Pickled herring

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Pickled herring with onions
Pickled herring with sour cream, chives, potatoes and egg

Pickled herring is a delicacy in Europe, and has become a part of Baltic (Estonian: Marineeritud heeringas, Latvian: marinēta siļķe, Lithuanian: marinuota silkė), Nordic (inlagd sill), Dutch (zure haring), German (Bismarckhering), Czech (zavináč), Polish (śledzie w occie), Eastern Slavic, Scottish and Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.

Most cured herring uses a two-step curing process. Initially, herring is 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 such as peppercorn, bay leaves and raw onions are added. In recent years, other flavors have also been added, due to foreign influences. However, the tradition is strong in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands, Iceland and Germany. Onion, sherry, mustard and dill are some of the traditional flavourings.


Pickled herrings have been a staple in Northern Europe since Medieval times, being a way to store and transport fish, especially necessary in meatless periods like Lent. The herrings would be prepared, then packed in barrels for storage or transportation.

Geographic distribution[edit]

In the Nordic countries, once the pickling process is finished and depending on which of the dozens of classic herring flavourings (mustard, onion, garlic, lingonberries etc.) are selected, it is eaten with dark rye bread, crisp bread, sour cream, or potatoes. This dish is common at Christmas, Easter and Midsummer, where it is frequently eaten with akvavit.

Soused herring (maatjesharing or just maatjes in Dutch) is an especially mild salt herring, which is made from young immature herrings. The herrings are ripened for a couple of days in oak barrels in a salty solution, or brine. The term “soused herring” in English can also describe a marinated herring that has been cooked.[1]

Rollmops are pickled herring fillets rolled (hence the name) into a cylindrical shape around a piece of pickled gherkin or an onion. They are thought to have developed as a special treat in 19th century Berlin[2], and the word borrowed from the German.

Pickled herring, especially brined herring, is common in Russia and Ukraine, where it is served cut into pieces and seasoned with sunflower oil and onions, or can be part of herring salads, such as dressed herring (Russian: Сельдь под шубой, Ukrainian: Оселедець під шубою, lit. 'herring under a fur coat'), which are usually prepared with vegetables and seasoned with mayonnaise dressing.

Brined herring is common in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, perhaps best known for vorschmack salad known in English simply as "chopped herring" and as schmaltz herring in Yiddish. In Israel it is commonly called as dag maluach which means "salted fish".

Pickled herring can also be found in the cuisine of Hokkaidō in Japan, where families traditionally preserved large quantities for winter.

In Nova Scotia, Canada, pickled herring with onions is called "solomon gundy" and is quite popular. (Not to be confused with the Jamaican pickled fish pâté of the same name).

"Bismarck herring" (German Bismarckhering) is the common name for pickled herring in Germany, and is sometimes sold elsewhere under that name. There are various theories as to why the product is associated with Bismarck.

Health effects[edit]

It is rich in tyramine and thus should be avoided in the diet of people being treated with an antidepressant monoamine oxidase inhibitor.[3]

Pickled herring is one of the best sources of natural vitamin D3. It is also an excellent source of selenium and vitamin B12. 100 grams may provide 680 IU of vitamin D or 170% of the DV, as well as 84% of the DV for selenium and 71% of the DV for vitamin B12. [4][5]

Cultural references[edit]

Pickled herring is one of the twelve dishes traditionally served at Christmas Eve in Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine.

Herring is enjoyed as a special Sabbath food by Ashkenazi Jews worldwide. It is a staple at Kiddushes and social gatherings. Many kosher establishments have begun to formulate new fusion-style herring dishes such as Oneg-Shabbos herring and herring-lox combinations. Younger herring consumers look for new and interesting styles, besides the simple pickled herring with onions. Herring is typically served on crackers such as kichel or Tam Tams.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Slater, Nigel. "Classic Soused mackerel". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ Erich Urban, Das Alphabet der Küche, Berlin 1929, Artikel Rollmops, S. 201
  3. ^ Brown CS and Bryant SG (1988) "Monoamine oxidase inhibitors: safety and efficacy issues" Drug Intell Clin Pharm, 22(3):232–235.
  4. ^ "Fish, herring, Atlantic, pickled Nutrition Facts & Calories". Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "Foods highest in Vitamin D". Retrieved 23 March 2017. 


  • Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2006). Species of Clupea in FishBase. January 2006 version.
  • O'Clair, Rita M. and O'Clair, Charles E., "Pacific herring," Southeast Alaska's Rocky Shores: Animals. pg. 343-346. Plant Press: Auke Bay, Alaska (1998). ISBN 0-9664245-0-6