We love Pickled Herring

We love Pickled Herring

Pickled herring is perhaps one of most traditional Danish toppings to the traditional smørrebrød. So if you are a novice to Danish food, and want to learn about Danish smørrebrød, pickled herring is a good place to start.
Pickled Herring can be tasty in salads as well as on rye bread, and the pickling process gives the herring a sweetness that compliments the fish perfectly.

And for an added bonus, herring is one of the best sources of natural vitamin D3. It is also an excellent source of selenium and vitamin B12.

Fresh herring can be sometimes be difficult to find in regular supermarkets outside Scandinavia or Eastern Europe. However, you can often find them at the fishmongers or specialist shops, or as an alternative, in a pinch you can also use salted herring, just remember to soak in cold water for about 6-12 hours to remove the saltiness.

Red Pickled Herring:

6 herring filets
Glass jar, cleaned (one or two depending of the size)

300 ml white wine vinegar
200 ml sugar
2 red onions
5 bay leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 tsp whole allspice

  • Begin by preparing the marinade. Slowly heat the vinegar and sugar in a small pot.
  • Once the sugar is completely dissolved, add the other ingredients, and leave over low heat for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove the pickling marinade from the heat and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
    (And when we say cool completely, we mean completely. If the liquid is not completely cool, you will end up poaching the herring, leaving you with a real mushy mess.)

While the pickling solution is cooling, clean and fillet the herring if you have gotten them whole. See below a quide for how to fillet them. 

  • ‘With a sharp thin knife, cut off the head, and make an incision into the belly. Remove the innards.
    Cut off the tail and fins, and make a deep cut along the top of the fish.
    Working with your fingers, carefully pull one filet off the fish, then gently pull the spine off the second filet.
    Use a small knife to cut out bones and trim off excess skin. Don’t worry too much about the tiny bones. The pickling process softens them so that they are not noticeable when eaten.’

  • Cut each filet into three or four pieces depending on the size and your preference.
  • Place the herring pieces in the jar, alternating between layers of fish and the pickled onions and herbs. 
  • Fill the jar with the cooled pickling liquid.
  • Seal the jar and refrigerate for at least 12 hours before eating.

The pickled herring will last at least a week in the refrigerator, but in my experience it can last much longer than that.

Serve 2-3 pieces of herring on buttered Danish rye bread with a few slices of the pickled red onion, capers, fresh onion, some fresh dill, and a soft boiled egg.
And serve with snaps or a cold beer.

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