Canning Fish: Salmon, Blue, Mackerel, Trout…

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Ever wanted to try canning fish?

I don’t really care for most fish. But salmon?!? Oh, we love salmon!

Last time we were in Oregon, we visited with a friend who supplied a salmon dinner. Real fresh, non-farm raised salmon. We also have a friend from Minnesota who brings us fish when he visits. He is an avid ice fisher. I forget what kind he brings…mmmmm, but it is good!

Gotta love those friends!

Remember, canning fish is just like canning meat. You will need to know how to use a pressure canner for canning fish. This pressure canning page has more detailed information and step-by-step instructions.

Jars filled with home canned fish.
Canning Meat and Meals Course to learn how to can meat safely at home.

This Page Includes:

Canning Fish: Extended, Step-By-Step Directions

A big thank you to Susan, one of my readers, who graciously offered to take pictures of her canning fish sessions for this page.

First step…

Fish must be prepared in 1/2 pints or pints. (I’ve found that a pint of fish is a lot, so it’s more convenient to can in 1/2 pints. If you think about it, the cans of fish you buy in the store are often small. But of course, it all depends on how you use it in recipes.) If you want to can fish in quart jars, there are extra steps you must take, which I don’t cover here. (Check NCHFP and Alaska Extension for instructions.)

Gather your canning supplies:

Ingredients:

  • fish
  • canning salt

Pressure Canning Fish

First, clean your fish. You’ll need to remove the head, tail, and all fins and scales.

A piece of fish with head and tail removed.

Wash well and split fish lengthwise.

Rinsing gutted fish pieces in the sink.

Cut fish into jar-length pieces.

Cutting bright fish into smaller pieces on a white cutting board.

Soak your fish in a salty brine for 1 hour. Use 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. (This technique came from my Ball Blue Book, and I would think that brining would be especially helpful for flavor if the fish is fresh caught.) If you don’t brine, add salt to your jars if desired (1 tsp. per pint or 1/2 tsp. per half-pint).

Strainers of pale pink fish pieces draining in the sink.

While fish is soaking, gather all materials needed. Start your water heating in your canner. See pressure canning for more detailed instructions.

Drain fish for 10 minutes. You want to be sure it is well drained.

Packing fish pieces into jars with skin sides against the glass.

Pack fish into hot jars (pints or half pints), skin sides out next to the glass. Leave a 1-inch headspace. Do not add liquid.

Canned fish swimming its own juices in a canning jar.

Place lids and process according to pressure canning instructions.

Small jars filled with canned fish.

How Long Does It Take to Can Fish?

Process pints or half pints 1 hour 40 minutes.

Don’t forget to adjust for your altitude. Use the chart below:

Looking up into jars packed with canned fish with a pressure canner shown behind the jars.

Recipe Card

Canning Fish

Canning fish is just like canning meat – you will need use a pressure canner. Here's how to can fish like Salmon, Blue, Mackerel, Trout…
Print Recipe
Jars filled with home canned fish.
Prep Time:2 hours
Processing Pints (adjust for altitude):1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time:3 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Start by preparing your jars and getting water in the canner heating. You want the canner hot, but not boiling, when the jars are ready to be processed.
    If you are new to using a pressure canner, see this article for full pressure canning instructions. This includes more detailed information and step-by-step instructions on how a pressure canner works.

For a Raw Pack

  • Clean fish, removing head, tail, fins, and scales. (Or purchase pre-cleaned fish.) 
  • Wash well and cut fish into jar-length pieces.
  • Soak fresh fish in salty brine. (Optional. Use 1 cup salt to 1 gallon water.)
  • Drain fish for 10 minutes.
  • Pack fish into hot jar, putting skin sides next to glass and leaving 1” headspace. (If you didn't brine the fish, you can add 1 tsp. salt per pint or 1/2 tsp. salt per half pint.)
  • Wipe the rim clean and place on your seal and ring. Place the jar in the warm canner. Proceed to fill all jars. Process according to below directions. 

Notes

Processing with a Pressure Canner
Place the jars in the warm canner. Proceed to fill all jars placing them in the prepared hot canner. 
Put the lid on the canner leaving the weights off.  Bring to a boil. Watch for the steam to start coming out the vent pipe in the lid.
Allow the steam to ‘vent’ for 10 minutes then put the weights on. Use the proper weight for your altitude (check the chart below) This is when pressure will start to build.  
When the pressure reaches the pressure required for your altitude (check the chart below) that is when you’ll start your time.  Process for the full time indicated, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the correct pressure for the entire time.
When processing time is completed turn off the heat. Do not remove weights yet. Let the canner sit undisturbed until pressure comes back to zero. Do not try to speed up the cooling process.
Remove the weight and wait 5 minutes.
Open the lid to allow steam to escape. (carefully don’t let it hit your face or arms!) Leave the lid setting on top of the canner slightly ajar and wait 5 minutes.
Take the lid off the canner and remove your jars. (optionally you can wait another 5 minutes if the contents appear to be bubbling so hard it is coming out of the jars)
Put the jars a few inches apart on a thick towel and allow them to cool to room temperature undisturbed. 12 hours is suggested.
When the jars are cool, remove the metal bands, check the seals, and store the jars in a cool dark place.
Processing Instructions (Raw Pack) 
Process pints or half pints only for 1 hour and 40 minutes, adjusting for altitude according to the chart below.  
Altitude Adjustments for Pressure Canner  
Altitude –  Weighted Gauge   
0-1,000 ft – 10 pounds  
1,001-8,000 ft – 15 pounds  
Altitude – Dial Gauge  
0-2,000 ft – 11 pounds  
2,001-4,000 ft – 12 pounds   
4,001-6,000 ft – 13 pounds 
6,001-8,000 ft – 14 pounds
Adapted from: The National Center for Home Food Preservation, Ball Blue Book, Michigan State Extension
Servings: 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of fish for every pint jar

Canning Fish FAQs & Tips

Water Bath Canning Fish in Jars

I fell asleep while canning salmon in open water kettle and the water level was two inches below the top of the jars 4 hrs later. They sealed but are they safe to eat? Or can I freeze the batch in the jars? This was 4 days ago. I have tried county extension, and they don’t have any one in that department. Lois – WA

Answer:

When you are canning any kind of meat, including fish, you really need to pressure can it. I can’t give any recommendations regarding water bath canning salmon. I am sure that an extension office will tell you the same thing.

You would be safe freezing if you found the error right away (within 24 hours). In a case like that, I’d freeze in freezer bags. However, since your fish has been out for 4 days, I don’t believe it would be safe at this point.

In the future, you might try another extension, maybe in a nearby town. That is what I do. I like to work with the lady at an extension office that is actually in the next town over.

Sharon

What About Canning Fish at a Higher Pressure?

Our local cooperative extension service recommended canning salmon at 11 lbs. for 100 minutes (1/2 pint jars). The pressure cooker is determined to stay at 15 pounds. Does that matter?

Answer:

As long as you don’t use less pressure than is recommended, you should be fine. If you were to be using a weighted gauge canner, then you would need to use the 15-pound weight. So I would think using that pressure on your dial gauge pressure canner should be okay.

What Kind of Fish Can Be Canned?

Answer:

According to the NCHFP, these instructions are for canning blue, mackerel, salmon, steelhead, trout, and fatty fish, but NOT tuna.

How Do You Use Canned Fish?

Use home canned fish just like you would commercially canned fish: in sandwiches, salads, etc.

Related Pages

Smoked Fish

Canning Smoked Fish – Salmon, Blue, Mackerel, Trout

Canning smoked fish starts with the smoking process. Fish that has been smoked the standard way will end up being very dry after pressure canning.

Unsafe Canning Methods

Which Canning Methods Should I Choose?

Canning methods come down to two styles: water bath or under pressure. Learn which one you should be using for different kinds of foods. SimplyCanning.com uses USDA safety methods, with good reason!

Canning Venison Raw Pack

Canning Venison: Cubed & Raw Pack

These canning venison directions work for meat, beef, pork, or elk too. Get to canning your own meat at home!

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Canning Fish

Source: The National Center for Home Food Preservation, Ball Blue Book, Michigan State Extension

Page last updated: 7/9/2021

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Jo B
Jo B
1 year ago

Is there no liquid involved when canning fish? I see it says to add fish to jars skin side out, wipe down jar, then add rings and lids.

Darla
Darla
2 years ago

This may be a stupid question, but can this recipe be used to can catfish?

BTW I used this recipe from you to can rainbow trout that I caught my first time fishing for trout! I was able to can 32 trout and freeze 16 (this was from fishing every weekend for a month.) Your resources have been an absolute Godsend as I learn to can the safe way!

Dawn Goings
Dawn Goings
2 years ago

Roughly how many pounds of salmon do you need to fill 9 pints? Thank you for including those clues in the canning chicken recipe. Doing that today.

Rachel Abernathy
Admin
Rachel Abernathy
2 years ago
Reply to  Dawn Goings

Hi, Dawn!

I checked the original recipe source, and they don’t list an amount either… I’m checking with Sharon to see if she has any idea!

-Rachel (Sharon’s assistant)

arnold wingrove
arnold wingrove
2 years ago

when placing in the jar ,make sure the skin is not touching jar,makes it way easier to wash jar after use

Elizabeth Steele
Elizabeth Steele
2 years ago

Why can you not can tuna?

Rachel Abernathy
Admin
Rachel Abernathy
2 years ago

Tuna may be canned, just not with this recipe. There are separate instructions for canning tuna at NCHFP: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_05/tuna.html

-Rachel (Sharon’s assistant)

Elizabeth Steele
Elizabeth Steele
2 years ago

Oh, ok, wonderful, thank you!!

Cathy Kelley
Cathy Kelley
2 years ago

Can I process/can frozen fish after thawing? or should it be fresh?

Rachel Abernathy
Admin
Rachel Abernathy
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Kelley

Yes, you can! Extensions say this: “If the fish is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator before canning.”

-Rachel (Sharon’s assistant)

Chris
Chris
3 years ago

Ok, dumb question. On one of those “Alaska” shows I saw how they cured(brined), smoked then canned their salmon. I smoke the majority of my fall salmon catch every year. Could I take some of the cold-smoked “lox” style I make and than some of that?