JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day


Friday, December 16, 2005

Soused herrings

Oily fish are, of course, something we should all be eating lots of, and I, for one, get fed up with variations on a salmon steak. So I was very pleased to see herring fillets on sale the other day, and snapped them up. I more or less followed Jane Grigson's recipe for Bismarck and rollmop herrings (I'm still not sure which are which, or what the distinction is). The result wasn't as good as I'd hoped. It was as if I'd used malt vinegar, when in fact I'd used a mixture of cider and red vinegars; and the fish itself had an overcooked texture after only four days. I should think the way to solve both problems would be to dilute the vinegar. At any rate, they don't have the melting texture I was hoping for, and which I know is achievable, because that's what I got at Heston Blumenthal's pub on Wednesday evening. Back to the drawing board.

This is what I did:

Soak 12 herring fillets in a brine made with 120g salt and 1.2l water. Two to three hours. While this is going on, make the marinade from: 600ml wine or cider vinegar (I was forced to use a mix of both, because there wasn't enough of either), 1 tbsp pickling spice (with dried chillies), some peppercorns, & 3 bay leaves. Bring this slowly up to a boil and then leave to cool. Drain the herrings, put them in a 1l Le Parfait jar with a sliced onion, then pour on enough vinegar to cover. Leave for at least four days.

I didn't roll them up around gherkin and sliced onion (which, now I come to think of it, is probably the distinction between a rollmop and a Bismarck herring). I wonder whether they would have been more tender if that's what I'd done. On the other hand, HB's herrings were clearly pickled flat, but his marinade was much gentler. I remember donkeys years ago (at least a couple of decades ago) pickling some mackerel fillets in home-made raspberry vinegar; I've often thought I should do it again, but couldn't remember how I did it ... pretty much as here, I should think (although I have some dim memory of baking them first in tea). It'll have to wait until next summer.

For Scandinavian, German and Austrian readers, this is probably a very routine recipe - some advice would be very welcome, even if you have to consult your mothers and grandmothers!

6 comments:

soliwit said...

hmmmm herring! I am a dutchy living in the USA and since today, the 3th of June is traditionally when they bring in the first new herring of the season I try to get my kick out of just reading about herring, since I can not buy it here (aaaargh the torture!) I wanted to comment on your lovely piece of writing on my favorite fish......since you didn't know the difference between bismarck and rollmops, and then you already answered your own question, that is indeed the difference, the rollmops is rolled up with a pickled onion and cucumber and that is actually the only distinction between them, I think they are called Bismarck after this German canselor probably it being his favorite dish, but that is just a guess, hehe, anyway, thanks for the good read and happy new herring day ;-)

Joanna said...

Hi Soliwit, thanks for kind words ... I didn't know about 3rd June being the start of the new herring season, but that will make me go out to get some more to pickle, because I love them too. So sorry that you can't get them where you are - not even in a bottle?

Joanna

alwaysyoung said...

Actually I have been playing with the recipe for a while. I find that I can buy whole salted herrings in a Russian market at about $2.49/lb. I then take it home and "water

alwaysyoung said...

Actually I have been playing with the recipe for a while. I find that I can buy whole salted herrings in a Russian market at about $2.49/lb. I then take it home and "water" the herring by putting it in water for 24 hours. This gets rid of most of the salt. I then process it by adding brine or sour cream or even sour cream and chopped pickled beets mixture. It tastes great when served on dark pumpernickle bread.

soliwit said...

Sorry for the looooong delay in answering to that, yes I am able to get pickled herring, but raw herring....now that is my treat, I don't want it pickled, I want to eat it raw, hahahaaaa, sorry for not being clear on that! When people in the netherlands mean 'new herring' it is the one that you eat raw, they clean the herring and leave the tail on, so you have 2 fillets hanging off the tail and then you dip it in a bit of raw onion and pick it up from the tail and eat it like that, if you google images on new herring you can see pictures of the technique discribed ;-)

Joanna said...

Soliwit, that sounds WONDERFUL. I'm now planning to cook them gently in tea and spiced vinegar ... sounds weird, but is delicious. But as the herring season has not yet begun, I'll have to make do with mackerel :)

Joanna