How to Pickle Northern Pike: Your Complete Guide
I’ve been a fan of northern pike for a very long time. Ever since I was a young kid Dad would come back from week long fishing trips in Canada with plenty of walleye and northern pike for the freezer, and eventually I was old enough to start going along. We baked pike, fried pike, deep fat fried bike, but one thing we never did during those early years was pickle northern pike.
The first step in learning how to pickle northern pike was first getting exposed to pickled pike. This happened at Grandpa’s. He tended to pickle trout more than anything else, but after catching some unexpected pike out of Yellow River he just tossed them in, as well. It took a lot of encouragement to even try, but after a couple bites, I was hooked.
“Best part about pickled pike,” Grandpa said, “dissolves the Y-bone so you don’t have to deal with filleting those bastards out!”
That would mean a lot more to me when we were older, once we had to deal with filleting the Y-bone out of smaller sized pike (a headache many anglers are all too aware of) but what hit me immediate and stuck with me was how, against all odds, pickled pike was delicious and amazing.
So needless to say, I wanted to learn how to pickle northern pike myself so I would always have the ability to re-create this for myself! There are multiple great recipes out there, and I’ve been willing to try them as well as add some of my own touches over the years to see which pickled pike recipe tasted the best.
What You Need To Pickle Pike
There are some basics that you are going to need no matter how you prefer to flavor and specifically create your version of pickled pike. These basic ingredients are always going to be part of the process. Make sure you have plenty of all of this on hand, and
Ingredients/Materials You Will Need:
- Quart jars
- Pickling salt
- White vinegar
- Pickling spice
- Lemon juice
- Sliced northern pike
- Cold water
Additional Ingredients for Pickling Pike (depending on the recipe)
- Minced garlic
- Black peppercorns
- Bay leaves
- Brown sugar
- Silver satin wine
- Garlic gloves
Favorite Pickled Pike Recipe #1
Start by freezing the pike. I’ve heard (and saw this confirmed by some Midwest DNR reports) that 48 hours is enough of a freeze to kill any potential parasites, but I prefer 7 days. This not only deeply kills any parasites, but I’m with the large number of anglers who believe pike actually tastes better after it has been frozen for some time.
So after seven days in a deep freeze, bring them out to thaw. Once thawed grab your favorite knife and dice the pike up into bite-sized cubes.
Place in a bowl and cover with white vinegar and salt. I also sometimes add a little bit of minced garlic. Keep in the fridge between 3-6 days. I’m of the opinion 6 days is better, and the taste does adjust slightly the longer it is in the fridge. Once a day stir it up a bit, make sure the pike is thoroughly covered with the salt and vinegar.
Once you remove it from the fridge wash in cold water to remove the initial bit of vinegar. In the quart jars make sure to add a mix of sugar and vinegar (2 parts vinegar to 1 sugar), add one Tbs of pickling spice to each jar (careful not to overdo it!), add some sliced onion or red onion if you like a hint of sweetness.
Place the pike in the jar and then cover with the brine solution. Mine typically has three Tbsp lemon juice, an equal amount of minced garlic, a couple peppercorns, and sometimes a dash of minced garlic or a touch of brown sugar when I’m in the mood for that slightly deeper sweet flavor. This is the time to add jalapeno or horseradish if you prefer to add some heat to your pickled pike.
Keep in the refrigerator in sealed jars for at least 7 days.
At this point you are left with a quality mixture that tastes delicious and the pickled fish is likely to stay good for roughly a month in the average fridge.
Favorite Pickled Pike Recipe #2
The first step (after the obligatory freezing and de-frosting that I will always recommend with pike), cut the fillets into squares that are solidly bite sized. Use your brine mixture and cover these cubes of pike completely with that brine, some water, and 1/2 a cup of non-iodized salt. Soak thee for 24 hours and then drain off the solution
With this recipe you then layer the fish in jars with slices of red onion, alternating the layers. After that you need to add enough pickling solution to cover all the fish inside, and then cover the jars.
For this mixture the pickling solution is:
4 cups of white vinegar
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of silver satin wine
1 sliced red onion
1/3 cup of pickling spice
1 tsbp brown sugar
1 cap of lemon juice
Use the vinegar as a base, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Heat up but don’t boil, just help mix, then cool it down. After that add the other ingredients with the exception of the lemon juice. Bring to a minor boil, then immediately cool. Once this has been done, add the cap of lemon juice and mix.
This is the mixture that is then put over the cubes of pike in order to make sure they are pickled. Refrigerate and it is best to let sit for one week before eating. Like other pickled pike recipes this should keep the pike good as long as it stays in the fridge for up to a full month.
Other Pickled Pike Recipes of Note
As stated earlier there are many different recipes when it comes to making pickled pike. Just a few links that lead to other great recipes, though I’d argue not as good as mine,
Argo Builder (This also includes an awesome picture step by step guide on how to pickle northern pike)
Now you know all you need to know about how to pickle northern pike, and have plenty of options to pick the recipe that sounds the best to you.