Cooking Up Options for Fish this Winter

We have all settled into our winter routines. Perhaps it is shuttling your kids back and forth from the hockey rink routine; maybe it is the get-home-from-work and read-a-book-on-the-couch routine.

Alternately, it is a stoke-the-fire, shovel-the-driveway and off-to-bed routine. If getting outside and ice fishing is not top of the mind, there are other ways to fit fish into your winter.

For starters, dig deep in the freezer and pull out any fillet or whole fish. You could simply cook the fish any one of a half-dozen ways or you could roll up your sleeves and work with it.

The way I define working with fish is to smoke, cure, pickle or can it. Depending on variables such as how fresh the fish was, how well it was packed and what type of fish it is, it may last six months in the freezer. Don’t you owe it to that fish and your family to put it to good use?

One of the more-conventional ways of working with fish is to smoke it. Simplifying the process, this can be done through a wet or dry cure and a hot or cold smoking process.

Like most recipes, a great deal of trial and error is required to get it just right. This is very subjective, of course, as people like different variations of flavouring, saltiness and texture.

Personally, I have started to use the dehydrator for long periods of time prior to smoking, just to get the texture right.

Another option that typically requires fresh, firm fish, such as sockeye, is making gravlax. Gravlax is usually sliced thinly and served with bagels, cream cheese and capers. It is made through a simple two- or three-day curing process in the fridge. The only ingredients required are coarse salt, cracked pepper and brown sugar.

A very popular use of older fish or fish with sub-standard meat is canning. This might include fish typically caught late in a run or a species such as Chum salmon.

If you have ever hooked into a nice-looking Pink salmon, in Valdez, or a large Chum, in Haines, think of canning it. The process involves stuffing, flavouring and high-pressure canning the meat into mason jars. This is all climaxed with a distinctive pop, signifying a tight-seal fit for over a year.

Finally, and one of the least common and my new personal favourite, is pickling. I must have been Scandinavian in a past life because I can’t get enough of this stuff. Properly flavoured and nicely textured, this type of fish won’t last long in any household. Normally, fresh white meat is used from fish such as pike, burbot or whitefish. It undergoes a curing process in the fridge, using vinegar and wine as the primary ingredient.

I have simplified these processes, but a Google search will provide you with detailed recipes to follow. I would recommend digging out your fish on a Thursday, letting it thaw Friday and spending the weekend working with your fish.

If you would like to share your fishing story or hear more about this one, visit Dennis Zimmermann’s Yukon fishing blog at

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