How do I make foil-packed salmon???
So I'm a little bit ticked at the moment. I recently bought some of the Starkist (or Bumble Bee, or whatever) brand smoked salmon that comes in the 3 oz foil pack. I know, you're all thinking, why wold you buy that when you live in Alaska? I like the convenient package size. It's easy to pack, mixes well with ramen or certain freeze dried packaged meals. I also keep some on hand for if the power goes out. In fact, I hadn't bought any in a while because I had so much stored in the garage. WELL. Today I noticed that the packaging went from saying "Product of USA" to "Product of Thailand." (Which is why in a bad mood.)
Is it possible to somehow take the salmon I catch in the summer, smoke and or can it, and package it in a small foil or plastic sealed packaging? In other words, is it possible to replicate that store bought product AND its packaging at home?
Yes. I haven't done it, but the the sealers they sell/rent at Alaska Butcher Supply can seal/can fish in foil packages. My understanding is that you seal the fish in the foil, then you go through a process similar to canning where you heat the fish to a certain temperature for a given amount of time. Planning on trying it sometime, though haven't done so yet.
that kind of makes some sense to me. if the foil packed store bought stuff is just canned fish, then i guess all you need is something strong enough to withstand the canning process. but what would that be?
Originally Posted by Brian M
Go talk to the folks at Alaska Butcher Supply in Mt. View. They'll show you what that would be.
It's called "retort bag canning". There are many threads on various fishing forums that go through the process. Most are focused on canning tuna, but the process works for any fish that cooks solid. Retort bag canning is also covered in some modern home canning guides from co-operative extension services.
The first thing you are going to need to buy is a chamber vacuum sealer that has a double element seal bar with enough wattage to melt the foil coated or mylar retort bags. So there is a couple grand right off the get go. The vac-masters they sell at Costco may allow for a double seal bar purchased on the after market, but may not have enough wattage for the retort bag material. AK Butcher sells a machine with the right about of wattage and type of seal bar.
The next thing you will want is one of the heavy duty pressure canners. The presto brand may not be up to the task over the long run.
When researching the process I noted that there were many guys that tried to short change the process and all they ended up with is a pot of tuna soup with plastic bags or a pantry full of rotting tuna due to poor seals that came apart during the canning step.
The Costco VP215 Works
The Costco VP215 works for retort canning fish. I have done it with whitefish and it was still good 9-months later. You just have to turn up the heat and seal time for the special bags. It is great having around some fish to throw in ramen or salad that is shelf stable. However, the cost of these bags is high. If I remember right it is 0.75 a bag for 8-oz bags and $0.50 a bag for 4-oz bags. I have read that overloading them causes them to explode in the canner (causing the mess). I weighed my fish out on a digital scale, did not exceed the weight specifications and did not have a single popped bag. One thing to be aware of is it does wreak havoc on the plastic covering on the seal bar. After doing a few canner loads, I replaced the covering on my bar (easy to do and just a couple of dollars for the covering). Nice to do and to have shelf stable home made mres around but expensive.
Originally Posted by AK Ray