I didn't make it up to the north shore this year for smelt, I was just to busy to get away. I love going up there and spending the night out on the point dragging a seine net and hitting the run. I have mostly been unsuccessful in my adventures up there but a couple years ago I managed to get enough that I still had one more bag of frozen smelt in the freezer. I had almost forgotten they were in there until my wife and I went out for drinks at a place called Heirloom over in St Paul, MN. On their menu they had a pickled smelt salad and as soon as I read that I remembered I had another bag of smelt at home and needed to try this.
As soon as we got home that night I went to the freezer and laid out the frozen bag to thaw so I could get started on pickling some smelt the next morning. I used the same recipe for these pickled smelt that I use for my pickled pike so if you don't have smelt don't worry this recipe works well with other fish also. After they were pickled I cut a few up and tried them and was shocked at how good they were. I like pickled fish a lot but these smelt really hold up well with the pickling brine. they have a great texture and have a natural sweetness to them that I really like.
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 gallon water
3 lbs of cleaned smelt
7.5 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup Aquavit
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons allspice berries
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
12 juniper berries
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tsp pickling salt
1. mix together the kosher salt and water and make a salt water brine, put the smelt into the brine and refrigerate for 48 hours.
2. After the smelt have brined for 48 hours drain the smelt and gently rinse with cold water, mix together all the ingredients from the white vinegar to the pickling salt and bring to a boil. let the pickling liquid cool to room temperature.
3. In your sterilized pint or quart jars arrange the smelt with the dill, shallots, lemon and chillies. How much is up to you. I like a lot of dill and shallots and a couple thin slices of lemon per pint. I didn't want the smelt to be spicy but I did want a little flavor from the chilies so I only put 3-4 slices of chili per pint.
4. Don't over fill the jars as you need to pour the pickling liquid in after they are filled with smelt. pour the room temperature liquid over the smelt and place the lids on. refrigerate for 2-3 days before eating. this will last for up to a month in you fridge.