Preserving fish through canning

With proper food handling techniques, canned fish can be enjoyed year round.

Canning fish offers advantages over freezing as it can be stored at room temperatures for long periods. In addition, any bones remaining in the flesh become softened especially if you use one and one-half teaspoons of vinegar in each canning jar.

One mistake that many make when canning fish is to use canning jars larger than 1 pint. This is very dangerous, as enough heat does not build up during the canning process to allow the destruction of Clostridium botulinum spores, which can lead to botulism poisoning. Thus, it is extremely important to use only 1 pint jars or smaller during the canning process. Before canning your fish, the jars must be thoroughly cleaned but it is not necessary to sterilize them.

The fish should be cleaned and washed thoroughly before canning. It takes about 25 to 35 pounds of whole fresh fish to fill about a dozen pint jars with boneless fish. The fish should be cut into desired size pieces so that they will easily fit into the canning jar. It is recommended to lightly brine (1 cup of salt per gallon of cold water for 15 minutes) the fish before packing into the canning jars as it firms the flesh to produce a more desirable product. Drain the brined fish and fill the pint jars leaving 1-inch headspace. Once fish is packed into the jars, wipe the jar rims and adjust the lids. Depending on your taste, tomato juice or other mixtures can be added to the fish before the canning process.

The only way to safely process canned fish is in a pressure canner to prevent the risk of botulism food poisoning. The pressure canner must be in perfect order including the accuracy of the pressure gauge. The recommended process time for fish in a dial-gauge pressure canner using pint jars is 100 minutes at 11 pounds pressure for elevations from 0 to 2000 feet. If using a weighted gauge pressure canner, process for 100 minutes at 10 pounds pressure for elevations from 0 to 1000 feet. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for the pressure canner you are using.

When the jars are cooled after canning check the lids to make sure they are depressed or concave and will not move when pressed to ensure they are properly sealed. If unsealed jars are found 24 or more hours after processing, you should dispose of the product, as it is not safe to eat.

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