Seasonal Recipe: Pickled Herring

By January 28, 2013 No Comments

Ever since I lived in Amsterdam, pickled herring has been one of my favorite appetizers. Today, I wish I could simply fill a jar of it from my grocery store’s salad bar (the way I purchase similar items). But one of my mottoes is: If you can’t find it in bulk, make it!

Herring is tough to find at the fish counter though. I learned that here, in the San Francisco bay area, the local fishermen use it for bait to catch the big (generally less sustainable) fish per consumer demand, and the herring boats send most of it to Japan for its roe. So when Kirk Lombard, a local sea forager/educator, invited Scott and Léo (see video below) to go fishing for them last Monday, my dream came true… 8 pounds of cleaned fillets later, we had a few jars of pickled herring.


If you, too, enjoy pickled herring and can put your hand on the fresh fish, here is how to pickle it. Note: This recipe will work for pickling other types of seafood. It is an adaptation of Kirk’s recipe and I used it for eight pounds of fillets, so adapt it to your needs.

the fillets in a brine of 1 part salt to 20 parts water (1 cup
salt for 20 cups of water for 8 lbs. of herring fillets) and let sit in the
refrigerator overnight. The next day, rinse.
Slice 3 red onions


In a jar (I used a couple of 2 liter jars), alternate layers of herring and onion


In a large pot, over medium heat, combine 4 cups water, 5 cups white vinegar, 1 cup sugar, 4 tsp allspice, 4 bay leaves (or 1 California Bay leaf), 2 tsp grated ginger, 1 tsp mustard (ground or seed), 2 tsp horseradish, 1 tsp peppercorns, a pinch of ground cloves. Once the sugar is dissolved, let cool and top the jars.



Refrigerate for a couple of days before eating. 
Serve on a slice of buttered baguette. 
How Zero waste are my ingredients?
Herring: Foraged by Scott and Léo using a net and brought home in an open bin. During the cleaning process, we also removed milt (male roe) and eggs (female roe) and prepare them separately as appetizers.
White Vinegar: Purchased the brand packaged in a glass bottle, as I have not yet been able to find it sold in bulk.
Sugar, mustard (ground), peppercorns: Purchased in bulk, using cloth bags.
Allspice, ground cloves: Purchased in bulk, filling my spice jar directly (I use little and do not want to over estimate how much I need)
Bay leaves: Foraged from the neighbors branch that falls onto our property. California Bay leaves being four times as potent as the culinary kind, we use a quarter of what the recipe calls for.
Onions and ginger: Purchased loose from the produce aisle.

Horseradish: Homemade using a root sold loose in the produce aisle (recipe will be in the book.)

Oh and my two-liter jars were purchased from the local thrift store;)

How does pickled herring sound to you?

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