Although labor intensive, you’ll be reaping rewards many times over
each and every time you open a jar and partake
of your pickled sockeye deliciousness…

Yields: (Appx. 3 Doz., 36, Pint Jars)
Curing: 24 Hrs.
Prep: 6 to 8 Hrs.

Equipment and Supplies:
- 3 cases (36) wide-mouth Mason pint jars, with lids and rims, sterilized – Important!
~~~~[I sterilize the jars using the hot setting in my dishwasher, and boil the lids and rims in water using a medium, covered, pot for 10 minutes]
- 16 qt. cooler (cleaned using hot
water, soap and Clorox)- Important!
2 large stainless steel pots with lids
1 medium stainless steel pot with lid
-Wide-mouth funnel (optional), saves clean-up time
-Kitchen towels
-Plastic wrap
-Paper towels
-Butter knife
-Disposable gloves (or very clean hands you’ll be washing often)

10 Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon
2 (4 lb.)  boxes Canning and Pickling Salt (do not substitute)
1 cup dark brown sugar

Clean and fillet in half 10 sockeye (20 fillet halves).  Lay two fillets lengthwise and side-by-side in bottom of cooler skin-side down, and sprinkle top flesh side of each fillet with several handfuls of pickling salt; repeat process until 2 fillets remain.  Place last 2 fillets skin-side up, then evenly pour remaining pickling salt over all fish. Ensure fish is completely covered with pickling salt (use more pickling salt if needed to do so).  Lastly, add 2 generous handfuls of dark brown sugar sprinkled evenly over top of pickling salt.  Close lid and let cure for 24 hours for 1" thick salmon - add an additional day of curing if thicker per inch of fillets are used, while occasionally moving (using clean hands) to ensure fillets are not sticking to each other. (Note: Do not be alarmed, as the pickling salt/sugar will form its own briny liquid and end up covering and curing all fillets.)

Once curing has taken place for 24 hours, rinse fillets in cold water.

Rinse and clean the cooler, and set aside.

Remove the skin from each fillet, and cut out the strip of bones on the diagonal.  (Note: My husband starts filleting the widest end of the fillet, then while holding the meaty part down with one hand he literally ‘pulls’ the skin off down to the tail section - It’s ingenious, quick, and the flesh of the fish remains intact more so than by filleting it all the way down using a knife!)

Fill the clean cooler half full with very cold water. Cut the fish into 1” chunks, and add to cooler to began the 1-hour rinsing process; changing cold water mid-way through.  Be sure to stir the fish from time to time while doing so.

Glazing (Air drying):

Place long rows of plastic wrap on counter top, with long lengths of paper towel (to prevent salt from ruining the counter surface). Drain fish chunks from water using clean hands, and place fish chunks in a large bowl. Spread evenly in one layer atop paper towels on counter.  Let air dry for 1 hour (you’ll see a soft skin-type glaze form, which enhances flavor and firmness quality of the final product).

Brine (2 batches):
(Note: I prepare pots of brine about 6 hours beforehand to ensure they have sufficient time to cool so they're ready when I began the jarring process)

[Pot 1:]
8 cups water
4 cups white distilled vinegar
1-½ cups white granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar

[Pot 2:]
8 cups water
4 cups white distilled vinegar
1-½ cups white granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar

*(Note: I've found organic pickling spice tends to be much more flavorful than typical store-bought versions, so you might consider increasing the amount per pot of brine to 3/4 or 1 cup)

Add all brine ingredients to both pots; stir to combine. Bring brine in each pot to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool completely with lid on – Important! [Note: To speed up the cooling process; once the brine has cooled somewhat, carefully place entire pot(s) in sink(s) filled with cold water, just so cold water is about a quarter the way up from outside of pot bottom(s).]

Make 2 batches...
- Prepared fish chunks
- Prepared brine
4 large white onions, quartered and sliced into 1/8” strips
-(I keep slices covered with a damp paper towel to alleviate watery eyes)
4 large lemons, quartered, deseeded and sliced into 1/8” thick rectangles
*See Tip below for Jalapeno Pickled Salmon option

Set up an assembly line by placing all jars, mouth side up, on clean kitchen towels, including lids and rims on separate towels close by.  Place prepared onion and lemons in separate bowls close by as well; plus the brine and a ladle, and butter knife.

Begin filling jars by first placing the wide-mouth funnel over the top rim of each. Place a layer of fish chunks on bottom, onions, one slice of lemon; repeat until ½ full. Stir brine to distribute spices, and pour 1 ladle into jar. Continue layering ingredients as before, ending with a layer of onions and a slice of lemon to completely cover fish. Stir brine, then fill jar with ladle to within ¼” of the top of rim. Remove funnel, and run butter knife around inside edge of jar to release air bubbles. Wipe outer rim with a damp paper towel, and tightly secure jar with lid and rim.  Repeat process until all jars are filled.

Label lids using a permanent marker: Pickled Sockeye, date jarred, and 6 months
out as an expiration date. Important! – Place tightly secured jars initially ‘upside down’ to cure for 7 days in refrigerator (to allow the spices to be evenly distributed), and then turn ‘right-side-up’ in refrigerator until expiration date. The pickled sockeye will keep up to 6 months in refrigerator from jarring date. ~ Enjoy!


For “Jalapeno Pickled Salmon,” simply place 3 to 4 store-bought jarred 'hot' pickled jalapeno slices in bottom of jars before filling with remaining above-listed ingredients.

IMPORTANT:  Do not use the water-bath method to seal the jars, as the curing/cooking process is undergone when pickling.  You simply store product in refrigerator up to the expiration date, not in pantry.


Unknown said...

can't wait to try this! Just wondering if you skin and debone your sockeye before you salt/cure them?

sandra said...

@Jennifer McGovern: Yes, to deboning prior to curing. No, skinning prior to curing. Then, follow recipe as stated. Thanks so much for your inquiry, Jennifer...Happy salmon pickling ;)

Melissa said...

Does this recipe have to be refrigerated for storage?

sandra said...

@Melissa, Yes! Thank you for asking ;)

Unknown said...

Hello Sandra. I've been looking for a recipe like this one for some time. I am looking forward to trying it. Do you know if this same recipe will work with halibut? Do you happen to have any recipes for pickled halibut that are similar in preparation to this one? Thanks!

sandra said...

Hello @Kristi. I do not pickle halibut at this time so do not know if this particular recipe would work in doing so. Halibut is not nearly as oily as salmon or herring, and therefore might be a whole different brining/ingredient schematic if a person were to do so. Best of luck though, and let me know if you do in fact try it with success!! Thanks for stopping by ;)

Phil said...

Looking forward to giving this a try this week. When curing the salmon, does it have to stay in the fridge overnight? I don't have a cooler and will make this on a smaller scale ....

sandra said...

@Phil, while curing for the first 24 hours in the salt/brown sugar brine, it does not have to be refrigerated but in an airtight container, hence the cooler. However, I don't believe doing so in the refrigerator would hurt either. Best of luck!

Phil said...

Thanks Sandra. Would it hurt to cure them for one or two additional days? Would that make the meat a little bit firmer?

sandra said...

@Phil, I do not recommend doing so, the fish will become too salty. Please follow the recipe as written for the best outcome and ultimate flavor.

LL said...

If skins have already been removed, would you recommend using less salt?

sandra said...

@LL see my previous comment to @Phil: I do not recommend doing so, as the recipe should be followed as written and cured with skin-on sockeye fillets.

Unknown said...

Hi Sandra,
Do you recommend this recipe for steelhead fish? I have 5 lbs. of steelhead unthawing at this time. What do you think? Maurice

Scubadorable said...

Just wanted you to know that this is my absolute “Go-To” recipe for pickling my sockeye. Thank you for such a thorough tutorial.


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