Three ways with pickled herring

Pickled herring

All photos by Kristi Bissell
All varieties of pickled herring taste delicious served on traditional Scandinavian hardtack or knekkebrod for a perfect meal or snack.

KRISTI BISSELL
True North Kitchen

Herring are a species of fish belonging to the Clupeidae family (the same family as sardines). They are a silvery fish that often travel in large schools. Herring has a long and rich history in Scandinavia (Stone Age Scandinavian burial mounds have been found to contain herring bones), and it has had a surprisingly significant impact on the European economy throughout history.

Herring can be eaten fresh, but in Scandinavia, it has traditionally been cured or pickled for preservation. The pickling process has two steps: first, the fish are salted to remove moisture. The salt is then removed, and the fish is added to a pickling brine. 

Scandinavian brines generally contain water, vinegar, sugar, and salt, along with flavorings such as onions, peppercorns, and dill. If you have access to fresh or salted herring where you live, you can easily pickle your own. But for those of us who don’t, many grocery stores, fishmongers, and Scandinavian specialty stores carry jarred pickled herring that is ready to eat.

It is quite common to find pickled herring served in a curry, mustard, or creamy beet dressing. Not only is this a nice change of pace from enjoying the briny delicacy on its own, but it is also an excellent way to introduce herring to those who may be new to this essential staple of Nordic cuisine.

Whether you have been eating pickled herring for as long as you can remember or are just now being introduced to it, these three recipes for dressed up herring are an easy and delicious way to bring a little something different to your standard jar of pickled herring from the store.

All photos by Kristi Bissell

Mustard Pickled Herring

1 12-ounce jar plain pickled herring

1 shallot, minced

2 tbsps. Dijon mustard

2 tbsps. white wine or white balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. prepared mayonnaise

2 tbsps. sour cream

6 tbsps. canola oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsps. chopped fresh dill

2 tbsps. chopped fresh chives

Drain and rinse the pickled herring in a fine mesh strainer. Transfer the herring pieces to a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry. Cut into ½-inch pieces and set aside.

Whisk the shallot, mustard, vinegar, mayonnaise, and sour cream together in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently stir in the chopped dill, chives, and herring. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the flavors blend before serving. Mustard Pickled Herring can be prepared up to a day in advance.

pickled herringCreamy Pickled Herring with Beets

1 12-ounce jar plain pickled herring

½ cup chopped pickled beets

1 small shallot, minced

½ cup chopped Granny Smith apple

3 tbsps. prepared mayonnaise

3 tbsps. sour cream or crème fraîche

2 tsps. prepared horseradish

1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Drain and rinse the pickled herring in a fine mesh strainer. Transfer the herring pieces to a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry. Cut into ½-inch pieces and set aside.

Stir all ingredients except herring, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Gently stir in herring. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the flavors blend before serving. Creamy Pickled Herring with Beets can be prepared up to a day in advance.

pickled herringCurried Pickled Herring

1 12-ounce jar plain pickled herring

½ cup prepared mayonnaise

2 tbsps. sour cream

1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. capers, coarsely chopped

2 tbsps. dill pickles, finely chopped

1 tbsp. finely chopped shallot

2 tbsps. chopped fresh parsley or chives

¾ tsp. curry powder

Drain and rinse the pickled herring in a fine mesh strainer. Transfer the herring pieces to a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry. Cut into ½-inch pieces and set aside.

Stir all the ingredients except herring together in a small bowl. Gently fold in herring. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the flavors blend before serving. Curried Pickled Herring can be prepared up to a day in advance.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 18, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Kristi Bissell

Kristi Bissell is the founder of True North Kitchen, a Nordic food blog designed for the American home cook. She enjoys creating recipes that celebrate her Scandinavian heritage and that approach traditional Nordic ingredients in a modern, fresh and approachable way. Kristi is a native of Minneapolis and currently resides in Omaha, Neb. When she’s not cooking and baking in her cozy kitchen, Kristi teaches private and corporate yoga classes and leads Scandinavian cooking and baking workshops. For more information, visit her blog, www.true-north-kitchen.com.

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