Quite a few questions have arisen this past week regarding added ingredients such as salt in preserving fish. I would like to clarify a few things about salt as an ingredient in preserving fish at home.
There are different types of salts available. Kosher salt, vacuum dried salt, dairy salt, canning and pickling salt and flake salt are all pure salts. Pure salts have no impurities or ingredients added to prevent caking (absorbing moisture from the air.)
Table salt usually contains anti-caking additives. Rock salt, sea salt and iodized salt contain impurities and additives that can cause bitterness and off flavors. These salts should be avoided in canning, smoking and pickling fish. Curing salts also should be avoided since they contain nitrites, and in home smoking fish, it is difficult to get an even distribution of nitrite throughout the fish.
In canning fish, salt added to a jar or can of fish prior to pressure canning is used only as a flavoring agent and is not a preservative. Noniodized salt should be used to avoid off flavors and discoloration of the product.
In smoking fish, use only pure salts for brines. Do not use rock salt, sea salt or iodized salt because of potential problems with bitterness and off flavors.
In pickling fish, canning and pickling salt is recommended by USDA because, "Noncaking material added to other salts may make the brine cloudy. Since flake salt varies in density, it is not recommended for making pickled foods."
For those wanting to add variety to their home canned fish, here are some tried-and-true suggestions from Master Volunteers in Food Preservation. Amounts listed are for half-pint jars or small tins. Put ingredients in the jar or can before adding the fish.
Basil -- 1/4 dried teaspoon
Garlic -- 1/2 clove or small clove
Combination of 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt, 1/2 dried red chili pepper
Dry chicken bouillon -- 2 teaspoons, plus 1/2 teaspoon sage Jalapeno pepper -- one or more slices
Tomato sauce -- 1 tablespoon
Ingredients to avoid that have had unfavorable results: cloves, pickling spice, ginger, liquid smoke and tarragon.
Ingredients that impart little flavor if using a teaspoon or less include: mustard seed, turmeric, bay leaf and paprika.
For more information about preserving fish contact the Cooperative Extension Service, we have free publications on canning, freezing, smoking and pickling fish.
Free pressure canner dial gauge testing clinics are offered every Wednesday morning throughout the summer.
The Cooperative Extension Service office hours are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m. weekdays. Phone 262-5824 or (800) 478-5824.
Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.
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