauce. This sauce is often added to sardines, herrings, mackerel fillets and smoked fish. Tomato "fish sauce" is a type of ketchup made from tomato pulp, vinegar, onion, salt and spices. Bay leaves and cloves are often added.

Sugar tends to caramelize at high temperatures so it should be added in small quantities as it may darken the sauce.

Tomato Sauce for Canned Fish

  • 1 qt ripe whole tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestersire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Smash tomatoes and simmer with other ingredients until reduced to about half of the original volume. Strain through a fine strainer.

Mustard Sauce. This sauce is often added to sardines and other canned fish. Ingredients: mustard seed, vinegar, cayenne pepper, turmeric, salt, water.

Add 2 Tbsp vinegar to 1 cup of water. Add 5 Tbsp. cracked mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp turmeric. Cook in skillet for 5 minutes. Strain.

Caution Do not use starch, flour or any artificial thickening agent.

Canning Fish in 1/2 Pint and Pint Jars

Half-pint, pint or quart jars are suitable for canning fish. Fresh or frozen fish can be used, thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator. Prepare fish using general cooking procedures: bleed and gut fish immediately after catching. Make sure you remove gills. Remove the head, tail, fins and scales. You can leave bones in salmon and herring as they will soften during processing and storage. Remove the bones from halibut, when in doubt remove the bones. Cut fish into fillets or chunks which are best suited for the jar or can that you are using. The skin may be left on or off. Fillets may be rolled for packing. Salmon, trout, mullet, herring are oily fish so no oil is needed, however, lean fish like halibut or cod will benefit from additional fat or oil. Follow the same procedures which are outlined for processing meat in glass jars.

Process 1/2 pint and pint jars for 100 minutes at:

  • 10 psi - weighted gauge
  • 11 psi - dial gauge

NOTE Canning fish in quart jars differs slightly.

Canning Fish in Quart Jars

When using quart sized jars, more time is required to heat the product thoroughly. Heat the canner on high for 20 minutes until steam comes through vent pipe in a steady stream. Allow the steam to escape for 10 minutes to vent the canner. The total time it takes to heat and vent the canner filled with quart jars should never be less than 30 minutes. The total time may be more than 30 minutes, especially if you have tightly packed jars, cold fish, or a larger sized canner. After you close the vent and bring the canner up to the recommended pressure and process containers:

Fish in quart jars - 160 minutes at:

  • 10 psi - weighted gauge
  • 11 psi - dial gauge

Canning Fish in Cans

Fresh or frozen fish can be used, thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator. Prepare fish using general cooking procedures: bleed and gut fish immediately after catching. Make sure you remove gills. Remove the head, tail, fins and scales.

You can leave bones in salmon and herring as they will soften during processing and storage. Remove the bones from halibut, when in doubt remove the bones. Cut fish into fillets or chunks which are best suited for the jar or can that you are using. The skin may be left on or off. Fillets may be rolled for packing. Salmon, trout, mullet, herring are oily fish so no oil is needed, however lean fish like halibut or cod will benefit from additional fat or oil.

Cans and lids: 1 pound (size: 301 x 408) or 1/2 pound (size: 307 x 200.25), also called Alaska salmon cans. According to University of Alaska in Fairbanks 25 pounds of fish as caught will fill 12, 1-pound cans or 24, 1/2-pound cans.

Follow procedure for canning meats in can, however note that fish are subjected to different (longer) processing times.

Process one pound cans (301 x 408) for 115 minutes at:

  • 10 psi - weighted gauge
  • 11 psi - dial gauge

Process half pound cans (307 x 200.25) for 95 minutes at:

  • 10 psi - weighted gauge
  • 11 psi - dial gauge

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