A Gift of Fish – What Now?

October 2, 2015

How to pressure can fish - the fish“My whole refrigerator is full of fish. Come and get some!” That is the kind of phone call which only happens once in a great while. But when it happens, there are only two options: To say no thank you, or to jump immediately into action. (Listen to our podcast; “How to Pressure-Can Fish” here.)

When that call came for me, I did jump into action and ended up doing a whole lot of things for the first time in many, many years and others for the first time ever.

I probably don’t have to mention this, but I will anyway. Fish has to be kept cold. As cold as possible and preferable from the time it left the water to the moment of its final process – may that be prepared fresh or frozen, canned, dried or otherwise processed.

How to pressure can fish step oneWith my ice chest laden with Skipjack Tuna, I was ready for some help. Luckily my ex husband came to the rescue with a couple of sharp (very important!) knives and years of fish processing experience, a byproduct of being an avid fisherman. He talked me through processing the first one with occasionally giving me a hand. Then, I was ready to go it on my own, and by the 3rd fish, I felt pretty confident and was working fast.

Pretty soon, I had a big platter of fillets in the fridge, a container of dark meat, heads, tails and skeletons (with quiet a bit of flesh on), skin and the innards.

This is what I decided to do with the bounty:

  • Fillets: Canned in pint jars in a pressure cooker- hadn’t done that in 20 years.
  • Dark meat: Some fed raw to the animals (cat and dogs), the rest slightly cooked and given as treats over a couple of days.
  • Heads, tails and skeleton: Covered with water and cooked for several hours for bone broth. After about 5 hours of cooking time, I strained the broth and used the solid parts for chicken food. The bones are very soft at this point and fall apart. First time that I was making a bone broth from fish.
  • Skin and innards: Buried deep in a planting hole. As it breaks down, it will feed the loquat which found its home there with nitrogen and phosphorus. I planted many trees in the 5 years we have been at this house, but never before had some fish guts handy.
  • Paper I processed the fish on: soaked, shredded and added to the worm compost.

What I could have done: Cut the skin into pieces and dehydrate it for dog treats.

I am proud to say that not one part of the fish went to the landfill. The ice water from the transport watered a plant and the bloody knives and the towels used to clean hands and knives while working were rinsed over a bucket and that water also fertilized a plant.

Please share your ideas what else we could do with the gift of a fish.


  • Make sure all rubber gaskets are flexible (not dried out and brittle)
  • Make sure venting hole is not plugged up
  • Fill the canner with 3 quarts of boiling water.How to pressure can fish - date cans
  • Wash the jars you are going to use (no need to sterilize)
  • Put lids into hot water so rubber becomes pliable
  • Fill up your jars to 1 inch headspace
  • Make sure there are no air bubbles
  • Place lids on
  • Clean top of jars very well to ensure a tight seal
  • Screw lid bands on
  • Stack them in the canner (not directly on top of each other)
  • Put canner lid on tightly
  • Heat the canner
  • Let it steam out for 10 minutes
  • Then put weight on
  • Process at 10 pounds of pressure for 100 minutes
  • Make sure the pressure stays above 10 pounds by adjusting heat
  • After 100 minutes turn it off and allow to cool and pressure to reduce on its own
  • Take cans out
  • Take bands off and check to see that all lids have a tight seal
  • Write canning date on all cans
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