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Canning Salmon (+ a Note on Cooking Oils)

Canned salmon is the best! You can make patties and fritters, chowder and salad, or take it to the beach and eat it straight out of the jar.

Caught a big one? Still have last year's fish in your freezer... What are you waiting for?!

Prepare your jars by running them through the dishwasher or cleaning in hot, soapy water. Inspect them and the lids and bands for nicks and/or rust.

Fillet the salmon, or if you are cleaning out your freezer, thaw the fish and skin it. Salmon Sisters, badass fishers and artists extraordinaire, have an adorable dish towel filleting tutorial that you could keep in your kitchen so you never forget!

Here's another quick tutorial on skinning if you need a reminder.

Chop the fish into pieces small enough to fit in the jars - around 2 square inches. Pack your jars to about 1-1/2 inch from the top.

Next, add 2-4 whole cloves of garlic, 1 t peppercorns, and some spices (fresh is awesome if you have them!). Dill, basil, or jalapenos are our favorite, simple flavors. Pineapple is also tasty! Anything goes!

Top it all with 2 T oil. Avocado or extra light olive oil are delicious, but there are other healthy high-heat options as well. For information on choosing the best oil, whatever you are cooking, please see the notes at the end of this post.

Put the lids on the jars and screw the bands on to fingertip tightness.

Make sure the canning rack is at the bottom of the canner so the jars do not break when they reach high pressure. Place the filled jars on top of it. Next, add 3 quarts of hot water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to prevent water stains on the jars. Even if you don’t fill your canner all the way up with jars, 3 quarts of water are always required for pressure canning.

Now, put the cover on the canner, turn the burner on, and heat until a steady flow of steam is coming from the vent pipe. Allow the steam to flow for 10 minutes, and then put the pressure regulator on the vent pipe. As the pressure develops in the canner, the air vent and cover lock will lift and lock the cover. Continue heating until the pressure gauge reads 12-lbs pressure for fish, meat, or poultry.

Once the gauge registers 12-lbs, set your timer for 90-minutes processing time for pints of salmon. Half pints are 60 minutes. Keep a watch on the pressure gauge and adjust the heat if necessary to maintain the correct pressure. If the pressure drops below 12-pounds, you will have to begin the time from the top, which is a real bummer!! You also do not want the pressure to get too terribly high, as the jars will break.

After the 90-minute timer dings, turn off the burner and allow the pressure gauge to drop to zero before removing the lid. The jars will be very hot, so I usually just leave the whole thing to cool for the remainder of the day or night.

Choosing the best oil for the job...

When canning low-acid foods like seafood, meat, poultry, and vegetables, your pressure canner will maintain temperatures of 240-250° F for 20-100 minutes. You also may cook the salmon and oil on high heat after canning - for instance, if you are making salmon patties, fritters, or chowder - so choose a medium to high-heat oil (like avocado or extra light olive oil) that is liquid at room temperature. Organic, cold-pressed, unrefined oils are healthiest when possible. Coconut oil, although very healthy, isn't the best choice for canning fish as it is solid at room temperature and difficult to mix into salmon salads or other no-heat meals.

Oil Smoke Points and Other Health Notes

Different oils perform best at different temperatures. They have different "smoke points," or temperatures where they get so hot they smoke. No oil should ever be heated above its smoke point. These high temperatures destroy the oil's health benefits and can cause the oil to break down and release free-radicals and carcinogens, or cancer-causing compounds, into the oil and/or air. In addition to smoke points, you also want to consider the fatty acid structure. Some oils have more saturated fat than others, which can increase risk of heart disease. Omega-9 fatty acids, on the other hand, can aid in heart-attack and cancer-prevention. Some Omega-6 is also a solid addition to your diet, as it provides energy for the heart and helps the body maintain cell walls; however, too much has been associated with increasing inflammation. Oils high in Omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent choice since they promote healthy cells, decrease stroke and heart attack risk, and are also known to be anti-inflammatory, however, heating them above 220° can destroy their health benefits, so they are best on salads and to top foods already cooked.

High Heat Oils

Extremely high-heat oils are best for stir frying, sautéing, searing, browning, popping popcorn, etc. Avocado oil's a top choice, with Vitamin E, 68% monosaturated Omega-9 fats and a smoke point of 520°. Ghee's smoke point is 482°, and it has a host of health benefits including providing vitamins A and E, K2, Conjugated Linoleic Acid, and being anti-inflammatory. Extra light olive oil, with a smoke point of 468° and 74% monosaturated Omega 9 fatty acids, is another excellent option for high heat oil. (Virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 420°; extra virgin has a much lower smoke point of 320°.)

Other oils with healthy dosages of Omega-9 fatty acids and high smoke points are refined safflower oil (510°) and rice bran oil (490°). Soybean oil has a high smoke point of 495°, but most are GMO and therefore may not be the best choice. Palm, sesame, corn, and peanut oil have smoke points of 450°, sunflower is 440°, hazelnut is 430°, and grapeseed, almond, and cottonseed oil are 420°. Of the high heat oils, palm oil is the least desirable because over half of its fats are saturated. Almond and hazelnut oils have the lowest percentage of saturated fat.

Medium Heat Oils

Medium heat oils are best for light sauteing, sauces, baking, and other cooking under 350°. Virgin coconut oil - which contains 86% healthy saturated fats, lauric acid, and has antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral properties - is a top choice. Butter also has a smoke point of 350°, as does canola oil, but canola is often GMO. Hempseed and walnut oil can withstand temperatures to 320°.

Low Heat Oils

Flaxseed oil, borage oils, prim rose oil, unrefined walnut oil, and wheat germ oil are rich in Omega-3 fats, which are essential to your entire body; however, they shouldn't be heated above 225°. Heat destroys the benefits of low-heat oils and can cause them to release free-radicals. They're best used on salads and to add flavor to foods that have already been prepared.

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