Clupea harengus: Herrings are the backbone of Scandinavian fish cookery, and are not endangered at the moment, even if some strains, as in the Baltic, are very low.
There are several species living in the Nordic waters, differing mainly in size and fat. By far the most of them are eaten cured in some way. Herrings are admittedly full of thin bones that are difficult to extract from the soft flesh, but they seem to disappear when the fish are cured. In a fresh herring you must either live with it or eat something else.
Appearance and taste
Herrings are beautiful, small, silvery fish, with dark, soft meat, with a special oily flavor. The scales come off when the fish are washed.
Fishing trips are popular pastime, and sometimes you return with vats of herrings. The classic way to deal with large amounts is to salt them of course, but if you have more modest quantities, there are some delicious traditional recipes using fresh herrings.
Herrings that are absolutely fresh are delicious fried, baked or grilled and, like other fatty fish, go well with sharp sauces. Even though the bones can be a nuisance, at least the scale come off easily. Like mackerel herrings should be eaten before the fat turns oily, which pretty much means straight away. Once soused or fried, herrings keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
Two ways with fresh herrings
There are two very simple but delicious ways to cook herrings in a deep clay pot or dish. Clay pot herring is very similar to a recipe called Jansson’s temptation, simply replacing the tinned northern anchovies with fresh herring fillets. He fillet should be pre-salted for a couple of hours and the dried with kitchen paper. Arrange onion rings, thinly sliced potatoes and the fish in your dish, season with salt and pepper, and fill the dish almost to the brum with cream, Bake at 18 C/gas mark 6 until the top is golden and the potatoes are done.
An alternative, but just as good, is sillåda. This time there are no potatoes, and each layer is spiced with a little ground allspice and powdered ginger, along with some chopped parsley, and the whole dish finished with breadcrumbs and generous knobs of butter. Bake in the same way until golden brown.
Written by Tor Kjolberg
The Scandinavian Herring Adventure