The Family Fish Pie

I hated Fish Pie growing up. On the days that I came home from school, tired after an hour long bus ride on bumpy country roads, and smelled a fish pie baking as soon as I walked in the door…my stomach turned. The fish smell was so overpowering and back then, I was a kid who just didn’t like anything to do with fish. I hated ice fishing; standing over an open hole in the middle of a freezing lake with no shelter from the wind and hoping for a bite was entirely pointless to me. I think the only good thing about ice fishing back in those days was that my parents would always stop at the store for snacks, which meant a bag of chips and some licorice. Back in those days, that was a real treat.

I despised the taste (and smell) of ‘fishy fish’ and I would always ask my dad if the fish was going to be ‘fishy’. As if he would know! I eventually learned that it was Jack fish (or Northern Pike) that was the ‘fishy’ tasting fish and White fish was more mild but had tiny, delicate bones. Oh, the bones!! I hated those too.

Now that I’m an adult, I love fish. Go figure. What’s strangest of all, is that I actually crave my mom’s fish pie. I’ve been wanting to make it for a while but put it off because the first ingredient needed for fish pie is canned fish. I’m not talking canned salmon (though you can use it in a pinch) but fresh caught fish, preserved in jars with a bit of vinegar, herbs, and tomato. When I asked my mom for the recipe, she pointed me in the direction of the family cookbook which contained the recipes for both the canned fish and the fish pie.  I also discovered that my Grandma was the original author of this recipe (not my mom) and that it was, essentially, a quiche. I love it. I love that my Grandma invented quiche!! 

My parents thought I was silly for buying fresh fish (they told me to buy canned salmon), then canning it just to make this recipe but I really wanted to go as close to the original recipe as I could. I bought a wild Steelhead Trout and sliced it up. One large fillet ended up filling 3 500 ml jars.

Canned Fish

Ingredients

  • 1 large filet of Steelhead Trout
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup passata
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vinegar; divided into 3 amounts of 1/4 cup
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme

Method

  1. Cut filet into 2 inch slices.
  2. Sterilize 3  500 ml jars in 220 F oven in a pan containing an inch of water. Heat lids in a pot of boiling water.
  3. Mix salt, garlic, and passata together.
  4. Place fish in hot jars, divide passata evenly between the three jars.
  5. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to EACH jar.
  6. Place 2 sprigs fresh thyme in each jar. Cover and process.

Hot Water Bath Processing – Place hot jars on the rack of a canner filled with boiling water. Lower the rack and ensure the water is deep enough to cover the jars. Process for 2 hours. NOTE: The recipe says to do this for 5 hours. I think that’s a bit ridiculous, however, I do know that hot water processing is NOT recommended for meat or fish. Just because my Grandma and mom did it (and we didn’t die) doesn’t mean that it is 100% safe. For that, you need a pressure canner.

Pressure Canning – Process at 10 lbs pressure for two hours. I really have no idea HOW, that’s just what the recipe says.

Fish Pie

Ingredients

  • pastry for single pie crust recipe here
  • 500 ml jar canned fish
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion; diced
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

OR yes, you can use fish from a can. I recommend you purchase the best canned salmon as possible.

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F
  2. Roll out pastry and arrange in a 9 inch pie plate.
  3. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add diced onions and sweat them until they are translucent.
  4. In a small bowl, beat eggs with 1/2 cup of the saved juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Drain fish, saving the juice. Break up the fish and scatter over the pastry. Top with sautéed onions.
  6. Pour egg mixture over all. Sprinkle with fresh thyme
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, or until it is set and slightly browned.

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This entry was posted by dishnthekitchen.

16 thoughts on “The Family Fish Pie

  1. I have never had fish pie, and that looks amazing! My original thought was that I would use fish in a can (my laziness is powerful!) However, I bet that canned fish would be so much more flavourful. I bet the trout was a great improvement from jack fish…I recall all too well the super fishy taste of jack caught in shallow Alberta lakes when I was a kid!

  2. It was fish sticks for my sister and myself – every Friday! Yuck, still can’t bring myself to look at them in the supermarket, though I love good fish and chips and have been known to enjoy a good British fish pie (no crust – a fish version of shepherd’s pie). I love how you’ve canned the trout. Must give this a go.

    • You’re going to laugh, but I would have killed for fish sticks. HA. My family NEVER bought any processed food and I was jealous of my city cousins and friends because they got to have some. Let me know if you give it a try!

  3. I can’t believe this dish wasn’t around in Newfoundland, it seems like the kind of dish that would have been everywhere! I also hated fish growing up, dreading the way the house smelled when the family did a big ‘fry up’ with cod, and now I love it! I will definitely have to try this recipe.

    • Well, fried fish is an entirely different thing. I didn’t mind it, though I was always wary about those bones. That is strange this pie seems more like a prairie thing? Or maybe more French Canadian? Did your family can fish?

  4. I’ve never seen a fish pie like this, but I’m very intrigued! I’m more familiar with the east coast style, which I think borrowed heavily from the British – it’s more like a very thick fish chowder that’s covered in mashed potatoes and baked, which is really delicious and all, but I love the sound of this lighter quichey version. (Quichey is a word, right?) 🙂
    Also, mad respect to anyone who cans their own fish from scratch. You rock! I’m sure it made all the difference in the finished dish!

    • Oh yeah. I guess I never thought about a fish pie like that. Kind of like a chicken pot pie. The family cookbook is full of all sorts of gems, I laughed when I read the recipe was pretty much a quiche. I don’t think the fish is really shelf stable, at least I wouldn’t keep it out of the fridge like my mom does (I guess we haven’t died yet!) haha. I kept the rest of the jars in the fridge and we use them for fish sandwiches.

  5. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at canning fish – in fact, I’m just one step away from working on my first attempt (pickled herring). I’m going to agree with you about despising little bones, primarily because it took me such a ridiculous amount of time to get a sufficient number of the spiky little buggers out of the fillets. UGH. Now, as for fish PIE – well I haven’t even TRIED that before! But you can bet that I want to! I haven’t eaten pike in years, but I remember liking it a lot. I’d love to have that in a pie – but your trout version sounds pretty exquisite. In any case, go fish 🙂

    • ah, yes. Pickled fish. My family made a lot of it when there was extra fish and it wasn’t being canned. We didn’t preserve it any farther, just a huge ice cream pail full of pickled fish, with onions and pickling spice. Or smoked fish. Mmmm I miss my grandpa’s smoked fish. Basically all the fish during family card tournaments. And head cheese (that’s a story for another day)

  6. As a pescetarian, I’m probably going to sound biased, but this dish sounds AH-MAZING. It looks fantastic, too. Honestly, I just want to dive right into this. My grandma used to make salmon pie, and though my friends thought I was completely absurd for liking it, I could not be stopped. Funny, because my Mom (growing up a Frenchy) makes tourtière, and I am so not into it at all; yet everyone else is. For me, salmon pie > tourtière. Great recipe, Bernice!

  7. It’s funny, I was just having this conversation with my dad last weekend where he was saying he just got back from an ice fishing trip and caught “white fish.” I asked, Like what type? Lots of fish are white. And he just replied, I don’t know, white?

    I know nothing about fish and/or ice fishing so this makes sense with context. 😉

    Sometimes what we hate as children we love as adults. It’s great that you’re keeping your family’s tradition alive by posting this recipe, Bernice!

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