Pickled Perch Recipe

Photo by Pixabay/zoosnow

Makes 4 quarts | Auntie Dolores lived for decades at the fish hatchery in North Dakota where Uncle Ron worked. Some of his stewardship included a project to reintroduce indigenous fish such as the pallid sturgeon in the Upper Midwest. The little fish were nurtured to a safe size in large, shallow tanks in darkened sheds. I remember patting the backs of some prehistoric and sleepy-looking garfish one day. I probably should not have done that. Aside from raising fish, Uncle Ron is, as they say, an avid sportsman who ventured away from the hatchery to make his catch. Auntie Dolores has come up with a lot of ways to use the fish that fill the freezer each year. Pickling is one of her favorites, and my mom’s, too. Maybe because pickling also leaves more room in the deep freeze?


  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/2 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4–6 pike or perch, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced


In a large bowl, combine brine ingredients (vinegar through lemon juice), stirring to mix. Place fish pieces in a gallon jar, alternating with onions. Fill to top with brine, completely covering fish. Let stand loosely covered at room temperature for 48 hours. Tighten lid and refrigerate indefinitely, or until one of your pickled fish–loving relatives visits and eats it all gone.

You can also decant pickled fish into 4 sterilized quart jars, tighten lids, and store refrigerated. Give jars of this “prairie sushi” as gifts.

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Cover courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society Press

Reprinted with permission from Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest by Heid E. Erdrich, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. The Minnesota Historical Society Press is on Facebook and Twitter.

Published on Sep 5, 2019


Inspiration for edible alchemy.