This is the recipe for the most traditional flavored pickled herring. It has some spices, onion, and carrots. Herring is an essential part of the Swedish food culture and part of every holiday buffet all year round.
This type of flavored herring is called glasmästarsill-glassblowers herring. There was a man called Joh Karlsson that was the inventor of the recipe, and his original profession was being a glass blower. Later on, he was more known to be a racing sailor. -all this according to Wikipedia.
In Finland, this very same type is eaten with the name lasimestarin silli.
- Importance of herring in Swedish culture
- How to replace spirit vinegar with other kinds of vinegar?
- Different types of herring fillets sold in stores.
- Variations of pickles
- What do you eat pickled herring with?
- Where to buy pickled herring?
- Other Scandinavian fish recipes
- Swedish pickled herring
Importance of herring in Swedish culture
Herring and potatoes have been a staple food for Swedes. It has not only been eaten with potatoes but also with tunnbröd, a thin bread, like crackers. The dish even has a name S-O-S; smör ost, sill. Butter, cheese, and herring.
Herring was caught in large quantities and needed to be conserved for the wintertime. Salting was a safe way to do this. Later on, in 1900, the 1-2-3 pickling solution was invented and became popular even for pickling salted herring filets to give them some sweetness and flavor.
In early 1900, more herring flavors were invented, like tomato herring, mustard herring, and different mayonnaise and creme fraiche herrings. (source) Herring is nowadays rarely enjoyed as the main course but is a part of the entrees
- Salted herring fillets
- Spirit vinegar
- Bay leaves
- Black pepper
- Mustard seeds.
Experiment with spices: Many different spices can be used in pickled herring, so feel free to experiment and find the combination that you like best. The most common spices in traditional pickled herring include allspice, black pepper, bay leaves, and mustard seeds. Below in the article, you will find more ideas on flavors.
How to replace spirit vinegar with other kinds of vinegar?
The right solution is essential for the conservation of the fish. Spirit vinegar sold in Scandinavian stores is usually at 10% vinegar strength. Other kinds of vinegar, like white wine or red wine vinegars, are at 5-6%, so they are more diluted.
If you don't have spirit vinegar, you can replace it with white wine vinegar, but you need to adjust the amounts. The pickle solution needs to have at least a 3% of vinegar concentration. -See the recipe card for detailed instructions.
White wine vinegar can add a slightly fruity or aromatic flavor to the herring. Other types of vinegar can be experimented with, but they do add a different taste to the fish.
Different types of herring fillets sold in stores.
- Inläggnings sill"-urvattnad saltsill. This is the type of sill used in this recipe. This means it has been salted in a barrel, not the fresh produce. Then the very salty fish was soaked in water to remove the excess salt before being packaged and sold. This type of herring needs to be soaked in a water-sugar-vinegar solution (+spices) to get the right taste for pickled herring.
- 5-minuterssill. This is herring that has already been in a water-vinegar-sugar bath. This type of herring is perfect to use for herring salads or mayonnaise-based pickled herring that is served immediately.
- Steksill. Similar to inläggningsill. This has been water-soaked and can be used straight on, but it is meant to be fried ad breaded and served as a warm fillet.
- Matjessill. This is marinated herring pieces sold as canned fish. The fish is not first salted but put directly in a marinade. They are marinated in a mix consisting of water, spices, sugar, and salt. This is also called kryddsill. Herring used for mattjes is caught in august and October, so the fish gets the right fat consistency.
- Saltsill. Usually, whole salted herrings. These need to be soaked in water for a long time before consuming. Rarer to find, mainly sold at wholesale.
The above are the names of different herring types sold in Sweden. In Finland, buy with the name perinteinen sillifilee-traditional herring fillet. It might also be called kevyesti suolattu sillifilee. You can find herrings in the cold section of stores.
Matjes is sold with the same name in Scandinavia. In Denmark and Norway you find herring with the name sildefilet, kryddersildefilet, saltsildfilet. If you ask for salt sild, you most probably will get the salted licorice candies with that name. Pickled herring is called Sursild in Norwegian.
The difference between herring and baltic herring?
Baltic herring is only found in the Baltic sea. It is smaller than the regular herring and contains less fat. Regular herring might have as much as 16-18% fat, but baltic herring fat content can be down to 10%.
- Remove the skin from your onions and cut them into slices.
- Wash and peel your carrot. Cut it into slices.
- Rinse the herring in cold water and slice it into 1-inch wide pieces.
- Mix the sugar, water, vinegar, and spices. Heat it so the sugar melts, then cool it down to room temperature.
- Layer the herring pieces in the jar with the sliced onion and carrot.
- Pour over the cooled spice broth. The herring is ready to serve after 2–3 days but can be kept in the cold for a couple of weeks.
Variations of pickles
Here are a few common flavors of pickled herring. Some flavors that include mayonnaise or creme fraiche are made from the ready pickled herring or the 5-minutersill fillets:
- Mustard: Pickled herring flavored with mustard is made with a marinade that includes mustard seeds, vinegar, and other spices. The mustard adds a tangy, spicy flavor to the herring. One version is with mayonnaise.
- Dill: Pickled herring flavored with dill is made with a marinade that includes fresh dill, vinegar, and other spices. The dill adds a fresh, herbaceous flavor to the herring. Dill-flavored herring can be made in clear broth or with creme fraiche.
- Onion: Pickled herring flavored with onion is made with a marinade that includes diced onions, vinegar, and other spices. The onion adds a sweet, savory flavor to the herring.
- Garlic: Pickled herring flavored with garlic is made with a marinade that includes minced garlic, vinegar, and other spices. The garlic adds a pungent, aromatic flavor to the herring.
- Curry: Pickled herring flavored with curry is made with a marinade that includes curry, mayonnaise, and often leek and apple are also added.
- Tomato: This is also a classical recipe. Tomato herring has a tangy sweet, sour taste. It is also flavored with some sherry. The self-made version is often just made using ketchup.
The flavors of pickled herring can vary widely, depending on the specific recipe and spices used. There are many different types of pickled herring, so you can try different flavors to find the one that you like best.
Did you know that vegans make "pickled herring" from eggplant?
What do you eat pickled herring with?
Here are a few common ways that pickled herring is eaten:
- As a topping on a slice of bread or crackers: Pickled herring is often served as a topping on a slice of bread or crackers, along with diced onions, leek or chives, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, and other toppings. This is a common appetizer. Some mustard sauce or mayonnaise goes well with this.
- As a salad component: Pickled herring can be diced and added to a salad, along with ingredients like potatoes, beets, and hard-boiled eggs.
- As a sandwich component: Pickled herring can be used as a sandwich filling, along with toppings like lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.
- As a standalone snack: Pickled herring can also be eaten on its own as a snack, either straight from the jar or tin, or served with a side of crackers or bread.
- As a component of a larger meal: Pickled herring can be served as part of a larger meal, along with other dishes like boiled potatoes, vegetables, and sauce.
At midsummer, pickled herring is commonly eaten with hard-boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, fresh salad, and a sauce. A variety of marinated herring is usually at the table, like mustard herring, tomato herring, and dill flavored.
Pickled herring is also an essential part of the Swedish Christmas table.
Where to buy pickled herring?
It might be hard to find salted herring fillets. Easiest way to enjoy this Scandinavian delicacy is to buy it as a preserved goods. Pickled herring jars are stored in the cold, so unfortunately, this can not be shipped to all places.
If you have an IKEA closeby you can find pickled herring in the food store section, that should have some variety of different pickled herrings.
Pickled herring should be eaten within two weeks. Make sure it stays under the pickling liquid. It is important always to use clean utensils when handling pickled herring to prevent contamination and ensure that it stays fresh for as long as possible.
Herring does have a quite strong taste, very unique. The pickling process gives the herring a distinctive, sour, and salty flavor, and the spices used in the marinade can also add flavor to the fish. It has similarities to other pickled foods, you can imagine tuna and an anchovy married and pickled.
Regular pickled herring like glasmästarsill is not fermented. Only the surströmming, sour herring is first pickled and then fermented.
The herring used in pickles are usually caught in Norwegian and Icelandic waters.
Swedish pickled herring
- 1 glass jar (16oz)
- 1 pound salted herring fillets
- 1 cup water
- ⅓ cup spirit vinegar (10%)
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 carrot
- Make the pickle broth: Mix the sugar, water, vinegar, and spices. Heat it so the sugar melts, then cool it down to room temperature.
- Make sure your jar is clean and washed in very hot water.
- Remove the skin from your onions and cut them into slices. Wash and peel your carrot. Cut it into slices.
- Rinse the herring in cold water and slice it into 1-inch wide pieces.
- Layer the herring pieces in the jar with the sliced onion and carrot. Pour over the cooled spice broth. The herring is ready to serve after 2 days.