Canned Salmon Tutorial

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Introduction: Canned Salmon Tutorial

This tutorial will show how to can salmon using a pressure canner.  I am using sockeye salmon we catch in a net at the Fraser River.

Step 1: Prepare Your Jars and Scale the Fish

Prepare your jars. They don't have to be sterilized, just clean, because they will end up in the pressure canner and be sterilized there. I used six salmon and finished up with 22 half pints and 15 pints. Averaging 5 pints per fish.

Scale the fish. You take a knife and scrape backwards scraping all the scales off. There's a special tool to do this but I've never tried it and after scaling as many fish as I have I'm tempted to buy one. I've viewed it in use online and it looks like it would be quicker and easier on the fingers. Don't worry if you don't get every single scale off, you just need the majority gone.

Step 2: Removing Fins

The next thing is to cut off all the fins. You can do this first if you like and sometimes I do :) There are two fins on the sides, one fin on the bottom and two fins on the top, five in total. I cut the tails off when I clean the fish so that's already gone. Make sure the fish is clean. I save all those fins and little bits to can for catfood so don't throw them out if you have a cat!

Step 3: Top Fin

Use a good sharp knife.

Step 4: Cutting Your Salmon

I use a meat cleaver and it works great for slicing and cutting right through the backbone.  I cut my salmon steaks to fit. I also place them into the jar "skin side in," most books say "skin side out," but I don't like the look or how they stick in the jar after processing. Bones, skin, and all, go into the jar, those bones will soften later by adding vinegar and the processing.

Step 5: Packing Your Jars

Pack tightly into jars, leaving about a 1 inch head space, I estimate this and it doesn't have to be perfect, just close.  Here's a bit skinnier pieces in a half pint jar, tightly packed.

Step 6: Course Salt


After all your jars are filled it's time to add course salt.  Do NOT use table salt!
1 TEASPOON for PINTS
1/2 TEASPOON for HALF PINTS

Step 7: Add Vinegar (optional)

This step is purely optional.  I like to add vinegar to soften the bones.  It's the same measurements as the salt.
1 TEASPOON for PINTS
1/2 TEASPOON for HALF PINTS

Step 8: Cleaning the Rims of Jars

Take a paper towel that's been dipped in vinegar and wipe the rims of all the jars. Salmon is considered a fatty fish so by doing this you wipe away the oil along with the little bits of stuff stuck to the rim for a better seal. It's extremely important to get those rims clean! I ended up with only one jar not sealed, not bad for as many jars as I did :)

Step 9: Heating Your Lids

Bring water to a boil in a pot, turn heat off and add as many lids as you need. After 10 minutes place on your clean jars, screw on bands (finger tight, do not over tighten!), and put them in your pressure canner.

Tip:   After adding about two inches of water to my pressure canner I add a few glugs of vinegar because we have hard water and it keeps the white off the jars. Place lid on pressure canner.

Step 10: Pressure Canner

I own an All-American Pressure canner, and my directions say when you see steam allow the canner to vent for 7 minutes but follow the directions for your brand of pressure canner.  After venting I place the weight on and after the first rattle (right around 10 lbs of pressure), I turn down the stove and time for 100 minutes, keeping the pressure around 10 lbs throughout. I used to do 90 minutes but guidelines have changed and most newer books will now state 100 minutes (1 hour 40 minutes).

If your pressure drops below 10 lbs guidelines say you must start timing all over again so it's important to keep an eye on it!!

Step 11: Pressure Canner

I let my jars sit undisturbed for about 24 hours.  After that remove the rings and wash in warm soapy water.

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    71 Comments

    1 TEASPOON for PINTS (500 ml jars)

    1/2 TEASPOON for HALF PINTS (250 ml jars)

    do you get a "pickled or vinegar" taste to the salmon at all? wondering if i could soak the salmon in liquid smoke for a bit and then follow the recipe...thoughts from you? you seem to know what you're doing and this is my first time! thank you in advance!

    None, no taste of vinegar at all. It just helps to soften the bones so you can eat them. I've put a few drops of liquid smoke into the jar and that taste okay too. Another way I can salmon is to bake the whole fish on a cookie sheet, save the juice when done. Strip all meat from the bones and skin and put the meat into the jars, add a few drops of liquid smoke, some salt and this taste delicious in a salad or straight from the jar.

    I make my canned salmon with adding Western Dressing, liquid smoke, vinegar, lemon juice and salt pressure cook for 100 minutes. When it comes time to use I drain the juice off and mix with cream cheese, garlic and a few spices for a great dip. My hubby eats it right out of the jar so I make the 1/2 pint size for that.

    I should add you can as usual in a pressure cooker.

    We tried this last night with our Presto 23qt canner. Only half sealed.
    Our elevation is around 1900 and most documents stated to can at 10lbs for 100min. Friends said they do 15lbs for 100 min...we used 15lbs would that make a difference? Or did we have too many jars? Our jars were not overfull...the ones on the right didn't seal.Any suggestions?

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    4 replies

    not sure but I read from a University extension that if you leave the jars in the canner without taking the vent top off at the time when it gets to "0" pressure, wait 10 minutes then take the lid off....it can create a vacuum.... But I left my beans, after canning last week in the pressure canner... And they all sealed...so just a thought..but when I did my fish, I followed the instructions to a "T"...

    LauraR8 you may have learned about this by now. but FYI: Internal canner pressures (and therefore temperatures) are lower at higher altitudes. Canners must be operated at increased pressures as the altitude increases. Check reliable canning instructions for altitude adjustments. I fish at sea level and thus don't really deal with elevation, but I live in Jackson Hole WY so if I were to can trout there, I would HAVE to increase the pressure. I love canning!!!

    It could be a number of reasons. How old are your lids? Although sometimes even new lids are bad right from the start. I've never canned anything at 15lbs so I don't know much about that. My elevation is only about 800 and you are more than double that, so maybe google and find out if that can make a difference. I would replace the lids and re-can, no harm in doing that at all and I hope you have better luck.

    Everything was brand new (jars lids rings). As we finished late,(1am) we left the jars in the pressure canner all night.. i didnt think the unsealed jars would be good as they weren't refrigerated immediately after cooling. Then i get home tonight and 10 of them had sealed during the day...I don't know what to make of it lol.
    Canning is a crazy business :)

    I want to know when the pressure canned salmon expires? There has to be some sort time-frame after canning it.

    1 reply

    You should eat any canned foods within one year of canning it.

    Hey OhHeyLiana,

    Maybe luck of the draw, but I have canned salmon for years, but each time, check the internet for up to specs canning info. My reason for checking in tonight was to conclude if I should can for 90 min, 100 min or 110 min. I traditionally use 90 min, as it is simple to remember, and I find the pressure drops really slow after 90 min is up and the heat is off. I have not been poisoned to date. I also usually use 12 lbs of pressure, but will switch to 100 min tonight, thanks to reading this thread.

    This was the first link that came up with my key word search, and I saw your questions and thought I would reply. At the moment, I am canning 4 Coho salmon I caught earlier today. I prefer Sea Salt, but have used coarse pickling salt, table salt, kosher salt, and find they all work well. I will add a tip I have not heard mentioned. I have used vinegar before, but switched to lemon juice a long time ago. I prefer the favour, it dissolves the bones, and find it works just as well. I tend to go with RealLemon as it preserves colour and firmness.

    Not sure how handy all are with a knife, but I will fillet my fish in a way to debone it, and I also remove the skin as well. Skinning the fish is very easy, and can be done by cutting through the flesh at a 45 degree angle, then pulling the fillet towards you while the blade of the knife does the work and cuts the fish along the fat, separating it from the skin. I get a great finished product, although my buddy reminds me that the bones are rich in calcium, while the skin has valuable nutrients. I find with the skin off the fish, I have less issues with residues sticking to the jar sides, and thus cleaning the jars for future use is easier.

    Once your salmon is processed, jarred, sealed, and pressure cooked, it is ready to eat like canned salmon found from the store (but it will taste better). To tell if your cans sealed properly, you should hear popping sounds as they cool. To pressure test, once cooled, push down on the center of the jar lid, if it pushes back up and makes a kind of metallic "pop" or "ping", it did not seal properly. It is pressure cooked, so place in the fridge and eat within a few days.

    One final thought. I have canned smoked salmon, enjoy it, but it is labour intensive. I have family on the island and they use a product called "Liquid Smoke" to get the smoked salmon taste. I really like their product with the liquid smoke, but my family loves the salmon I make "as is", so I do not use it.

    Not sure on others canning experiences, but I used to can with Kerr brand lids, and had great success. In Canada, we now have lids made by Bernardin, and while they are porcelain coated (I believe), I have found the odd jar which may sit for some time, the white coating is etched by the acids in the jars. I believe the coating is intended more for fruit canning, and thus, if you can still find a lid made by Kerr in your area, it may be worth experimenting with these.

    Hope this all helps! Have fun.

    2 questions:

    1. By Coarse salt do you mean pickling salt or will Sea Salt suffice?
    2. I've never canned salmon or any other fish for that matter. Once it's processed and shelf stable - is it edible just by opening the can or do I need to cook it once I open the can since you packed it raw?

    Thank you so much for posting this information!!
    I have been canning fish for over a decade and just wanted to add a few ingredients for people to try if they wish for something different
    I have used numerous ingredients such as different peppers, garlic, onions etc
    I find that my favorite is jalapeño pepper slices added to seasoned fish such as salt or seasoning salt
    I also add about a teaspoon of olive oil and have gotten into using either fish stock or chicken broth/stock
    It keeps the fish very moist and have found that it gives the seasoning a chance to permeate through the meat.
    I usually put enough to maintain enough head space of between an inch to 1.5 inches
    I always cook between 12 - 15 lbs at 100 minutes
    This ensures the bones are always soft
    Enjoy!!!

    1 reply

    Thanks for all the info AKCajun969! The only time I change is when I bake the salmon, strip all the skin and bones, pack into jars, adding the juice from when I baked plus a touch of liquid smoke and a bit of coarse salt... and then I process it at 10 lbs for 100 minutes. It's soooo good! I've tried adding other ingredients and I find it takes over the taste of the fish. I like the idea of using a bit of stock and will try that. :)

    I did my first batch following your instructions. Great by the way. I have a few questions before I consume. First, the oil does not completely cover the meat in the can is this ok? Second, there are many little air pockets? Third, how tight, is "pack tight"? I pushed to the point where the flesh just started to smoosh. I just canned this today so air is not some sort of fermentation.

    1 reply

    Sounds like you did a great job! Don't worry about the oil not covering all the meat, it will be fine.

    I like to add a split in half thai chill pepper to give it some heat and it masks any fishy smell.