Smoking and canning offer alternatives from traditional frying. You can smoke crappie but they’re so hard to keep lit. (That’s an old ’60s joke ;>)
Smoking has long been used as a means of temporarily preserving fish and other foods throughout history. Originally this was done as a preservative but today the smoking of fish is generally done for the unique taste imparted by the smoking process.
The steps in smoking are necessary not only for safe preservation, but also to produce good flavor and aroma. While carp, suckers, buffalo catfish, salmon, trout and chubs may be successfully smoked, we’re going to stoke the coals for crappie.
The following document was adapted from the Complete Guide to Home Canning, Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2009.
A safe, high quality product can be produced using the following brining and smoking procedures. Certain steps in the brining and smoking process require careful attention.
• Use correct amount of salt in the brine.
• Use enough brine for a given amount of fish.
• The temperature during brining must be no higher than 40° F.
• Use similar size and kinds of fish in the brine.
Here are the steps for safe smoked fish.
• There should be uniform heat treatment of all fish in the smoking chamber.
• Use freshly caught, dressed fish, whole or filleted. Wash fish thoroughly.
• Fish for smoking must be brined.
• 1 ½ cups salt to 1 gallon water – 12 hours in refrigerator.
• 4 cups salt to 1 gallon cold water – 15 minutes.
• Remove from brine, rinse.
• Place short stem of meat thermometer in thickest portion of flesh of largest fish.
• Put fish in smoker when air temperature is 100° F (you need a second thermometer to measure this).
• During smoking, air temperature should rise to 225° F.
• Fish flesh should reach 180° F and be kept there for 30 minutes.
• Smoked fish must be stored in refrigerator. Use within one month.
If you plan to can or pickle raw fish, you should first freeze the fish at 0°F for 48 hours to kill any bacteria or parasites.
Lightly smoked fish is recommended for canning. However, because it has not yet been cooked, do not taste lightly smoked fish before canning.
Use a 16 to 22 quart pressure canner for this procedure. Do not use smaller pressure saucepans. Safe processing times haven’t been determined. Do not use quart jars or tin cans. Half-pints could be safely processed for the same length of time as pints, but the quality of the product may be less acceptable.
For your safety, please Google Using Pressure Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.
If smoked fish has been frozen, thaw in the refrigerator until no ice crystals remain before canning. If not done prior to smoking, cut fish into pieces that will fit vertically into pint canning jars, leaving 1-inch headspace.
Measure 4 quarts (16 cups) of cool tap water and pour into the pressure canner. (Note: The water level probably will reach the screw bands of pint jars.) Do not decrease the amount of water or heat the water before processing begins.
Pack smoked fish vertically into jars, leaving 1-inch headspace between the pieces and the top of the jar. The fish may be packed either loosely or tightly. Clean jar rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Do not add liquid to the jars. Adjust lids and process. See recommendations for your canner unit for smoked fish, but in general, it’s 10 PSI of pressure for 110 minutes, pint jars in altitudes below 1000 feet. 15 PSI if above 1000 feet.
The easiest way to enjoy your canned crappie is right out of the jar. Eat’em either mashed or whole on crackers, but there are dozens of other ways to use them.
Mini Crappie Pizzas
Toast an English muffin and spread each half with 1½ tablespoons of spaghetti or pizza sauce, later with thin strips of canned crappie and sprinkle with 1 ounce of shredded cheddar or pizza cheese; broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
Greek Salad with Canned Crappie
Toss chunks of fish with fresh tomato, cucumber, feta cheese and good olives. Dress the salad with lemony vinaigrette. Used liquid from your canned crappie to add more flavor.