Pickled pike is a classic North Country treat, but it also boasts a practical aspect: the acid in the vinegar dissolves the dread “Y-bones” that make filleting pike such a chore. (For boneless trout or walleye fillets, you can skip the soaking in step one.) Pickled pike is fantastic served on toasted rye bread, with a dab of butter, but it’s equally good on some Ritz crackers accompanied by an ice-cold can of Old Milwaukee. One thing to note: Due to tapeworm concerns, it’s best to use pike that’s been frozen for at least 48 hours.
– 1 cup kosher salt
– 1 lb. or so northern pike fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks
– 1 quart distilled white vinegar
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1-inch piece fresh horseradish, peeled and thinly sliced
– 4 slices fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter
– 2 tsp. whole allspice berries
– 2 tsp. whole yellow mustard seeds
– 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
– 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled
– 4 cloves, whole
– 3 bay leaves
– 1 carrot, thinly sliced
– 1 red onion, thinly sliced
1. Make a brine by combining the salt with a quart of water in a Mason-type glass jar or glass bowl. Add the pike to the brine and soak for 24 hours. Drain the fish, but do not rinse it. Add a quart of vinegar to the fish and soak for an additional 24 hours. Drain the fish, reserving one cup of the vinegar for use in the pickling solution, and refrigerate.
2. Combine the reserved cup of vinegar, a 1/2 cup of water, and the sugar in a nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
3. In a 1-quart Mason jar, add roughly a quarter of the fish, then add some of the spices and sliced carrot and onion; repeat with the remainder of the fish, spices, and vegetables so that the ingredients are layered and evenly dispersed. Pour the vinegar mixture into the jar. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least three days to allow the flavors to develop.
4. Serve the fish and vegetables directly out of the jar, on buttered slices of rye toast or with crackers.