Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600484


Pickling preserves fish for shorter periods than freezing,
salting or canning.

Vinegar slows the growth of spoilage bacteria, gives
flavor and softens bones. Vinegar, however, is only a
temporary preservative, because enzymes continue to act,
softening and spoiling the product.

The acetic acid content of the vinegar is important. Use
vinegar containing five percent acetic acid. The final
pickling solution should contain at least 2 1/2 percent
acetic acid, no less than one part vinegar for each part
water. If the taste of vinegar in the pickling solution
is too strong, offset it with more sugar rather than dilute
it with water.

Pickled fish must be refrigerated. When properly
preserved, they should keep for 4 to 6 weeks at 40 degrees

Basic Brining Procedure
1. Clean fish thoroughly and cut into serving size pieces.

2. Soak fish in weak brine made of 1 cup salt to each
gallon cold water for 1 hour. Drain.

3. Make saturated brine with 4 cups salt to each gallon
cold water. Soak fish in saturated brine for 12 hours in a
refrigerator. Soak small fish like smelt for four hours.

4. Rinse fish in fresh water.

Dry salted fish are also suitable for pickling. Freshen
salted fish for several hours in cold water in a
refrigerator. Then follow the recipes for cooking and


Prepare fish as in the Basic Brining Procedure. Continue
with the following directions.

10 lb. fish (brined and cut) 1 clove garlic, crushed
5 cups water (optional)
2 qt. vinegar 1 oz. white pepper
1/2 lb. sliced onions (optional)
2 oz. mixed pickling spices Crushed red pepper
(optional and to taste)
1. In large kettle, bring to a boil water, vinegar,
onions and spices.

2. Add fish and simmer for 10 minutes or until fish is
easily pierced with a fork.

3. Remove fish from liquid and spread in a single layer
in a shallow pan. Refrigerate for rapid cooling.

4. Pack cold fish loosely in clean glass jars.

5. Add onion slices, lemon and bay leaves if desired.

6. Strain the vinegar solution, bring to a boil, and pour
into jars to cover the fish.

7. Seal immediately.

8. Store in the refrigerator. Use within 6 weeks.

This recipe makes 6 to 8 quarts of pickled fish. It is
suitable for all kinds of freshwater fish, especially carp,
herring, smelt and mullet (sucker).

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