State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600585
Pickling entails the use of vinegar, salt and optional
spices for preservation. 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 ordinary vinegar containing 5 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 Fahrenheit.
To pickle fish, you will need:
Fish- Use only good quality fresh or salted fish
Soft water- Hard water has too much iron, magnesium or
calcium. Use softened or filtered hard water.
Vinegar- Vinegar should be clear without foreign
flavors or odors and have a guaranteed 5% acetic
acid content. Distilled white vinegar is
recommended. Cider and other fruit vinegars
containing 5% acetic acid may be used, but the
fruit compounds may give the fish off-flavors.
Salt- Use finely ground canning and pickling salt.
Table salt contains iodine, calcium and
magnesium compounds which may give the fish a
Sugar- Table sugar is suitable.
Spices- Use only fresh, whole spices.