Preserve the Season

Preserving Fish

Curing, smoking, and pickling are all excellent methods of preserving fish.

With the addition of olive oil or salt, anchovies and sardines can be kept throughout the year. Some of our favorites include brandade, smoked black cod, and pickled herring.


Here is a basic recipe for Salted Fish from one of our favorite books, My Pantry by Alice Waters. Fish salted this way will keep for a week or so, and almost any firm, lean, white fish will do the trick.

Choose fresh, sweet-smelling fillets. Scatter a ¼ inch layer of either sea salt or kosher salt over the bottom of a nonreactive dish or pan. Lay the fish on the salt, making sure no pieces are touching one another, and cover the fillets completely with salt. Refrigerate the fish for two days.

Pour off the accumulating liquids after the first day. After day two, remove the fish from the salt and quickly rinse it. Pat the fish dry and put it in a clean dish on a rack covered with a clean towel. Cover with another towel and cover lightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Change the towels every couple days until they are no longer dampened by the fish.

The salted fish can be used as soon as it comes out of the salt pack or held for up to 10 days. Before using, soak the fish for two hours or longer. The fish is ready when pliable, but don’t soak it so long that it becomes mushy. Change the soaking water every hour or so to speed up the process.


Smoking fish is similar to salt curing because it creates an environment where bacteria can’t multiply. Smoking works best with fillets, but can also be done with whole fish.

Either take fresh, cleaned fish and smoke it as is, or brine the fish for a time before smoking. Remember to use hardwoods, such as hickory or fruitwoods, rather than resinous evergreens, which have a high sap content.


Most pickling recipes involve a two-step process of cooking or brining the fish, and then immersing in a pickling mixture. One of the benefits of pickling brine is that the vinegar works to dissolve and soften any bones in the fish.

Pickled fish must be refrigerated or kept cool in some way at 36-40℉ and the safest shelf life is two weeks or less.

To begin, brine cleaned fish for about one week in a solution of salt and vinegar before soaking in pickling brine for three days. Common pickling spices for fish include yellow mustard seeds, coriander, allspice, black peppercorn, fennel seed, dill seed, cloves, and bay leaves.

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  1. emily

    How long will smoked fish last in the refrigerator

    • SHED

      Hi Emily,
      Thanks for the question — but the answer varies! It depends on the type and how it was preserved. It’s best to ask upon purchase and err on the side of caution.
      Healdsburg SHED

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