Herrings are forage fish, mostly belonging to the family Clupeidae. They often move in large schools around fishing banks and near the coast. The most abundant and commercially important species belong to the genus Clupea, found particularly in shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, including the Baltic Sea, as well as off the west coast of South America. Three species of Clupea are recognized. The main taxa, the Atlantic herring, accounts for over half the world's commercial capture of herrings.
Herrings played a pivotal role in the history of marine fisheries in Europe, and early in the twentieth century their study was fundamental to evolution of fisheries science. These oily fish also have a long history as an important food fish, and are often salted, smoked, or pickled.
Nutrition and toxins
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||158 kcal (660 kJ)|
|Dietary fiber||0.0 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Water pollution influences the amount of herring that may be safely consumed. For example, large Baltic herring slightly exceeds recommended limits with respect to PCB and dioxin, although some sources point out that cancer-reducing effect of omega-3 fatty acids is statistically stronger than the cancer-causing effect of PCBs and dioxins. The contaminant levels depend on the age of the fish which can be inferred from their size. Baltic herrings larger than 17 cm may be eaten twice a month, while herrings smaller than 17 cm can be eaten freely. Mercury in fish also influences the amount of fish that women who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant within the next one or two years may safely eat.
A typical Dutch delicacy is Hollandse Nieuwe (Dutch New), which is raw herring from the catches around the end of spring and the beginning of summer. This is typically eaten with raw onion. Hollandse nieuwe is only available in spring when the first seasonal catch of herring is brought in. This is celebrated in festivals such as the Vlaardingen Herring Festival and Vlaggetjesdag in Scheveningen. The new herring are frozen and enzyme-preserved for the remainder of the year. The first barrel of Hollandse Nieuwe is traditionally sold at auction for charity. Very young herring are called whitebait and are eaten whole as a delicacy.
In Sweden, Baltic herring ("Strömming") is fermented to make surströmming.
Pickled herrings are part of Scandinavian, Nordic, Dutch, German (Bismarckhering), Polish, Baltic, Eastern Slavic and Jewish cuisine. Most cured herrings uses a two-step process. Initially, the herrings are cured with salt to extract water. The second stage involves removing the salt and adding flavorings, typically a vinegar, salt, sugar solution to which ingredients like peppercorn, bay leaves and raw onions are added. Other flavors can be added, such as sherry, mustard and dill. The tradition is strong in Scandinavia, The Netherlands, Iceland and Germany.
In the Philippines, dried herring is popularly eaten during breakfast, along with garlic rice and eggs.
A kipper is a split, gutted and cold smoked herring, a bloater is a whole gutted and cold smoked herring and a buckling is a whole herring, gutted apart from roe or milt and then hot smoked herring. All are staples of British cuisine. According to George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier, the Emperor Charles V erected a statue to the inventor of bloaters.
Smoked herring is a traditional meal on the Danish island in the Baltic Sea, Bornholm. This is also the case in Sweden where one can get hard fried/smoked "Strömming" named "Sotare" in places like Skansen, Stockholm.
In Scotland, herrings are traditionally filleted, coated in seasoned pin-head oatmeal, and fried in a pan with butter or oil. This dish is usually served with "crushed" buttered boiled potatoes.
In Sweden, herring soup is a traditional dish.
In Southeast Alaska, western hemlock boughs are cut and placed in the ocean before the herring arrive to spawn. The fertilized herring eggs stick to the boughs, and are easily collected. After being boiled briefly the eggs are removed from the bough. Herring eggs collected in this way are eaten plain or in herring egg salad. This method of collection is part of Tlingit tradition.
Foods and dishes
|Avruga caviar||Spain||Avruga is marketed by the Spanish company Pescaviar as a caviar substitute. It is made from herring (40%), salt, corn starch, lemon juice, citric acid, xanthan gum, sodium benzoate, squid ink and water. Unlike caviar, it does not contain fish roe.|
|Bloater||England||Popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, bloaters are now rare. They can be contrasted with kippers. Kippers are salted and cold smoked overnight while bloaters are salted less and not smoked for so long. Kippers are split and gutted before smoking while bloaters are smoked whole without gutting. Kippers are associated with Scotland while bloaters are associated with England. Bloaters have their own characteristic slightly gamey flavor and are called "bloaters" because they swell or bloat during preparation.|
|Brathering||Germany||A dish of fried marinated herring. A common recipe starts with fresh herrings with the head and gut removed that are breaded or turned in flour, fried and then pickled in a marinade of vinegar. The pickled herrings are then boiled briefly in water containing onion, salt, spices like pepper, bay leaves and mustard seeds and a little sugar. The herring are served cold with bread and fried or jacket potatoes].|
|Buckling||European||A hot-smoked herring similar to a kipper or bloater. The guts are removed but the roe or milt remain. Buckling is hot-smoked whole, as opposed to kippers which are split and gutted, and then cold smoked. Bucklings can be eaten hot or cold.|
|Dressed herring||Russia||A layered salad of diced salted herring covered with alternating layers of grated boiled vegetables (potato, carrot and beet root) and chopped onions. Optionally includes a layer of fresh grated apple. The final layer is beet root covered with mayonnaise, which gives the salad a rich purple color. Often decorated with grated boiled eggs. Popular in Russia and other countries of the former USSR, where it is traditional at New Year and Christmas celebrations. Also known as herring under a fur coat or just fur coat.|
(lit. fish sandwich)
|Germany||A sandwich or roll made with fish and onions, sometimes also made with remoulade and pickles. Most commonly made with bismarck herring or soused herring, and eaten in Northern Germany, due to the region's proximity to the North Sea and Baltic Sea.|
|Śledzie||Poland||Pickled herring with chopped onions, eggs peeled and chopped (hard-cooked), apple - lemon juice, sour cream, garlic, salt and pepper, added to herring and mixed well, Sprinkled with dill or parsley. Served with rye bread. It is also Traditionally served in one of the twelve dishes served at Christmas Eve (Wigilia).|
|Herring roe||Japan||Called Kazunoko (数の子). Usually, it is served as a part of Osechi in the Japanese new year.|
|Herring spawn||Japan||Called Komochi-Kombu (子持昆布). Usually, it is served as a part of Sushi or Chinmi.|
|Kipper||United Kingdom||A whole herring that has been split from tail to head, gutted, salted or pickled, and cold smoked.|
Bloaters on yellow paper, van Gogh, 1889
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- Pescaviar product page for Avruga
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- Herring under a fur coat
- in the U.S.S.R., by Anya von Bremzen in Food&Wine, Published: December 2003
- New Year Celebration History (in Russian)
- Herring under a fur coat recipe with an apple
|Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on|
- Nutrition Facts for Herring
- In praise of the humble herring The Independent, 1 September 2005.
- En route: Scandinavia; Herring, the Fish That Roared New York Times, 30 October 2002.