Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

More pickled sucker recipes

Since my April 30 blog-post I had those suckers we caught chunked and soaking in brine, and yesterday finished pickling them, using four different pickling recipes. I found a great new cookbook at the library, Scandinavian Classics by Niklas Ekstedt, and it includes some wonderful pickled herring recipes that I used for the suckers. 

My grandfather used to pickle small northern pike in a more traditional vinegar/salt/spice pickling solution, the kind that you might normally use for pickled cucumbers. They were fantastic and I always liked seeing an open jar of his pickled northern in the fridge, so I could steal a piece or two. The foundational recipe for pickled herring in Ekstedt's book is not like the recipe my Grandpa used. Ekstedt's version is a sweet pickle, using no salt at all in the foundation pickle, and very little (a pinch) in the follow-up flavoring pickles.

I had the sucker pieces soaking in a light salt brine for 5 days, before moving onto the sweet pickle as outlined in the book.

Sucker meat

Here is Ekstedt's "Basic Pickling Brine for Herring", which I adapted for the amount of sucker I had:

  • 6 cups water
  • 2.2 lbs sugar
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 10 allspice kernels
  • 4 bay leaves
  1. Bring all of that to a boil and cook for a bit.
  2. Let it cool and keep in the fridge.
  3. Rinse the salted fish chunks in cold running water. Then rinse them again. Then again...rinse the dickens out of them, for 20 minutes.
  4. Place the rinsed fish pieces into a large container and cover with the cooled brine. Put something like a small plate over them fish to weigh it down a bit and to keep them under the brine. Let sit in the fridge for a day.
  5. The next day make another brine like you did above and let it cool. Remove the fish from the brine (I just placed them in a colander), dump the old brine, rinse the container, replace the fish pieces and cover with the new brine. Weight them down again too. Let it sit for another day.

Now you're ready to create various flavor brines that will give the fish distinctly different profiles (tastes and textures). I veered a bit, as I am wont to do, from Ekstadt's recipes in a couple of these. I'll just give you the recipes below as I did them. You ought to feel free to do fiddle and play with these as well.

Ramps and green Apple Pickled Sucker ["Ramps and Apple Herring"]

The recipe for the first batch I pickled sounded like the most interesting: "Ramps & Apple". I have plenty of ramps from the week's foraging harvests and so I was anxious to give this one a whirl. I followed Ekstedt exactly on this one.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tart green apples
  • bunch of ramps
  • pinch of sea salt
  • freshly ground white pepper
  1. Grate the apples coarsely and finely chop the ramps (the whole ramp,from bulb to leaf top).
  2. Mix the mayo and sour cream, along with the salt and ground white pepper.
  3. Add the grated apples and chopped ramps and mix well.
  4. Add the fish pieces to the sauce and gently but thoroughly mix it all together.
  5. Divvy up the sucker in sauce concoction into clean jars with lids. Be sure to write what's in the jar and the date. Pop it in the fridge until the next day (the longer the fish and sauce get to know one another the better). It should be good for a few weeks.

Ramp & Green Apple Pickled Sucker

Herb Sauce Pickled Sucker ["Herring with Herbs"]

This one was really tasty.

  • 1 cup yogurt (Ekstedt called for crème fraîche)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 scant tbl olive oil
  • Chopped parsley
  • Minced garlic
  • Minced onion
  • Chopped ramp leaves
  • Dried tarragon
  • Sea salt
  • Ground white pepper
  1. Mix everything together in a large bowl.
  2. Add the fish pieces and gently but thoroughly mix.
  3. Divvy up the sucker in sauce concoction into clean jars with lids. Be sure to write what's in the jar and the date. Pop it in the fridge until the next day (the longer the fish and sauce get to know one another the better). It should be good for a few weeks.

Herb Sauce Pickled Sucker

Fennel Pickled Sucker ["Fennel Herring"]

  • 2 or 3 cups of the foundational pickling brine, strained (amount depends on how much fish you have to pickle).
  • Fennel bulb, thinly sliced.
  • 1-2 tbl fennel seeds, lightly toasted.
  1. Fill the jars with the sliced fennel and sucker pieces.
  2. Add 1/2 tbl of the toasted fennel seeds and a fennel frond (Why the frond? Because it looks cool).
  3. Cover with the strained pickling brine. Be sure to write what's in the jar and the date. Pop it in the fridge until the next day (the longer the fish and sauce get to know one another the better). It should be good for a few weeks.

Fennel Pickled Sucker

Tomato/Garlic/Onion Pickled Sucker ["Tomato and Sherry Herring"]

  • Can of crushed tomatoes
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped garlic
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Ground Black pepper
  • Bay leaf
  1. Mix everything together, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the fish pieces and gently but thoroughly mix.
  3. Divvy up the sucker in sauce concoction into clean jars with lids. Be sure to write what's in the jar and the date. Pop it in the fridge until the next day (the longer the fish and sauce get to know one another the better). It should be good for a few weeks.

Tomato/Garlic/Onion Pickled Sucker

I plan on trying these recipes, and more, with any small "hammer handle" northerns I catch this year. Sucker meat is ok, but northern pike is firmer and smoother tasting. Let me know if you do any fish pickling yourself, and how it turns out for you.

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