Pickled herring is a very popular dish, especially in Northern Europe. The sourness of this dish results from the addition of vinegar and lemon to herring, which counteract the rich fat content in herring fillets, hence their rich and distinctive taste. Herring is one of the fish with the highest content of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The addition of spices, sugar and onions gives them a special touch.
Swedish pickled herring à la Bismarck is a popular Baltic herring dish that originated in the 19th century in Stralsund. Stralsund’s fishing tradition dates back to 1290. Today, pickled herring is very popular. They are served in restaurants as snacks in combination with mushrooms, plums and honey.
Swedish pickled herring
Swedish pickled herring is a delicacy of traditional Swedish cuisine. The fermentation process lasts at least 6 months, and the large amount of salt prevents the fish from rotting. The can with its contents emits a very intense and overpowering smell. Herring in this version is often eaten with bread, which is spread with chopped red onion, sour cream or sliced boiled potatoes, or potato paste. The name for Swedish pickled herring is surströmming. How is this dish made? Fresh herring is simply salted and then fermented. As mentioned above, it must last at least half a year.
Herring is caught in the spring during the spawning season. Cleaned and well salted, they are stored in barrels for two months. They are then transferred to canned food, where they continue to ferment. Thanks to the pickling process, they gain a strong smell.
One of the legends says that the Swedes sold the Norwegians not entirely well-preserved fish. After a year, the Norwegians returned to them delighted to ask for another portion of fish. Since then, the Swedes have been preparing herring fermented in salt. However, in fact, pickled herring is not an exception to Swedish cuisine, in fact, pickled herring is also prepared in other places. In Norway, it is pickled trout, in Japan fermented mackerel, and in Korea, stingrays are pickled.
Pickled herring – how to eat?
Due to the fermentation power, it is recommended to open cans of surströmming in the open. If this is your first encounter with such a sophisticated dish, forget about opening it in the kitchen. The very strong smell that comes out after opening the can will linger in the air for a long time, and it will definitely discourage you from eating the contents. It is necessary to break the smell of pickled herring, and this will come much easier in the fresh air. Thanks to this, you will focus on their taste, not on the unpleasant smell. Traditionally, the Swedes serve surströmming on small sandwiches made of thin bread. Such sandwiches are very easy to roll into a roll. Obligatory surströmming is served with a good piece of cheese, chopped red onion, boiled potato and a spoonful of thick sour cream. Sometimes potatoes and cheese are omitted and only potato paste is added. Once everything was washed down with milk, but due to the fact that such a combination puts a lot of strain on the digestive tract, it is better to give vodka or carbonated schnapps.
Some also advise opening the can in the water tank to neutralize the smell.
There are herrings without heads in the brine in the can. For a very long time of fermentation, herrings are fragile and very soft, so they are easy to spread on sandwiches. They also taste great in potato salad with chives. Some compare the taste of pickled herring to anchovies, they are also just as salty. However, it should be remembered that the herring in the brine is not filleted. Before applying to sandwiches, remove the backbone, tripe and remove the skin.
Most recipes for surströmming pickled herring start with pre-salted herring, which is already canned. It is best to skip the salt in the brine and soak the fish in fresh water overnight. Herring will still be very salty!
It is better to prepare properly for eating surströmming to avoid unpleasantness. On many videos on Youtube, under the slogan Surströmming challenge, we can find a lot of uncomfortable situations that happened to some people. They usually end up vomiting. However, do not worry – proper preparation for the consumption of Swedish herring will allow you to avoid such drastic experiences.
Pickled herring in a can
This Swedish delicacy is sold in cans that, when opened, release a specific, unpleasant and unforgettable smell. Because of this smell, herring is eaten outdoors. It is also good to open the can under water, which will not only relieve the smell, but will protect us from damaging our clothes. Due to the fact that herring ferments not only in barrels, but also after canning, so much gas is created in it that the cylindrical can changes its shape and becomes more spherical. Its new shape makes the can bloated, it looks like it’s about to explode. Some airlines have banned surströmming because they are high-pressure containers. Also many neighborhoods and districts in Sweden have banned surströmming!
What does a can of herring look like, what exactly is inside and how to get the fish out of it? Remove the whole fish from the brine and cut it lengthwise. Remove the viscera and dark gray roe. Then herring opens like a book. Red meat must be crushed, for example with a fork, and separated from the bones. The next step is pure pleasure – we put herring in small pieces on sandwiches. It is now worth adding thick cream (gräddfil), potato paste or chopped red onion. Soft tunnbröd (thin Swedish bread) is folded or rolled up. Such a sandwich is traditionally eaten with milk or vodka. Beer has become popular recently.
Pickled herring – properties
The fact that pickles have many nutritional properties and are natural probiotics probably everyone knows. Pickled herring is primarily a wealth of minerals, protein and healthy fats that are not fattening.
Herrings are perfect for an appetizer and very easy to prepare. The most popular are, of course, herring slices, which are prepared in oil with onions. When it comes to nutritional values, minerals and richness of fats, fresh herring is the best. Fats contained in herring are unsaturated, so they have a very good effect on the circulatory system and blood pressure.
Herring can be eaten by anyone, the elderly and children can eat it. Herring is a rich source of vitamins A and D and omega 3 acids, which affect metabolism, memory and concentration.
In addition, herring is a rich source of wholesome and well-absorbed protein.
They support immunity, help prevent heart disease, regulate blood pressure and lower cholesterol, strengthen bones and take care of eyesight. Thanks to the content of omega-3 acids, they affect the mood, increasing the level of serotonin and have antidepressant properties. Vitamins contained in herring have an anti-atherosclerotic effect.
Herring also contains a large amount of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. In addition, they provide a lot of iron, zinc and copper as well as phosphorus and iodine.
Herring protein contains a lot of valuable amino acids – lysine needed by muscles and bones and improving concentration, as well as participating in the production of hormones, antibodies and enzymes. Lysine also soothes infections. Other important amino acids are methionine, which helps detoxify the body and cleanse it of harmful toxins. In addition, herring meat is rich in cysteine. Its deficiency is manifested by split ends of the hair or brittle nails. Pickled herrings also contain vitamin D3, which affects the immune system and the condition of the skeletal system. Herring is rich in potassium, which regulates muscle tone, kidney function and heart rhythm, blood pressure and oxygenates the brain. Herring also contains selenium, which has a positive effect on the immune system and protects cells from free radicals.
Of course, it should be borne in mind that herring can also be allergic. The proteins contained in fish meat are primarily responsible for the allergy. An allergic reaction can occur even in people who have never had signs of allergy before. Why is this happening? Herring can expel histamine, which is deposited in its body. Histamine is very common in meat. This chemical compound is naturally produced by the human body, but it is not broken down in food, so excess histamine can lead to allergic reactions and even poisoning.