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Jim Uran

Twists on pickled fish?

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Everyone has their favorite pickled fish recipes, well at least those of us that appreciate this delicacy.  I've done just the basic salt brine then off to a sugary vinegary concoction to "cook" until time to eat. 


A buddy of mine gave me a quart of awesomeness this late summer that was the best pickled fish I've ever had. Lemon and fresh ingredients were the key to his awesome recipe. I've thought about adding some lime and chili to mine, I wonder how that would pan out?! 


Also, what kind of fish have you pickled? I should mention that my buddy's recipe called for crappie, that's probably why it was so darn good. I bet bluegill would be great, but what about fish like sucker... or some of the other "sub-par" species??


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I've done lots of hammer handle northerns, and some carp and suckers, which I also used to smoke. I think the firmer the meat, the better...but you can actually pickle just about anything. Try slipping a small  thai  or serrano chili pepper in there, with some white onion slices. Better than peppercorns, IMO.Not sure citrus would work well with fish,'s all up to you! :)

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Non oily fish seem to be best for pickling like pike crappie even walleye or sunfish. Never tried sucker. Always smoked or canned the oily type fish. I wouldn't hesitate to add lemon and I would do lemon before lime but you could try it. If you don't experiment I guess you will never know.

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My dad had a recipe that includes lemon. Bout the only fish I've pickled is pike. Had crappies and bass but wouldn't think of pickling sunfish!

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How about Japanese Style...  They do Mackerel, which is sort of oily, I think.  

Shime Saba is what they call it. 


Here is an example recipe I found.....

Fresh mackerel (at least 40 cm long)   2

Natural salt   as needed

Vinegar       300 ml

Mirin            100 ml

Sugar          about 5 teaspoons


1. Remove the guts, gills, and head (see photo). Very fresh mackerel still has scales, so remove them too.

2. Filet the fish and remove the backbone. Be as thorough as possible in removing any fine bones using fish bone tweezers. You could also remove the fine bones just before eating, if you prefer. If you remove the bones while you're slicing the fish to serve, the fish will be easier to eat.

3. Salt the fish with a generous amount of natural salt. Arrange the fillets in a single layer on a tray or plate, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. If you chill for for too long, the flesh will become tough. If moisture is produced from the fish as shown in the Step 4 photo, that's good!

4. Leave the tray or plate tilted slightly, so that he fish won't be sitting in the liquid that is produced, making it tastier (see photo).

5. Rinse the salt from the mackerel. You could use plain water, but rinsing with sake or vinegar is the real way to do it! But in fact, this might not change the flavor much! When the salt is rinsed off, be sure to thoroughly blot the fish dry (this part is critical).

6. Put 300 ml vinegar, 100 ml mirin and 5 teaspoons sugar in a freezer bag and dissolve well. Add the mackerel from Step 5 to the bag, and let marinate for 5-15 hours. The key is to eliminate as much air as possible from the bag. If you aren't going to eat the fish right away, remove it from the marinade, wrap it in plastic wrap; it should keep for 2 days in the refrigerator!

7. To eat, peel off the skin starting from the head side. Do this carefully so that you don't rip the flesh! You can do this easily with your bare hands. Cut or slice as you like!


Here is another take on the same dish...


good pictures on this one, so just a link.   Don't forget to freeze the fillets to avoid nasty parasites that salt water fish don't have.    Unless you want to lose weight, then the possible tape worm might help ha ha


Here is another, not Japanese, recipe.



Edited by delcecchi

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I've pickled sucker before and it's excellent, actually. Sucker is a very white, firm meat and it comes out great (do remove the "mud line" before just want the white meat).

I load my jars with equal parts sweet onions and jalapeno slices in addition to fairly the standard white wine/sugar/salt/vinegar/pickling spice brine. I added red pepper flakes to the brine before, too, and that was a nice kick of extra heat.

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