The mackerel have started to run, and we have been enjoying a nice catch of these beautiful fish with iridescent blue-green bodies, silvery white underbelly and black bars across the top half of their body. Mackerel overwinter in colder waters, but move inshore to feed as the water warms. Here in Crocket Cove, they have been running in schools with the incoming tide. We fish with a hook and line from the boat, or sometimes even off the pier.
Mackerel has been an important food source for Mainers for generations. My favorite breakfast meal is pan-fried mackerel dipped in cornmeal and fried in bacon fat. Old time cookbooks have recipes for mackerel baked in vinegar and butter, potted mackerel, mackerel stew, smoked mackerel, mackerel goulash and Spanish mackerel.
When raw, the meat of the Atlantic mackerel looks greyish and oily, and when cooked, it becomes off-white, flaky and moist. Mackerel is an extremely nutritious fish. High in Vitamin B12, it is also an excellent source of omega- 3 fatty acids. And, when canned and eaten with the bones, mackerel becomes a good source of calcium.
When nature gives us a bonus of such delicious food, I like to preserve it for the long winter ahead. Because fish is a low acid food, it must be processed in a pressure canner to assure safety of the product. The recipe for Canned Mackerel is USDA tested and relatively simple, but does require a pressure cooker.
Before starting, be sure to have all your tools and containers ready. I like wide-mouth canning jars, as they are easier to pack. The one-cup size is equivalent to a can of tuna fish. A nice mess of mackerel will stock the pantry with several jars. When pressed for time, nothing beats a tasty mackerel sandwich for lunch!
- Whole mackerel
- Sea salt
- Pickling spices if desired
- ½ pint or pint jars with lids wide mouth jars work the best
- Eviscerate the fish immediately after catching, and store on ice until ready to can.
- Remove the head, tail, fins and scales. Rinse under cold water. Leave the bones in the fish. They become soft in the canning process and are a good source of calcium.
- Pack the fish into the jars. If necessary, cut the mackerel into 3 ½ inch lengths for easier packing. Fill the jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Add ½ teaspoon salt or pickling spices per jar. Do not add liquids. Carefully clean the jar rims and the remove any fish oil from the outside of the jar. Adjust lids and process.
- Process in a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner at 11 pounds pressure of a Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner at 10 pounds pressure for 100 minutes. (1 hour 40 minutes)
- Carefully remove the jars from canner and allow to come to room temperature. Check seals, wipe jars if needed, and label product.