Canning the Catch students learn fish canning basics

by K.J. Lincoln

The Cooperative Extension Service in Bethel is a great resource, especially if you want to learn how to can your own fish, and that means those delicious Kuskokwim salmon.

Leif Albertson, the University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension agent for Bethel, taught a course on fish canning for any community member interested in learning how to can the catch.

The class, which filled up quickly, had nine students. Most said they had never canned before and would like to learn and were happy to be taking the class. Some had canning experience but not with salmon, and a few had eaten canned salmon that was given as a gift to them and really liked it.

Why can?

Here are some reasons, said Albertson.

First, you don’t need extra freezer space for your canned salmon. They are shelf-stable, power-outage affect-free, and are easy to have for a quick meal.

It is also a good idea to preserve the things that are available during times of abundance.

The students were given many opportunities to ask questions about canning. Here are some highlights:

No, you cannot use an Instapot to do your canning.

So far, there have been zero cases of botulism resulting from canned salmon in Alaska.

“It’s much safer than people think,” said Albertson.

As long as the seal lasts, shelf-life is about a year.

The class was pleasantly surprised when Albertson pulled out a fully canned and tasty looking jar of canned salmon from the pressure cooker during the demonstration segment of instruction.

After going over the canning process, it was time for some hands-on fish processing. Kuskokwim Consortium Library’s Theresa Quiner, who organized the canning class, brought the fish for the class that was donated by the local Fish & Game folks.

The students worked on cleaning the salmon, filleting them, and cutting up the meat into chunks before stuffing them into the pint jars.

Everything that was needed for canning salmon was provided, including the pressure canner which was soon loaded up with jars of raw salmon, ready for the cooking process.

The class also received a copy of the University of Alaska Fairbank’s Cooperative Extension Service paper on Canning the Fish Catch. All of UAF’s Cooperative Extension Service publications are tried and true, tested and perfected methods for public use.

Albertson took care of the pressure canning portion for the next couple hours while students cleaned up, filled out some paperwork, and got ready to go home. The next day the fish was ready for pickup and ready for eating.