Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600585
Pickling entails the use of vinegar, salt and optional spices for preservation. 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 ordinary vinegar containing 5 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.
To pickle fish, you will need:
Fish- Use only good quality fresh or salted fish
Soft water- Hard water has too much iron, magnesium or calcium. Use softened or filtered hard water.
Vinegar- Vinegar should be clear without foreign flavors or odors and have a guaranteed 5% acetic acid content. Distilled white vinegar is recommended. Cider and other fruit vinegars containing 5% acetic acid may be used, but the fruit compounds may give the fish off-flavors.
Salt- Use finely ground canning and pickling salt. Table salt contains iodine, calcium and magnesium compounds which may give the fish a bitter flavor.
Sugar- Table sugar is suitable.
Spices- Use only fresh, whole spices.