Old Fashioned Fish Stock

It seems like autumn is the season when preserving the harvest from land and sea is at full swing! Kitchens across the world at at their busiest, and ours is no exception. We are in the mountains and landlocked (not near an ocean), however, we were blessed with a huge donated load of wild caught whole tilapia and haddock filets. Our table was loaded with packages of this stuff. It was given to us frozen, so we laid it out on towels to thaw before processing.

Frozen packages filled our table to thaw before processing.

How We Processed the Haddock: (once thawed)

  • Cut into chunks and filled wide-mouth pint jars with raw fish
  • Added a 1/2 tsp salt to the top of each jar
  • Poured hot water over the fish and salt, filling each jar to 1″ head space
  • Wiped rim of jars to clean, then added hot lids and rings
  • Processed in pressure canner for 100 mins (Hour and 40 minutes) at proper pressure for elevation.
  • Done!
14 pints of canned haddock for the pantry shelf!


Now we get to the meat of this blog post: fish stock! If you live near the ocean and have an endless supply of seafood, consider yourself blessed! The best seafood I’ve ever tasted, was during our visits to Maine, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and New Brunswick Canada. We not only had the obligatory Maine lobster, but our friend and colleague made the most delightful and unforgettable fish soup we have ever tasted! That was nearly 20 years ago, and I can still salivate if I think about it long enough. It was scrumptious! It was an obvious move to make fish stock when blessed with all this fish! Our family is not the type to cook a whole fish and pick at it, bones and all, so I knew the best way to preserve it was to make fish stock out of the whole tilapia. Here’s how I did it:

Use a large stockpot with draining basket (basket not necessary, but it does make straining much easier) and fill with the following indredients:

  • large pieces of celery stalks
  • large pieces of onion
  • large chunks of carrots
  • salt
  • peppercorns
  • bay leaf (or two)
  • sprigs of thyme and parsley
  • 4 – 6 fish heads and carcasses (or just whole, gutted fish with flesh on)
  • water to cover
Whole, gutted tilapia and veggies crammed into the straining basket of a huge stock pot (the same pot I use for water bath canning) and mostly covered with water.

I arranged the vegetables on the bottom, and the fish on top, and filled the pot up to about 2″ from the top. If not using a straining basket, simply fill with enough water to just barely cover all the ingredients.

Cover stockpot with a tight lid and bring everything to a boil. Turn the heat down and slow simmer for 2-3 hours. You’ll see that as it cooks, the fish starts to fall apart, further adding to the flavor of the stock! I know it may look pretty gross at this stage, but believe me, the results are worth it!

As the fish stock cooks, everything softens up and falls apart!

After the allotted simmering time is done, let the stock cool for about 1/2 hour, so it is easier to handle during the next stages.

Once cooled off a bit, strain the pieces out of the stock liquid with a flour sack towel or two layers of cheesecloth lining a colander. This is where the straining basket comes in handy, if you have one: simply lift the basket out of the stockpot and set it on top of a large baking pan or bowl to catch the drippings. (Be sure to further strain the drippings with a flour sack towel and/or cheesecloth, so NOTHING is left except stock – you don’t want any chunks of anything in your stock.)

Pour the hot, strained fish stock into sterilized, regular-mouth quart canning jars, using a canning funnel, to 1″ headspace.

Wipe jar rims with wet paper towel to clean off any drips that may have spilled on it

Apply hot lids and rings to the jars.

Process in pressure canner for 35 minutes at proper elevation pressure for your location.


Several quarts of fantastic fish stock, all ready for the pantry shelf. Imagine the recipe possibilities!!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this informative post, and invite you to comment or ask questions! Enjoy the simple, old-fashioned life!

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