Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pickled Northern Pike

I have to confess, I am not a huge fan of herring or pickled fish - though Charlie loves that type of food.  When we first tried this pickled northern pike that a guy brought into work, however, we were both hooked.  Haha.... (ahem).

You really have to throw all previous thoughts of herring, pickled fish, ect... out of your mind before you try this recipe.  The fish is firm and not at all slimy, with such a delicious sweet tanginess from the brine  - and the fresh lemons and fresh onions finish it off nicely. 

We use northern pike in this recipe, though you could probably use most any freshwater fish - we heard that even pan fish and crappie make delicious pickled fish.

Ok, time to get started.  I use a large one gallon glass jar and pickling salt. The ratio is 4 cups water to 1 cup salt.


And, the fish.  I used some large northern pike fillets that someone gave us, and started by trimming each fillet of any scales or impurities.  By the way, no need to worry about having boneless fillets - this process of pickling dissolves the bones.  After the trimming, I cut each fillet into small bite sized pieces.

Place the fish chunks in your gallon jar.  As you can see, one batch of the salt/water isn't going to cut it.  I took a break from cutting up the fish to get another batch of salt/water dissolving in another bowl.  After the salt dissolved, I poured the mixture into the jar with the fish chunks.

Since the fish likes to float, I put a little ramekin in the top of the jar to hold the fish under the salt water solution.  Refrigerate for 48 hours. 

After 48 hours, rinse the fish very well, and wash out your jar.  Put the fish back in the jar and completely cover it with white distilled vinegar.  Back into the fridge for 24 hours!

After 24 hours you will see that the previously translucent fish has turned white and the bones are dissolved.  Pour fish into a strainer, but don't rinse.  

Now, it is time to prepare your additional ingredients: fresh lemons, sliced thinly on the mandolin.

And thinly sliced onions.

Layer the fish chunks, onion slices and lemon slices in the jar and cover with Brine #2 (that is cooled and waiting; see following recipe).  Let set for two weeks, then enjoy!

Pickled Northern Pike

  • 2 to 4 pounds northern pike fillets, cut into bite sized pieces (no need to be boneless)
Brine #1
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup pickling salt 
  • white distilled vinegar to cover fish (I would have a gallon jug around though)
Brine #2 
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon whole black pepper
  • 1 cup muscatel wine (I used 1/2 cup Shiraz and 1/2 cup pinot grigio, hence the pink color!)
 To bottle pickled fish:
  • 1 or 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 or 2 lemons, thinly sliced

For brine #1, dissolve salt in water.  Place bite sized pieces of northern pike in crock or other large vessel, and cover with brine #1.  Depending on how much fish you have, you might need another batch of brine.  I recommend making it in another bowl, otherwise it is hard to dissolve the salt.  Pour over the fish until all the fish is coated.  Keep the fish submerged in the brine by weighting down a plate placed over the fish.  Refrigerate for 48 hours.

Drain and rinse until slimy feeling is gone from the fish.  Wash your jar and return the fish to the jar.  Completely cover fish with white distilled vinegar.  Place the weighted plate on fish again and refrigerate for 24 hours.  This part of the process dissolves the fish bones and turns the fish from translucent to white.

After 24 hours, when you are ready to finish your fish, start the Brine #2.  You will want it to cool completely before using so it is fine to start it a bit early.  Place all ingredients for the Brine #2 in pot and bring to a boil.  Let boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Add the wine. 

Drain vinegar from fish and don't rinse the fish. 

To bottle your fish, place alternate layers of fish, lemon slices and onion slices in jars of your choice (I usually use pint canning jars).  Pour cooled brine into jar until everything is covered (I like to place a small strainer over the jar to pour the brine through to remove the spices - but this is up to you).

Refrigerate for about 2 weeks before enjoying!

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