Ashley Taborsky’s South Anchorage yard is filled with chickens, newly planted fruit tress, herbs and vegetables. It’s all part of what she calls her Alaska urban hippie lifestyle. And she says if she can grow it, she can can it.

But now she’s found a way to preserve her halibut for far longer than its freezer life by canning it, too. She said it’s not a common practice, but now that she’s learned how to do it, she’s surprised more Alaskans don’t.

“It’s a science, not an art,” she explains. “Every food is a little bit different, so it’s not like baking or cooking, where you’re like, ‘Oh, this is getting done a little bit faster than I wanted, I’ll just turn the heat down.’ You follow the recipe to the T, or else your food may not be safe to eat.”

Using a recipe from the Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Office, she skins and chops the halibut, as well as a few cod fillets, sterilizes a dozen jars, then packs in the fish, leaving the required “head room,” or space between the fish and the lid. From there, the jars go into her pressure canner.

The process is time consuming, but like her canned moose heart broth and salmon lining her pantry shelves, once the halibut is done, it’ll last a lifetime, she said.

“You can freeze something, but that only lasts for so long and the quality goes down after time,” Taborksy said.

She explained while the taste will be a little dryer, for some fish, pressure canning increases the nutrition value.

“When you pressure can salmon, you’re not taking the bones out first, and the bones actually get pressure cooked and they basically just disintegrate in the meat,” she said.

That means extra calcium, and a pre-cooked jar of fish perfect for making a fast dip or chowder that doesn’t require electricity to be properly stored.

“Alaska has so much food to offer, you know? All year we can pick, we can fish, we can hunt — but once you’ve done all that, once you’ve done all your harvesting, how do you preserve it?” she asked. “Canning just makes sense to me.”

You can find the recipe in her latest blog post.

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