How to make pickled herring

Pickled herring is an extremely popular dish in countries such as Britain, the Scandinavian countries and even – which is not so well known – in Germany. Some of the best pickled herring you can ever taste is to be found in Bavaria in Southern Germany, a long way from the nearest sea or ocean. It is eaten there chiefly as a breakfast dish.

As the herring population has significantly declined in coastal waters over recent decades due to considerable over-fishing, this once incredibly popular fish is often forgotten about or overlooked as a piscatorial treat and delight. It is of course excellent shallow fried in oatmeal and subsequently sprinkled with a little malt vinegar but although pickling it is not quite such a time efficient method of preparing it, the effort can be more than worth it.


In order to simply prepare pickled herring, you will require:

2 herring fillets (fins cut off, skin on)
1 small onion (halved and then thinly sliced)
1/4 pint of white wine vinegar
1/4 pint of fresh water
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh dill
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

The first step is to add all the ingredients bar the herring and the onion to a small saucepan and bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, wash the herring fillets and add them to a small dish, spreading the onion evenly over the top.

Turn the heat off and leave the pickling liquid to cool for twenty to thirty minutes before pouring it carefully over the herring and onion. Allow to stand until the liquid is almost cold before covering the dish with a double layer of cling film (in order to prevent the odor permeating through and contaminating everything else in your refrigerator) and place in the refrigerator overnight.


How you serve the herring the following day will depend upon individual tastes but you have to be careful not to serve it with anything which will overwhelm its delicious flavor, such as an overpowering tomato sauce or the likes. Try serving it instead on a bed of green salad leaves, tomato and cucumber, with perhaps a little bit more onion included. This can make for a very healthy and delicious lunch. Alternatively, try it the way I like it best and that is by putting a fillet, doubled over and with the skin still on, in a bread roll and a little of the onion on top.