Canning Fish in Quart Jars

Learn the simple process for canning fish in quart jars with this handy guide from the USDA.
From the United States Department of Agriculture
July 2014
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Home-canned fish is tastier than store-bought products, and the canning process is simple with these instructions from the USDA.
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Canning fresh seafood is a great way to keep delicious ingredients close at hand for future meals. In this helpful excerpt from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, you’ll learn the process for canning fish safely in quart jars. Use this and our other canning resources to keep your pantry stocked with fresh foods all year long.

The following is an excerpt from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning covering canning fish. 

Blue, Mackerel, Salmon, Steelhead, Trout and Other Fatty Fish Except Tuna

Note: Glass-like crystals of struvite, or magnesium ammonium phosphate, sometime form in canned salmon. There is no way for the home canner to prevent these crystals from forming, but they usually dissolve when heated and are safe to eat.

Caution: Bleed and eviscerate fish immediately after catching, never more than 2 hours after they are caught. Keep cleaned fish on ice until ready to can.

Procedure: If the fish is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator before canning. Rinse the fish in cold water. You can add vinegar to the water (2 tablespoons per quart) to help remove slime. Remove head, tail, fins, and scales; it is not necessary to remove the skin. You can leave the bones in most fish because the bones become very soft and are a good source of calcium. For halibut, remove the head, tail, fins, skin, and the bones. Wash and remove all blood. Refrigerate all fish until you are ready to pack in jars.

Cut the fish into jar-length filets or chunks of any size. The one-quart straight-sided mason-type jar is recommended. If the skin has been left on the fish, pack the fish skin out, for a nicer appearance or skin in, for easier jar cleaning. Pack solidly into hot quart jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. If desired, run a plastic knife around the inside of the jar to align the product; this allows firm packing of fish.

For most fish, no liquid, salt, or spices need to be added, although seasonings or salt may be added for flavor (1 to 2 teaspoons salt per quart, or amount desired).

For halibut, add up to 4 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil per quart jar if you wish. The canned product will seem moister. However, the oil will increase the caloric value of the fish.

Carefully clean the jar rims with a clean, damp paper towel; wipe with a dry paper towel to remove any fish oil. Adjust lids and process.

Processing Change for Quart Jars: The directions for operating the pressure canner during processing of quart jars are different from those for processing pint jars, so please read the following carefully. It is critical to product safety that the processing directions are followed exactly. When you are ready to process your jars of fish, add 3 quarts of water to the pressure canner. Put the rack in the bottom of canner and place closed jars on the rack. Fasten the canner cover securely, but do not close the lid vent. Heat the canner on high for 20 minutes. If steam comes through the open vent in a steady stream at the end of 20 minutes, allow it to escape for an additional 10 minutes. If steam does not come through the open vent in a steady stream at the end of 20 minutes, keep heating the canner until it does. Then allow the steam to escape for an additional 10 minutes to vent the canner. This step removes air from inside the canner so the temperature is the same throughout the canner. The total time it takes to heat and vent the canner should never be less than 30 minutes. The total time may be more than 30 minutes if you have tightly packed jars, cold fish, or larger sized canners. For safety’s sake, you must have a complete, uninterrupted 160 minutes (2 hours and 40 minutes) at a minimum pressure required for your altitude. Write down the time at the beginning of the process and the time when the process will be finished.

Have a smartphone or tablet? Download the free How to Can app! Find it in the iTunes App Store and Google Play. It’s the power of canning know-how in the palm of your hand.


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