Salmon potpourri: Is it safe to eat?

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2001

This has been a hectic salmon canning time, and we have received some good questions. Here are a few of the questions and the responses from the Cooperative Extension Service faculty.

Q: I received a jar of canned salmon as a gift. How do I know if it is safe to eat?

A: For safety's sake, heat home canned fish before eating. If you answer no to any of the following questions, you should heat your home canned fish before eating it:

Do you know if the dial gauge on your canner is reading accurately?

Do you know when the rocking or jiggling weight is signaling properly?

Did you follow the USDA Cooperative Extension recommendations for pressure processing this food?

Was this preserved fish a gift? If is was, do you know if the USDA Cooperative Extension Service recommendations for pressure processing this food were followed?

If you're not using the fish in a thoroughly cooked dish such as in a casserole or soup, heat home canned fish as follows:

1. Open the jar of fish and check the contents. If the fish smells bad or if you see gas bubbles, throw the contents away!

Before throwing it away, detoxify, so that no human or pets can get poisoned by eating it. To detoxify, place jar lids and open jars with fish in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover jars and boil for 30 minutes. Cool and drain the liquid. Throw away food and jar lids. Jars may be reused.

2. If fish smells good and looks good, insert a meat thermometer into the center of the fish. Cover the jar loosely with foil and place the opened jar in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees.

3. Remove jar from the oven when the meat thermometer registers 185 degrees. This heating takes about 30 minutes.

4. Set the jar at room temperature for about 30 minutes, to let the heat distribute evenly. Serve the fish hot or chill it for later use. If you recover the jar, do so with a clean lid, foil or plastic wrap.

Q: Can I pressure can salmon in quart jars?

A: The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Food Science Specialist recently completed the research related to canning in quart jars but hasn't published the information. According to Dr. Kristy Long there are two important times associated with processing salmon in quart jars.

First, the time from when the heat source is turned on under the canner to when the petcock is closed or the dead weight or weighed gauge applied, needs to be a minimum of 37 minutes. This time needs to include the 10-minute venting time. This means if a canner is put on the range and at 37 minutes the canner has only been venting 5 minutes, 5 more additional minutes are necessary for venting.

The second critical time is the actual processing time. After the venting and once the pressure has reached 11 pounds pressure for a dial pressure gauge, or 10 pounds pressure for a weighted pressure gauge, the processing time is 156 continuous minutes. If you are planning to can in quart jars, call the Cooperative Extension Service office at 262-5824.

Q: Do you have any recipes for using canned salmon?

A: We have 25 copies left of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute brochure, "Alaska Canned Salmon -- Light and Lively Recipes." Stop by our office and pick up a free copy.

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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