Wild Caught Alaska Salmon is the best in the world. Up in Northern Alaska, we catch Ocean Chum, King Salmon, Arctic Char, Silver Salmon and Pink Salmon (which I don't can). I also travel to Southcentral Alaska to dipnet and fishwheel for King Salmon and Copper River Red Salmon, and the Kenai Sockeye run. My husband is from Southeast Alaska and he travels there to catch King Salmon and Silver Salmon as well.
We smoke and can about 20 cases each year.
Step 1: Get Salmon, and Fillet
Up in Alaska, you just have to work hard to get salmon. And most of the time it's free. We set a net, and get 10-20 per night.
If you don't live in AK, or don't have access to free Salmon, you can purchase it as well. Purchase fillets, we leave the skin and pin bones in.
Step 2: Chunk and Brine
Cut your fillets into 2"-3" chunks, from the tail upward. We rinse and pat dry, then put into brine.
4C Brown Sugar
1C Pickling Salt
1/4C Garlic Powder
2 TBS Dried Dill
1 TBS Paprika
Mix the ingredients well, put 4-5 chunks of Salmon in the brine, and generously coat them, place skin side down in a pan, and sprinkle with more brine mix. Repeat, with meat side down, until all your fish is brined, pour the rest of the brine on top, cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. (We skinned these salmon for this brine mix)
In the last photo, basically, all we do is get a cooler or tote that fits in the fridge (we do 8-10 fish, or 16-20 fillets at a time, so our tub is a 5 gallon one), line it with a trash bag, put ice on the bottom of the tote/cooler, place the bag inside, sprinkle brine mix on the bottom, chunk the fish, generously coat it in the brine mix, and put it in the bag. Once finished with all the fish, we take out the air and tie the bag, put another bag of ice on top and close the cooler/tote. After 8-10 hours, follow the next step.
Step 3: Rinse, Smoke, and Can
Once the brine is done, rinse the fish well, pat dry with paper towel and lay on racks, skin side down. I usually put a fan on the fish for about an hour or so, to dry until tacky. This creates a sticky barrier for the smoke to adhere to called a pellicle.
Layer the fish on racks leaving about an inch or so between pieces, and smoke for 2-3 hours at temperatures between 120-140 degrees. We use both a Traeger, a Little Chief and a homemade smoker. All three work fairly the same. Use what you have.
(If you want Smoked Salmon that you are not going to can, you can smoke for 4-5 hours starting at 120 for two hours, 140 for two hours and 170 for an hour. Vac seal and store in the freezer.)
Once your fish is done, you can let it cool for a bit, while you sterilize your jars. Pack the fish skin side out as closely together as possible without breaking too much of the salmon up. Place new lids and close rings finger tight.
**If you want to add to your jars, this is the time to do it! We add the following to about a case or two each:
Per jar, add:
2 TBS Homemade BBQ sauce, OR
2 TBS Sriracha (or Frank's Red Hot, Or Tobasco) Sauce, OR
2 TBS Homemade Teriyaki Sauce, OR
3-4 Jalapeno slices
Step 4: Pressure Cook
Place your jars in the pressure cooker in layers on a canning rack. We have two 24 quart pressure cookers that will do 14 pint size jars, or 21 half pint size jars at once.
Add your jars to the pot, fill to line with boiling water, place lid on, without weight, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down and continue boiling until there is a steady flow of steam from the little pressure gauge. We let it steam for about 5-10 min to build pressure and remove the excess air, then add the weight at 10 pounds of pressure.
Once the weighted gauge is on, set your timer for 90 min. As long as the pressure is constant, the weighted gauge will jiggle 4 times per minute. (I'm sure there are other instructions on how to can food properly, if all else fails, read the instruction booklet that comes with your pressure canner!)
We turn off the heat at 90 min, and allow the canner to cool for 10-20 min. then release the excess steam on the canner. We only do this with smoked salmon, not with moose or caribou, apparently it makes the meat tougher.
Remove the cans onto a cooling rack wipe out your canner, and get ready for the next batch!
Step 5: Store in Cool, Dark Place
Once your jars are cool enough to touch, all the lids should all have sealed. After a few hours of cooling, if you find a lid that has not sealed, either eat it immediately, or place in the refrigerator to eat within a week. All the other jars will are shelf-stable for 1-3 years. (Although our 20 cases a year never last over 52 weeks!)
Feel free to make yourself a canned salmon throne when finished, and take a photo, like this of my husband.
The fish we can are as follows:
King Salmon, Ocean Chum Salmon, Arctic Char, Sockeye Salmon, and Silver Salmon. All caught wild in Alaska each summer by ourselves.