Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600484
Pickling preserves fish for shorter periods than freezing, salting or canning.
Vinegar slows the growth of spoilage bacteria, gives flavor and softens bones. Vinegar, however, is only a temporary preservative, because enzymes continue to act, softening and spoiling the product.
The acetic acid content of the vinegar is important. Use vinegar containing five percent acetic acid. The final pickling solution should contain at least 2 1/2 percent acetic acid, no less than one part vinegar for each part water. If the taste of vinegar in the pickling solution is too strong, offset it with more sugar rather than dilute it with water.
Pickled fish must be refrigerated. When properly preserved, they should keep for 4 to 6 weeks at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Basic Brining Procedure 1. Clean fish thoroughly and cut into serving size pieces.
2. Soak fish in weak brine made of 1 cup salt to each gallon cold water for 1 hour. Drain.
3. Make saturated brine with 4 cups salt to each gallon cold water. Soak fish in saturated brine for 12 hours in a refrigerator. Soak small fish like smelt for four hours.
4. Rinse fish in fresh water.
Dry salted fish are also suitable for pickling. Freshen salted fish for several hours in cold water in a refrigerator. Then follow the recipes for cooking and packing.
Prepare fish as in the Basic Brining Procedure. Continue with the following directions.
10 lb. fish (brined and cut) 1 clove garlic, crushed 5 cups water (optional) 2 qt. vinegar 1 oz. white pepper 1/2 lb. sliced onions (optional) 2 oz. mixed pickling spices Crushed red pepper (optional and to taste) 1. In large kettle, bring to a boil water, vinegar, onions and spices.
2. Add fish and simmer for 10 minutes or until fish is easily pierced with a fork.
3. Remove fish from liquid and spread in a single layer in a shallow pan. Refrigerate for rapid cooling.
4. Pack cold fish loosely in clean glass jars.
5. Add onion slices, lemon and bay leaves if desired.
6. Strain the vinegar solution, bring to a boil, and pour into jars to cover the fish.
7. Seal immediately.
8. Store in the refrigerator. Use within 6 weeks.
This recipe makes 6 to 8 quarts of pickled fish. It is suitable for all kinds of freshwater fish, especially carp, herring, smelt and mullet (sucker).