One of the fish was for eating fresh, and the other was for canning. I know that sounds like sacrilege, but ever since a friend of mine who lives in Alaska sent me some canned King salmon several years ago, I've wanted to try it. A King salmon is a big fish, it's hard to eat a whole one, and I like canned salmon better than frozen salmon. In fact, canned salmon is delicious.
I've never canned fish before - in fact I've never used a pressure canner and don't own one. Luckily, a wonderful couple I know from church offered to help me. The gentlemen half of this couple is none other than Duckman , an avid hunter and fisherman who has been very generous with us. The lady half is R., one of the most welcoming women at Zion and an old hand at canning the fish her husband brings home. I was very grateful to have their help. First, however, I had to deal with the fish I planned to cook for dinner last night.
Never having filleted a whole fish before (I know, I know, how does a woman who considers herself a serious cook and who loves salmon as much as I just said I do get to the age of 40 without ever filleting a fish? Buy small ones and bake them whole, or pay the fisherman) I was terrified I was going to massacre it. Because it was so fresh, only hours out of the water, the fish was covered with a thick layer of slime, and it was so slippery I could barely hold on to it.
Thank God for Youtube. It took ten seconds to find a short, no nonsense video of a chef with a thick European accent cutting up a whole salmon. Of course, he made it look easy, which it wasn't. Maybe his fish wasn't as slimy as mine. Certainly, his knives were sharper. Mine need professional help. However, I don't think I did too badly for my first ever attempt.
Here is the fish after I removed the filets, with the bellies alongside. I know I left a lot of usable meat on the bones, but don't worry. I chopped the fish into pieces, removed the gills, and put the whole carcass into gently simmering salted water with a little lemon juice. It only needs about five minutes poaching, then all the meat easily slips right off the bones (ok, you have to dig around a little in the head). I salvaged close to a pound of meat from that carcass, and froze it in a ziploc bag. Sometime in the future, it is plenty to make a salmon cake dinner. Also, I took the collars and bellies and marinated them for a few minutes in a mixture of sugar, soy cause, rice vinegar, and sriracha, and then broiled them skin side up under the broiler for 10 minutes or so. These bits we just gobbled up like candy, but it was plenty of meat that I could have made a separate meal out of it if I wanted to.
Top the jars with sterilized lids and rings, and into the canner they went. R. and Duckman have a propane cooker set up in their shed; they don't like to can fish in the house because of the smell. I personally find the smell divine, but maybe it lingers.
I'm still a little sacred of the canner, to tell the truth. I just don't quite get exactly how it works. I mean, I can follow instructions, and I can tell when it's working correctly and when something is wrong, but I can't exactly visualize what the parts are all for, and what is happening inside. Anyway. We put the eight pints in the canner and added 2 quarts of water. We ran hot water over the inside of the lid and checked that the gasket fitted into the groove tightly all the way around. We closed it up and put the cooker on low. If you heat it up too fast, you run the risk of breaking all your jars.
When you can see steam venting continuously from the vent, you carefully place the regulator on. The little vent in the middle ought to pop up. If it doesn't, you just wait until it does. Then the pressure will start to rise, and you watch the gauge carefully. Salmon is canned at 10 pounds pressure for 100 minutes. Don't start the timer until the pressure rises to 10.
Then, settle down in your chair and read a book. We had to adjust the flame several times to keep the pressure right; it wanted to creep up. It's fine to let it go a little higher than ten, but you don't want it to go above 15. Once it's at pressure, it only takes the barest whisper of flame to keep it up.