Pickled Northern – Steps 3, 4, and 5

Posted by MNAngler On November - 8 - 2009

After soaking our Northern Pike for 24 hours, we were now ready to finish the recipe. My wife did step 3 without me:

Boil together for 5 minutes the following ingredients:
1 1/2 cup of sugar
3 cups of white vinegar
4 bay leafs
1 tsp whole all spice
3 tsp mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp whole black pepper
6 to 7 red peppers or whole chili peppers
Let cool at room temp – Make sure the brine is cooled down before adding items below or your meat will not be firm !!!!!

She made two versions: one spicy and one non-spicy. We used pickling spice instead of the bay leaves, all spice, mustard seed, and black pepper. We wanted to use chili peppers as called for, but couldn’t find fresh ones in bags less than 3 oz, so we used four red jalapeƱo peppers instead. My wife cut them cross-wise to make the circle shapes for aesthetics.


Spicy pickling brine

Spicy pickling brine.

Non-spicy pickling brine

Non-spicy picking brine.

I was there for step 4:

Add to brine:
Add 2 cups white wine (White Port Wine)
Add Sliced 2 onions
Add fish to solution

Our local liquor store was out of port, so we just used plain white wine.


Pile 'o onions

Pile ‘o onions.

Pickling brine with white whine added

Pickling brine with white whine added.

The last part of step 2 was to drain off the vinegar the fish soaked in. You may notice in the picture below that the chunks clumped together (the right edge is in the form of our container). We used a crock pot insert to do our main batch because that was the only gallon container we could find. As a result, many of the pieces didn’t appear to get exposed to the vinegar like they should and didn’t look “cooked.” If you notice some of the pieces weren’t completely white like the others.

In this step 4, we packed those pieces in with the “cooked” pieces and in hindsight we probably should have checked them to see if the bones disintegrated. I hope they won’t be a problem. For future batches, we will probably stir them a few times during the 24 hour vinegar process.

Our smaller batch was in a two quart glass measuring bowl and seemed to turn out much better.


Drained fish chunks

Drained fish chunks.

The directions above simply state to “Add fish to solution.” I’m not sure if they were expecting the whole mixture to sit in the gallon container in the fridge for step 5, but we packed the fish into jars.

My wife layered fish, then onions, then added some brine to cover. The process was then repeated until the jar was full. She then stuffed in a bit more until the fish fit snugly, but not crammed tight.

My wife tells me that the phrase “packing pickles” comes from cramming your soon-to-be-pickled food of choice together into jars as it’s supposed to help in the pickling process. Having them just float around in the solution isn’t good enough. She’s not sure what this actually does to help, but given her family’s canning tradition, it would be unwise not to trust her.

We got all our fish into two half gallon jars and four pint jars–exactly the amount of solution we started out with. We thought for sure we’d run out of the brine because there seemed to be very little left when we started on the last half gallon jar. But we even had a few chunks and brine left over to do a tiny test tupperware full of it.


Start of a pint jar

Start of a pint jar.

Finished non-spicy pint jar

Finished non-spicy pint jar.

Finished spicy pint jar.

Finished spicy pint jar.

The Pickled Northern Factory

The Pickled Northern Factory

Layering in the half gallon jar

Layering in the half gallon jar.

Mostly filled half gallon jar

Mostly filled half gallon jar.

Completed spicy half gallon jar

Completed spicy half gallon jar.

Finally, step 5:

Let Stand in frig for 8 to 10 days before eating


Packed jars of pickled northern ready for step 5

Packed jars of pickled northern ready for step 5.

The jars are now in our fridge. I’ll let you know how they turn out in 8-10 days.


10 Responses to “Pickled Northern – Steps 3, 4, and 5”

  1. Optimista says:

    You did a really nice job of photographing the process! I’ve never had pickled northern before – curious about what it tastes like. Looking forward to the full report!

  2. [...] Step 3: Boil together for 5 minutes the following ingredients: 1 1/2 cup of sugar 3 cups of white vinegar 4 bay leafs 1tsp whole all spice 3 tsp mustard seed 1 1/2 tsp whole black pepper 6 to 7 red peppers or whole chili peppers Let cool at room temp – Make sure the brine is cooled down before adding items below or your meat will not be firm !!!!! [...]

  3. Nolan Spencer says:

    Being an old biologist and having pickled northerns for fifty = years, I find it wise to freeze my chunks of fish at a temp below zero for at least a week before doing any pickling. This recipe is uncooked and the cyst of Dibothryocephalus latus, the broad fish tapeworm can be injested in this product. They aren’t pretty and pike have em’.
    Sloughshark

    • MNAngler says:

      Thank you for the information, Sloughshark. I will keep that in mind when we catch more Northern next summer. Fortunately, the Northern fillets we used this time had been in our deep freezer for a couple of months, so they are probably ok. It’s good to know that freezing them takes care of the tapeworm.

      I appreciate you taking the time to warn all of us who love pickled Northern.

  4. lynda azure says:

    Hey, I am in the process of pickeling my 13 pound pike of last summer as I write. I love your pictures and how easy you have made it to do it. I have gone through books and people and yours is the bomb! I just got it in the salt tonight and will get back yo you in 48 hours.

    • MNAngler says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you found it useful. We had a lot of fun making it and I’m sure you will, too. I look forward to hearing from you in two days.

  5. MJ says:

    My mom made this regularly when I was a kid. Totally addictive. As a teen, I’d polish off the better part of a quart jar in one sitting. I’d kill for some now!

    • MNAngler says:

      Well, MJ, now you have the recipe and can make your own. I wouldn’t recommend eating it all in one sitting, though. :-)

  6. john says:

    once you are done canning these can you put them on the shelf like the rest of the canned stuff or do they all need to be refrigerated at all times

    • MNAngler says:

      Because it’s meat, it needs to be refrigerated; similar to pickled herring in the supermarket. The pickling process does not kill all the germs within meat like it does with vegetables.

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