Introduction: Pickled Smelt
I could be wrong, but I am fairly certain that every maritime culture has a recipe for pickling fresh fish. Many people who have not grown up with this may find the thought of eating uncooked, pickled fish a bit off putting. However, if you set aside your misgivings, and try this delicacy you may discover something truly delightful. This is a wonderful way to eat very bony or very small fish since the acid in the pickling juice dissolves the bones and also effectively cooks the flesh.
I have always had the more traditional salt water species such as mackerel and herring, but, when my local grocery store brought in some fresh water smelts I had to give it a go. As with all my Instructables look to the image notes for more detailed information.
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
For this recipe you will need:
For the brine:
About 3 1/2 cups of salt
8 liters of fresh cold water
15 or 30 ml of pickling spice mix (optional in this step)
1 raw potato or egg
A sauce pan large enough to to hold the water.
For the Pickling liquor:
1 liter of distilled white vinegar
500 ml of fresh cold water
about 250 ml of sugar
30 ml of pickling spice mix.
jars and lids for canning
A pot large enough to hold 5 500 ml bottles fully submerged in water.
For the Fish:
I chose 5 pounds of fresh dressed smelts.
one large onion sliced julienne style
1 or 2 carrots also sliced julienne (match stick) style.
Step 2: Preparing Your Brine
In this step you will need to kind of play with your salt amounts, that's where the potato or egg come in. I begin by filling a large stock pot with about 8 liters of water, you can use less if you want, just make sure you have enough to hold all your fish. Place the pot over a high heat and begin adding salt. I started with 2 cups. Stir until all the salt has dissolved and the water has cleared. Heating the water helps the salt dissolve. Lower your potato or egg into the water. If it floats then you have the right amount of salt. Just keep adding salt and stirring until your potato floats. I also added some pickling spices to my brine since I was making enough to brine a couple of pork hocks as well and love the flavour it adds to the hocks. Allow the brine to cool completely.
Step 3: Brine Your Fish.
Now it is time to add your fish to the cool brine. How long you leave them in there is totally up to you. I leave mine in until the flesh firms up, a couple of hours. You can leave them in over night if you want.
Step 4: Preparing Your Jars and Pickling Liquor.
Place your jars in a large stock pot and fill with water to fully cover them. In a smaller pot place the lids and rings in enough water to cover as well. Bring both pots to a hard rolling boil for no less than 10 minutes. Remove and allow to drain. Try not to handle them too much with your hands to avoid burning yourself or contaminating them.
While you are doing this you may as well make up your pickling liquor. Add your vinegar, sugar and water to a stock pot, add your pickling spices and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Water Bath Canning.
Now it is just a matter of cooling your pickling liquor, putting your fish, carrots and onions in the jars, putting on the lids and sealing things up in your water bath.
Remember: handle the jars carefully to avoid contamination, only finger tighten the lid rings, leave at least 1/4 inch head space in the jars and bath in a rolling boil for at least 10 minutes.
Once you take your jars out of the water bath they should start to seal within a few minutes. Any jars that don't seal can be stored under refrigeration for a few week, but should be eaten fairly soon. Other than that, you can store these in a cool dry place for several months.
I do hope you give this a try next time you see a good deal on fresh fish, or you want to preserve your catch.