This is a brief and simple introduction to my basic method for canning Copper River and/ or Kenai Red Salmon.
First, buy this book.
“Cooking Alaskan” by Alaskans will provide you with all the basics of not only canning but how to process most fish and mammals in North America.
I only gut my fish at the river. I leave the heads on because you will waste less meat if you run low on ice and they are easier to fillet with heads on.
How to organize for canning and smoking salmon:
1. Get a brine going. A simple brine for smoking is all I will use here. Use 2 cups non-iodized/ canning salt ( a must) and 2 cups brown sugar and add it to a gallon of warm water. I do this on the stove. You want to make sure all of your salt goes into solution. Best thing to do is put 4 cups salt, 4 cups sugar in one gallon and once the solution is created, add another gallon of water.
2. Now cut up enough fish to fill a typical dish bin (below). Cut your pieces to fit into jars in advance. It reduces brine time and makes for a prettier product. I like to make a ton of half pint jars but it is more time consuming and more expensive. Either way figure out what you want and cut the fish accordingly.
4. Put it out to dry. I recommend rolling out freezer paper, shiny side up. Put your fish on the paper skin side down. Dab off excess water with paper towels. Put a window fan in front of the fish on low. In 2-4 hours the fish will have formed a nice pellicle (tacky skin) and is ready for the smoker
5. The math: Pay attention
One dish bin full= one big chief smoker= one full 21 quart pressure cooker
6. Load the smoker
I use a big chief and plug it in a bit before I put my fish in. Smoking times can vary and you can mess with it all you want. The amount of oil in the fish is pretty key and it varies a lot within each river and between years. I use one pan of either apple or alder chips and run the smoker for one to two hours because I like only light smoke in my jars. If you are looking to dry the fish out a bit more then, by all means, sacrifice some fish to the cause but don’t over do your experiments at the cost of ruining your booty.
7. Loading the cans (ball jars). Pack your jars with the skin side out. It helps protect the meat from the intense heat in the pressure cooker. I like to put 7 pint jars in the bottom and then 2 half pint jars on top of each one. I put at least one entire seeded jalapeno in each jar. It just adds flavor but seldom much spice.
8. Canning takes a while. Once your jars are loaded you must leave the weight of until the water boils and the contents come up to temp. Once you have cleared the cooker, you place the weight in position. Now it takes another 15 minutes to get up to 10 pounds of pressure. Note the time and write it down, add 100 minutes to it and set a timer. Keep your eye on the pressure. If you fall below 10 pounds you are supposed to start over but I just add the amount of time I think I was below to the end. The specs for this part are in the book I told you to buy and online at: